After dropping a 2-1 shootout loss to the LA Kings in the opener of this six-game road trip on Saturday, the Ducks find themselves in Chicago to take on the Blackhawks tonight at the United Center (5:30 p.m. PT, TV: FOX Sports West, Radio: AM 830). This is the opener of a three-game season series between the Ducks and Blackhawks and one of two in Chicago (also February 15). Following tonight's game, the Ducks will take on St. Louis on Wednesday, Columbus on Friday, Nashville on Saturday and Vegas next Tuesday.
Anaheim's injury-ravaged lineup took another blow when its leading scorer Rickard Rakell missed the Kings game with an upper-body injury. Head coach Randy Carlyle said at the time that it was still to be determined whether Rakell would be able to join the team over the course of this trip. Rakell had eight goals and 18 points in 22 games this season prior to missing his first game of the season on Saturday.
"You can only coach and work with the players you have available," Carlyle said earlier today. "Some nights it's more players than you'd expect aren't available, but we have to move on. We have to stay with the pack. Just finding ways to get points. That's not going to change when we get everybody back."
Despite missing five key scorers (Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, Patrick Eaves and Ondrej Kase), the Ducks enter tonight's game just two points back of both wild card spots and three points behind Calgary for third place in the Pacific Division. And for the first time nearly all season, the Ducks have a healthy blueline with Cam Fowler returning to the lineup last week after missing a month with a knee injury. Though it is still far too early to focus on the standings, it is a reminder that despite their injuries, the Ducks are still well-within the hunt.
"Everyone knows before the season starts that it's a very long, grueling season and there are a lot of ups and downs," said defenseman Kevin Bieksa. "If you have the mentality that the show goes on, you keep an even keel and don't get too high or too low. You just wake up every day and enjoy being in the NHL. Push forward with whoever we have in the lineup."
The Blackhawks come into tonight's matchup with six wins over their past 10 games (6-3-1) and three of their past four (3-0-1). Team captain Jonathan Toews had a goal and two assists and goaltender Corey Crawford made 37 saves in his 400th NHL game in Chicago's 4-1 victory against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center on Saturday night. Toews ranks second on the team in scoring behind Patrick Kane, who has 22 points (9g/13a) in 22 games. Artem Anisimov leads the club with 10 goals, while rookie Alex DeBrincat (39th overall, 2016 NHL Draft) has 13 points (7g/6a) in his first NHL season.
The Ducks own a 47-31-11 all-time record vs. the Blackhawks and have won the last two games dating to March 9, 2017. Anaheim has also won two in a row at the United Center and has gone 23-17-6 all-time in the Windy City. Corey Perry leads active Ducks in career scoring against the Blackhawks with 32 points (15g/17a) in 41 games. Perry (and Getzlaf) made their respective NHL debuts in Chicago on Oct. 5, 2005 (5-3 W).
Potential Line Combinations