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Blackhawks look forward to visit from red-hot Ducks

by Dan Rosen

Even the defending Stanley Cup champions are curious to see how they measure up against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Chicago Blackhawks get that chance Friday, when the red-hot Ducks put their eight-game winning streak on the line at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NHLN, RDS). With a 9-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday, Anaheim joined the 1967-68 Montreal Canadiens as the only NHL teams to have won 18 of 19 games in the same regular season.

The Ducks are six points ahead of the Blackhawks in the Presidents' Trophy race. Each team will be playing its 50th game of the season Friday.

"They're on a roll right now, so it'll be fun to try to get a win from them," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "When you're on a roll like they are, the rest of the League is going to take notice. When you've got one loss in your last [19] games you've gotta expect something like that to be said, right? They're playing great, so we'd like to beat them."

The Ducks are trying to stay level-headed and humble through what has been the most impressive run for any NHL team since the Blackhawks opened last season with a point in 24 consecutive games (21-0-3).

Right wing Corey Perry said the Ducks still eye the Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings as the top teams in the NHL.

"We're trying to measure up to them, trying to play up to their speed and trying to do what they're doing," Perry said during a phone interview Thursday from Chicago.

He then pulled out the old "one game at a time" cliché, but Perry could not deny that the game Friday will be different than an average regular-season game even though in reality it's still just one of 82 and worth two points for the winner.

"Where we are in the standings right now, and with them being the defending champions, it's going to be a big, big game," Perry said. "Everybody wants to beat them, and right now everybody wants to beat us. It's got that makeup."

Keith said, " We see the highlights. We know they're playing great. I remember we played them once already this year and it was a close game. They've got a lot of different players on their team that can put the puck in the net. They've added new guys to their team that really gave them the depth, some young guys who have stepped in and played really well, especially on defense."

Keith is right about the previous time the Anaheim and Chicago met this season. It was Dec. 6, and the Ducks won 3-2 in a shootout. It was the start of Anaheim's prolonged hot streak.

The only blemish on the Ducks' record since is a 3-1 loss at the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 29.

The Ducks have outscored the opposition 76-40 in the past 19 games. Ryan Getzlaf has nine goals and 14 assists during the 19-game run (he missed one of the games). Perry has 11 goals and 11 assists. Nick Bonino has eight goals and eight assists, and Andrew Cogliano has nine of his 15 goals in the past 19 games.

Goalie Jonas Hiller, who is questionable for the game Friday, has won his past 14 starts and has allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of them.

"When you're on a roll like they are, the rest of the League is going to take notice. When you've got one loss in your last [19] games you've gotta expect something like that to be said, right? They're playing great, so we'd like to beat them."
-- Blackhawks D Duncan Keith

Perry said he hasn't felt this good about the Ducks overall depth and goaltending since 2007, when they won the Stanley Cup.

"It goes back to the '07 team when we had the depth, balance and goaltending and there were a lot of the guys in that dressing room that knew how to win," Perry said. "It's the same thing here now. Collectively as a group everyone is pulling in the right direction and doing the right things."

The Blackhawks aren't feeling nearly as good about their game, but then again no team is when compared to Anaheim.

Chicago has won once in its past five games (1-1-3) and is coming off a 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, when it held a 48-26 advantage in shots on goal but could not sneak enough past Semyon Varlamov to win.

"We did a lot of good things, threw a lot of shots on net, and Varlamov made some unbelievable saves," Keith said. "If some of those go in, we're maybe not talking about being in a rut because we won the last game too [against the Edmonton Oilers]. Over the last couple of games there might be games we've been more consistent in, but we had a lot of chances in the last game and they just didn't go in."

Now the Blackhawks have the task of shutting down the hottest team in the League. It's the kind of challenge good teams crave at this point in the season.

"Anaheim is the team to beat right now," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson told reporters Thursday.


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