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Ducks-Blackhawks Preview @NHLdotcom

Just hearing Scott Niedermayer would be returning provided a lift for the Anaheim Ducks.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions begin a three-game road trip Friday night against the Chicago Blackhawks knowing that when they return home, Niedermayer will be there waiting for them.

On Wednesday, the Ducks (13-12-4) announced the 34-year-old Niedermayer made his decision to put off retirement and return to the team. Anaheim responded with a 4-1 victory over Buffalo, which followed 5-1 and 4-0 losses to Edmonton over the weekend in a home-and-home series sweep.

"I was pretty thrilled," Ducks center Rob Niedermayer said of his older brother's return. "For sure, I've had a lot of fun playing with him the last two years, and I know it was a tough decision for him. I know everyone in this room is happy to have him back.

"Being allowed to make a decision on his own time and relax, that was big. I don't think that would happen with a lot of organizations, and this one's run pretty classy."

Scott Niedermayer will not join the team on this road trip, which also includes stops in Nashville and Columbus, as he remains in Anaheim to prepare for his return. The reigning playoff MVP is expected to begin practicing with the team when it comes home for practice on Tuesday.

Without the star defenseman, the Ducks have gotten off to a very disappointing start and they are tied with Chicago for eighth in the Western Conference with 30 points. They were 20-3-6 at this point in 2006-07, having totaled 102 goals, but they have scored just 70 this season.

Visiting Chicago (14-11-2) should be a good way for the Ducks to keep getting back on track. They have won five in a row there and are 9-0-1 in this series since a 3-1 loss at the United Center on Nov. 2, 2003. Anaheim is 13-1-1 with a tie in the last 16 meetings overall.

Ducks goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere has won four straight starts versus the Blackhawks, and is 11-2-0 with a tie and a 1.93 goals-against average in his last 14 games against them.

Giguere is looking to build on his 22-save performance Wednesday after two subpar outings in the losses to the Oilers. He was pulled early in the third period last Friday after giving up four goals on 23 shots before allowing four more goals on 21 shots two days later.

Andy McDonald, who had a goal and an assist Wednesday, has six goals and 16 points in his last 14 games against Chicago.

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are looking to avoid matching their season-high three-game losing streak after a 3-2 defeat to Vancouver on Wednesday. They had put together a 7-2-2 stretch before opening this month with back-to-back defeats.

Wednesday marked the opener of a four-game homestand for Chicago, which had won five straight at the United Center.

Chicago continues getting solid performances from Martin Havlat, who has three goals and an assist in the last four games after missing 22 with a shoulder injury. However, the right wing has only two assists in six career games against Anaheim.

Patrick Kane, the first overall selection in this year's draft, leads the Blackhawks with 27 points but has failed to score in 10 straight games. He's gone pointless in six of the last eight.

Chicago may choose to start backup Patrick Lalime in net, considering he is 6-1-0 with a 1.90 GAA all-time versus the Ducks while starter Nikolai Khabibulin is 1-6-0 with a 3.37 GAA in his last seven games against them.

While Khabibulin made just 18 saves in losing Wednesday, Lalime has lost his last three starts, but those were all on the road. Lalime is 3-1-0 with a 1.95 GAA at home this season.

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