CHICAGO -- It might be just another game on the schedule, with more points the biggest thing at stake, but Tuesday's matchup at United Center does carry with it a little more interest than normal.
The Anaheim Ducks come into the game knowing they could become the first team this season to hand the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks a regulation loss (10-0-2). That in itself adds a little more spice than normal to a game that features a pair of teams that weren't really discussed much as serious contenders in the Western Conference prior to the season.
The NHL record for most consecutive wins without a regulation loss to start a season is 16, held by the 2006-07 Ducks (12-0-4).
"I think you always want to beat a team that's undefeated," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday prior to his team's morning skate. "You always think of it as quite a challenge. They're by and far, right now, the best team in the League. So it's a test for our team."
It's also a test Boudreau is looking forward to his team taking.
"We're still trying to find a measuring stick for us of where we fit, because nobody picked us to be anywhere," Boudreau said. "Our record's fairly good, but we don't know if it's, 'Are we playing good or are we meeting teams on bad nights on the back-to-back?' So you see a team [the Blackhawks] that didn't play [Monday] and that's at home for the first time [since a long road trip]. It should be a really good measuring stick for our team."
His players agreed.
"I think you always want to be part of the team that spoils the party, right?" said Bobby Ryan, who has been centering the Ducks' second line. "The fact that they've done it on the road is an even bigger testament. There's a lot of focus on it in here, and the way we have to look at it is just that it's two points we desperately need to continue to stay where we are."
Where they are is first place in the Pacific Division with 17 points, one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks. That, combined with Chicago's blazing start, ought to give the Ducks all the motivation they need when the puck hits the ice Tuesday.
Anaheim is off to its own strong start, earning points in nine of its first 11 games, and players including 42-year old veteran star Teemu Selanne -- Ryan's right wing -- have every intention of keeping it going against the Blackhawks.
"We want to beat these guys," Selanne said. "This is going to be a good test for us, you know? It's been unbelievable how they've played and they have a really good team, so we have to respect that. On the other hand, you want to beat those guys. That's the bottom line -- you want to beat the best."
As for the Blackhawks, the challenge is to avoid the usual letdown that's often associated with the first home game after a long road trip. It's been an issue the past few seasons, but this season Chicago captain Jonathan Toews and his teammates are getting a different feeling.
"Some people probably put pressure on themselves if they're kind of overachieving, but we don't feel like we're doing that at all," Toews said. "We've done a great job of not being satisfied and going into every game forgetting about the last [one] and what we've accomplished and knowing there's a lot of things we can always improve on. It doesn't matter who we're playing or where they are in the standings. It's about our preparation and those are things that we're going to keep repeating to ourselves and keep in our minds going into every single game."