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Ducks set to invade Chicago

by David Kalan /
DUCKS (4-3-0) at BLACKHAWKS (4-1-2)


Season Series: This is the first meeting of the season between Anaheim and Chicago. The teams split four games last year, with the Ducks taking the most recent encounter 2-1 on March 26, 2011 at the United Center.

Big Story: Both Chicago and Anaheim have postseason aspirations, and while it is still fairly early in the season, contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pack in the Western Conference. Both the Ducks and Hawks will need the two points Tuesday night to keep pace.

Team Scope:

Ducks: After opening the season in the NHL's European Premiere season, there's always the chance a team will be effected by the travel. After splitting a pair of games in Finland and Sweden, the Ducks appeared to be showing no ill effects, winning three straight games after returning from the other side of the pond. Any optimism derived from that run might be slipping away, however. Despite two wins in four days against Pacific Division-favorite San Jose, Anaheim came home this past weekend and proceeded to lose both games on a brief homestand -- including a frustrating 5-4 defeat to Phoenix.

As a result the Ducks sit four points behind the surprising Stars in the division race, and what is a slight slip so far could very easily spin out of control as Anaheim embarks on a draining seven game road trip that features five games against teams that made the postseason this past spring. If the Ducks can't keep their heads above water through the trek, they could have considerable ground to make up when they return home on Nov. 9.

Blackhawks: Despite a hiccup in their first game this season, 2011-12 has been pretty good for the Blackhawks so far. Chicago had won four of five before falling in a shootout to Colorado Saturday night, a run that has them in an early tie for first in the Central with Detroit. That number could be deceiving considering the Red Wings have a game in hand on Chicago, but the Hawks are still in prime position with three of their next four games at home to keep racking up points.

So far Chicago has displayed a deep roster not unlike the multiple lines that rolled easily for the Blackhawks during their 2010 Stanley Cup season. Three players are averaging a point per game while Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each has six points in their seven games this season. Helping the cause is Corey Crawford, who seems to be avoiding any sort of sophomore slump with an impressive 2.13 goals-against average through six starts this season.

Who's Hot: Despite missing time with an upper body injury, Marian Hossa has six points in his last five games for Chicago. ... Few blueliners were as productive last season as Lubomir Visnovsky was in Anaheim last season, and with four points in the last three games, he seems to be picking up where he left off.

Injury Report: The Ducks lost Jason Blake for an anticipated three months due to surgery on his left wrist earlier this month. Chicago has no major injuries.

Stat Pack: The Blackhawks have been on the short side three times this season, but two of those games came in a shootout. In fact, the last time Chicago lost in regulation or overtime was its season opener in Dallas on Oct. 7.

Puck Drop: Two points mean as much in October as they do in April, and while the Blackhawks appear headed for a long race with Detroit for the Central crown, starting their massive trip on the right foot could be even more crucial for the Ducks, who have a long road ahead before they find the comforts of home again.

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