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Ducks start another road trip by visiting Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger
DUCKS (9-16-5) at BLACKHAWKS (19-8-4)


Last 10:
Anaheim 3-6-1; Chicago 7-2-1

Season series: This will be the third of four meetings between Anaheim and Chicago this season, with the Blackhawks taking the first two -- a 3-2 shootout win on Oct. 25 at the United Center and a 6-5 win a month later on Nov. 25 at Honda Center, in which the Ducks blew a pair of two-goals leads in the first two periods to let Chicago back in the game. The Hawks scored four straight goals in the first 9:22 of the third period to take charge of the game and secure the victory.

Big story: The Blackhawks might as well start planning to play 65 minutes in every game and keep working on their shootout moves in practice. They've already been involved in 11 games that went to overtime and seven that needed a shootout to determine the winner. Chicago, which has gone to overtime in three straight games, is 4-3 in shootouts and 3-1 in games that end in OT. They're not always pretty games, but finding ways to pick up two points even while struggling is a common mark among good teams. This game should be a good test of Chicago's motivation, as the Ducks have struggled all season and come to Chicago off a nice 4-2 home win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday. This is the start of a five-game road trip for the Ducks, who began a seven-game trip in the Windy City in late October that finished a with disappointing 1-3-3 mark.

Team Scope:

Ducks: Anaheim welcomed back offensive defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky against Phoenix after he missed 13 games with a broken finger. Visnovsky looked good, too. He finished with an assist and led the Ducks with seven shots on goal in 24:23 of ice time -- including 6:19 on the power play. Also pitching in for the winning effort were newcomers Rod Pelley, who scored one goal in his Anaheim debut after being traded by the New Jersey Devils, and Nicklas Hagman, who was claimed off re-entry waivers in mid-November. Hagman finished with 2 goals and five shots while playing with top-liners Ryan Getlaf and Corey Perry, and coach Bruce Boudreau, who was just hired just a couple of weeks ago after being fired by the Washington Capitals, finally got the kind of effort he'd been seeking from his team.

"This was the hardest I've seen a team work this year that I've been coaching, and that includes the Capitals," Boudreau said. "It was fun to watch."

Blackhawks: Despite not looking their sharpest at times, the Hawks are still off to an impressive 5-0-1 start to the month of December and picked up a hard-earned win on the road Wednesday against the Western Conference leading Minnesota Wild. It was a physical, tight-checking game and took another shootout for the Hawks to get the two points.

"We know if we get to OT or get to a shootout, that extra point can be ours," Toews said in the Chicago Sun-Times. "For the most part, we're never satisfied to get OT. We've been fighting hard for that second point."

Chicago got goals from Marian Hossa, Toews and Michael Frolik, who scored for just the second time in the past 15 games. The Hawks are being driven by their core group of stars who are signed to long-term contracts, which is just how the front office envisioned it. Ray Emery will get another start in goal against the Ducks, which will be his fourth straight and fifth in the last six games in place of the struggling Corey Crawford.

Who's hot: For Chicago, take your pick between Hossa, Toews and Patrick Sharp. Hossa has 4 goals and 4 assists in the past five games, Toews has 8 goals and 6 assists in his last 10 games and Sharp has a seven-game points streak going along with potting 9 goals and tallying 4 assists in his past 10 games -- including a pair of OT game-winning markers. … Teemu Selanne has a six-game points streak for the Ducks (1 goal and 6 assists), while Perry has scored 1 goal and added 4 assists in his past five games, including a pair of helpers on Wednesday against the Coyotes.

Injury report:
Daniel Carcillo is considered questionable for Chicago with an upper-body injury incurred against Minnesota on Wednesday. … Matt Smaby (thumb surgery), Jason Blake (wrist laceration) and Saku Koivu (lower body) have all been put on IR, but Koivu’s was only to make room for Visnovsky’s return on Wednesday and was back-dated to Dec. 8.

Stat pack: Last season, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was baffled as to why his team continued to "leave meat on the table" in third periods of games, which often didn't go his team's way. It resulted in a turbulent season that saw Chicago need help on the last day of the season to get into the playoffs. This year, the Hawks have outscored opponents 32-21 in the third period and 3-1 in overtime, which has helped them stay at or near the top of the Western Conference. The Ducks are 0-14-1 when trailing after two periods and 1-15-2 when trailing or tied after 40 minutes.

Puck drop:
Anaheim center Andrew Cogliano began his career with the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 4, 2007 and has not missed a single NHL regular season game since -- a span of 358 games that has him tied for third on the League's "Iron Man" list with Calgary Flames captain Jarome Iginla.
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