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Ducks try to end skid, complete sweep of Blackhawks

by David Kalan

DUCKS (22-7-4) at BLACKHAWKS (25-4-3)


Last 10: Anaheim 5-4-1; Chicago 6-4-0

Season series: Anaheim has won both games this season against Chicago, including a 4-2 win on March 20 at Honda Center in which the Ducks stunned the Blackhawks with a three-goal third period. This is their final meeting of the season.

Big story: Despite some bumps lately, Chicago has been the dominant force in the Western Conference for most of this season, but if there's one potential challenger that seems to have the Blackhawks' number it's Anaheim. Winners of both of their previous matchups with Chicago, the Ducks are the only team in the West the Blackhawks haven't beaten this year, a potentially worrisome situation for Chicago given Friday's game could be a Western Conference Finals preview. As the top two teams in the West play for the final time this season, Chicago will need a win to prove it can handle the feisty Ducks.

Team Scope:

Ducks: The Ducks may still be in solid position to win the Pacific Division -- and overtaking the Blackhawks for the top seed in the West isn't out of the question -- but they haven't played like it lately. Anaheim is currently mired in a four-game losing streak after a 4-0 drubbing Wednesday night in San Jose in which the Ducks gave up three goals in the first period. That loss sealed a home-and-home sweep for the Sharks and came on the heels of consecutive losses to the Detroit Red Wings, both of which were played at Honda Center.

The truly disconcerting thing for Anaheim, however, is not just that the Ducks have lost four games in a row, but that all four games were lost in regulation. Prior to their current skid the Ducks hadn't lost as many as two consecutive games in regulation all season. If Anaheim drops a fifth straight game Friday night in Chicago, the Ducks may have to stop worrying about catching the Blackhawks for first place in the West and start worrying about holding first in their division.

Blackhawks: The Blackhawks still have the edge in the race for the Presidents' Trophy, but since their historic season-opening streak ended they have not been quite the same juggernaut they were for the first half of 2012-13. Chicago did win its last game, a 2-0 shutout of the Calgary Flames on Tuesday, but the team also lost the two games it played prior to beating Calgary.

It's unlikely the Blackhawks will have to worry about dropping out of first place in the Central Division, but they will need to return to form and get healthy before the postseason starts. There was good news on that front Thursday, as Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa both practiced for the first time since suffering their respective injuries, but the two forwards were still ruled out for the game against Anaheim.

Who's hot: Corey Perry has a goal and two assists in his past three games for Anaheim. … Patrick Kane had two assists in Chicago's 2-0 win against Calgary, giving him 14 points over his current seven-game point streak.

Injury report: Nick Bonino remains on injured reserve for the Ducks with a lower-body injury. … Sharp (shoulder) and Hossa (upper body) are the only regulars currently out of the lineup for Chicago. They will not be returning Friday.

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