The Anaheim Ducks look to sweep the season series against the Blackhawks Friday night in Chicago after taking the first two games in overtime and regulation, respectively. Chicago braces for a Ducks team that has given them fits consistently and are only 5 points behind them as they both sit atop the Western Conference.
Chicago hopes to capitalize on the four consecutive losses Anaheim has suffered and on its current four-game road trip through the Central and Pacific Divisions. The Ducks have not lost 2 or more consecutive games in regulation at all this season, and the goaltending may be Anaheim’s biggest concern during this skid. Jonas Hiller and Victor Fasth have allowed a total of 15 goals for a combined save percentage of .740% during the skid.
Despite the poor goaltending performances, Corey Perry has earned 3 points (1G, 2A) over his past three games and Francois Beauchemin holds 8th place in the league among defenseman with a +20 on the season through 33 games.
The Blackhawks are coming off a fresh win at home against the Calgary Flames Tuesday night and look to keep Emery hot as he gets the nod in net Friday night. Ray Emery, yet to face Anaheim this season, is a perfect 12 – 0 – 0 and the Hawks want it to stay that way. Corey Crawford has allowed 5 goals in his previous two games against the Ducks and registers a .911% in his 0 – 1 – 1 season series versus Anaheim. Quenneville, no doubt, has a lot of faith in Emery – and he should. Considering his record, momentum from Tuesday’s shutout against Calgary (his first of the season), and the resting period between these two games he is clearly a logical choice for Chicago.
Patrick Kane has registered a point in each of his last seven games (5G, 9A) and ranks fifth in the league in points (41) after 33 games. Jonathan Toews ranks fifth in the NHL in faceoff wins and second in takeaways (35), so the Blackhawks will look to use his stickhandling prowess to neutralize Anaheim in the United Center on Friday night.
Perhaps the biggest story for the Blackhawks at the moment is the absence of both Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp, both of whom are not expected to play Friday night. Marian Hossa has been on the bubble for a few days now, but Q and the rest of the staff have yet to clear Hossa for play. Patrick Sharp has missed the last 8 games with an upper body injury and may return sometime next week, according to reports. Both Sharp and Hossa have returned to practice with the team wearing no-contact jerseys while on the ice.
The absence of Sharp and Hossa has forced Q to juggle the line pairings, which resulted in Michael Frolik skating alongside Toews and Saad on the top line. On Monday, Frolik recorded his first multi-point game this season (2G, 1A) against LA and enjoyed increased ice time on the top line. Quenneville was impressed with how Frolik played with Toews and Saad, saying they, “rotated well” and that the three top-liners, “make for a heavier line than some top lines” after Tuesday’s game in Chicago. There’s a good chance that Frolik will be removed from the first line when Hossa and Sharp eventually return, but hopefully his elevated pace and play comes with that.
The three keys to a Hawks win Friday night:
- Score Early and Often – The famous Chicago mantra! Take a lead early to frustrate and kill the Duck’s momentum.
- Hold! – The Hawks have to hold the lead as soon as they get it. In a potential postseason matchup preview, the Madhouse Gang cannot allow for the Ducks to swing the momentum like they have all season against Chicago.
- Release the Hounds – It’s duck-hunting season and this is no time to hold back. Each and every member of the Blackhawks needs to get physical, skate hard, and focus on passing the puck stick-to-stick.
The first two spats between Anaheim and Chicago have gone in favor of the Ducks but Ray Emery and the Madhouse Gang refuse to go down without a fight on Friday night in Chicago.