There was a lot of talk at the top of this season about the tough schedule the Chicago Blackhawks had ahead of them with 10 of their first 12 games on the road. Recalling the hard luck the Hawks faced away from home last season still made Chicago fans a bit queasy going into the 6-game road trip, even after their stellar undefeated start, knocking out some of this season’s favorites.
Today is game 13 of the 48-game shortened season, and the Blackhawks (10 – 0 – 2) are back at home to drop the puck with the Anaheim Ducks (8 – 2 – 1). 10 – 0 – 2… tough schedule huh?
This is the first of three scheduled match-ups between these teams, who are no doubt surpassing expectations around the league as they sit atop their respective divisions. Chicago took 3 of 4 games against the Ducks last season.
|February 26, 2012||CHI @ ANA||ANA, 3 – 1|
|December 16, 2011||ANA @ CHI||CHI, 4 – 1|
|November 25, 2011||CHI @ ANA||CHI, 6 – 5|
|October 25, 2011||ANA @ CHI||CHI, 3 – 2|
The Blackhawks, fresh off their 4 – 0 – 2 road trip, are in for a long stretch of 7 games at home for second round bouts against SJS, LAK, VAN, and CBJ, ending with a first go with EDM.
The Ducks however, are right in the middle of their own road game series, 2 – 1 – 0 heading into game 4 of 6. Anaheim has proven more than capable of putting points on the board, especially against teams known for a rugged defense, with an average 3.36 points per game, the Ducks have scored 6 or more goals three times in their first 11 games, winning 3, by 3 or more points.
High scorers for the Ducks include RW Teemu Selanne 4 – 10 – 14, center Saku Koivu 4 – 9 – 13, and RW Bobby Ryan 4 – 7 – 11. Seven on the Anaheim roster have banked 4 or more goals, including center Daniel Winnik with 5 goals.
Chicago has found a way to wrangle 22 out of a possible 24 points so far this season, putting them 5 points ahead of Anaheim in the WC and on top of the league. Heading home, the Hawks have to keep their momentum going and carry the urgency of the road with them to home ice. Now is not the time to get comfortable.
Keeping pace with himself and his mission to have a breakout season, Patrick Kane, now second in the league with 9 goals and 19 points was recently named the first star of this past week’s NHL “Three Stars” for his 5 goals and 1 assist in 3 games. Kane, along with Marian Hossa (6 – 6 – 12), and now Jonathan Toews (6 – 6 – 12) have stepped sturdily into their roles as central playmakers. Patrick Sharp, with 9 assists should also be recognized for his key roles this season.
In his 6th career shutout, Corey Crawford held his own in the 3 – 0 victory over the Nashville Predators on Sunday night. Crawford is now no. 1 in the league with 7 wins and will start in goal tonight.
Chicago has yet to lose in regulation, and is quickly encroaching on Anaheim’s league record for longest stretch without a regulation loss of 12 – 0 – 4 of their 2006-07 Stanley Cup Championship year.
Back in the UC and on a mission, the puck drops between these two powerhouse league leaders at 7:30pm CST.
Injury Report: Anaheim will be short defensemen Cam Fowler (upper-body injury), and most likely Jonas Hiller (lower-body injury). Chicago’s Dan Carcillo has missed the last 11 games with a lower body injury sustained in game 1 against LAK, he is expected back by the end of the month.
(This post appeared previously on thecheckingline.com)