Blackhawks face surging Ducks for Selänne's last game at UC
The Chicago Blackhawks (30-8-11, 1st in Central) haven't always "played sixty" this season. Much of the time, their talent and offensive skills have carried them through to wins - or at least points.
However, the Blackhawks are just 4-1-5 in their past 10 games, and they are coming off Tuesday's 3-2 overtime loss versus the Avalanche. Friday, they will be facing the high-flying Ducks (36-8-5, 1st in league), who are on a 7-game winning streak -- and who absolutely obliterated the Canucks 9-1 on Anaheim ice Wednesday night.
There's no kind words to describe what happened in Anaheim last night. The only players not to record points were Cam Fowler, Dustin Penner, Time Jackman, and goalie Frederik Andersen. Corey Perry had a 4-point night, while Teemu Selänne and Sami Vatanen both had a three-point night.
Despite a stats sheet that might otherwise indicate a somewhat even game (SOG 44-32, FOW 49-51%, hits 25-26), the Canucks started off strong but eventually became undisciplined, racking up 73 PIM in 16 penalties, including three players receiving game misconducts. All that power play time worked out in the Ducks' favor, as they scored 6 of their 9 goals on the man advantage - a whopping 18.75% of their season PPGs to date.
Blackhawks fans should take some comfort that the Ducks' power play has not been as strong on the road, and Anaheim is near the bottom of the league for road PK% at 78.6%.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks will need to tighten up their game, and focus on a disciplined game against the surging Ducks. Anaheim is 9-1-0 in their past ten games since the Christmas break, and have outscored their opponents 43-22 in that stretch.
There is little doubt that Chicago head coach Joel Quenneville will talk about the need for a "simple" game, and will prepare his players for what may be one of their toughest games all year.
Anaheim won the only game that they have played against the Blackhawks so far this season, 3-2, in a shootout.
Friday's game will be one of only three home games for the Blackhawks between now and the Olympic break.
Injury report: Chicago: The Blackhawks are currently healthy. Anaheim: Bryan Allen (lower body), Luca Sbisa (right wrist), Sheldon Souray (right wrist), and goaltender Viktor Fasth (lower body) remain on IR. Jonas Hiller missed Wednesday's game with "flu-like symptoms".
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There is another reason to tune in to watch tomorrow's game: Friday night will also mark the last time that Teemu Selänne will play versus the Blackhawks at the United Center - unless, of course, the Blackhawks and Ducks should cross paths during the playoffs. (The Blackhawks' last game versus the Ducks this season is February 5th in Anaheim.) Selänne, 43, announced at the start of the season that it would be his last year in the NHL.
Selänne was drafted at #10 overall by the original Winnipeg Jets in the 1988 Draft in a year loaded with players that are familiar to any hockey fan: Mike Modano, Trevor Linden, Jeremy Roenick, and Rod Brind'Amour were among those drafted ahead of him; those drafted after him included Mark Recchi, Tony Amonte, Rob Blake, Marty McInnis, Bret Hedican, and Tie Domi.
"The Finnish Flash", as he came to be known, set the NHL league record for goals scored by a rookie, 76, in 1992-93 - an achievement which landed him the Calder Trophy. He holds the record as the highest-scoring Finnish-born player in NHL history, and each game he plays this season sets the bar a little higher. His record is currently at 1,444 points (680 goals/764 assists) and 15th overall in the history of the league. By the time the playoffs roll around, he may have tied or passed Stan Mikita (1,467 points) for 14th place.
He holds a number of records, not only in the NHL but for the Winnipeg/Phoenix and Anaheim franchises. He also has the most career points for men's hockey at the Olympics, with 37.
Selänne won the Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. He has played in 10 NHL All-Star Games, and will be playing in his sixth Olympics in Sochi. He has earned silver and bronze both at the Olympics and World Championships. There is little doubt that Selänne will be a first-ballot inductee into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Game info: Friday, January 17th, 7 p.m. CST - United Center, Chicago
Where to watch: Chicago: CSN-CH+; US: NHLN-US, NHLN-CA, RDS; Radio: WGN 720 AM