Hawks Host Grounded Ducks
The Chicago Blackhawks get set to square off for the third time this season against their distant neighbors from the west coast when they host the Anaheim Ducks tonight at the United Center.
The last meeting between the Blackhawks and the Ducks saw Hawks' captain Jonathan Toews carry his team to a rallying 6-5 win with his 5 point effort. Anaheim will look to avoid the same fate tonight and stay on the winning path after a 4-1 victory over Phoenix.
Overall, however, the coaching change in Anaheim has yielded inconsequential results.
The Anaheim Ducks possess a lowly 9-16-5 overall record, good for 2nd to last in the Western Conference. Ryan Getzlaf hasn't had a great start this year notching 23 points in his first 30 games and Bobby Ryan has certainly struggled with 17 points in 30 games this year.
Despite winning their last match, the Ducks have gone 3-6-1 in their last ten games, largely due to their struggling defensive game. They have allowed 96 goals this season to date, 3rd highest in their conference and have only scored 71 goals, good for second lowest total in the west.
Jonas Hiller still sports a save percentage above 90% despite allowing so many goals, mostly due to the fact that the defense in front of him has been sub-par at best.
The Chicago Blackhawks, meanwhile, are 19-8-4 on the season, which is good for 2nd place in the Western Conference, even though they have allowed one fewer goal than Anaheim. Chicago, however, has benefited from strong offensive production this year and boast 103 goals-for on the season, the best in the west.
The biggest story for Chicago of late has been the play of "back-up" goaltender, Ray Emery. He's 4-0-1 in his last 5 games and has only lost once this season. Originally signed in the off-season as a solid veteran backup for Corey Crawford, Emery is making a statement that he can still handle the pressure that comes with playing regular minutes between the pipes.
It's apparent that the Chicago defensive unit, for whatever reason, plays with more confidence in front of Ray Emery, at least of late, than they had been in front of Corey Crawford. It's no surprise that Emery is slated to get yet another start tonight against the Ducks.
On paper, this game plays out in Chicago's favor in almost every way. However, it also potentially has "trap game" written all over it. The Blackhawks have won quite a few close games recently to give them some significant confidence and Anaheim could easily jump all over them if the Hawks aren't careful and come into tonight's game focused. If Chicago takes its opponent too lightly tonight, they're in for some trouble.
Keep an Eye Out For -
Any Chicago forward with a "1" on their jersey, but specifically the following: Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have all been riding offensively productive games of late. Toews has 7 points in his last 5 games; Sharp has 8 points and 4 goals in his last 5 games; Hossa has 6 points in his last 3 games alone.
Teemu Selanne and Corey Perry have been the biggest offensive threats for Anaheim this year. At the age of 41, Selanne has 7 points in his last 5 games, while Perry has 5 points in his last 5 games
Injuries - Blackhawks agitator Daniel Carcillo is questionable for tonight with an upper-body injury; Matt Smaby (thumb), Jason Blake (wrist), and Saku Koivu (lower body), all remain on the IR for the Ducks.
Tonight's game will be televised on CSN-Chicago and PRIME and starts at 7:30 pm CT.