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The Blackhawks Return Home to Face the Ducks

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  By Tony DeFrancesco

Marian Hossa leads the Blackhawks with 13 goals against the Ducks over his career
Finally, the Blackhawks return to the United Center after a successful six game road swing where they were able to gain 10 out of 12 available points. Looking at the bigger picture, that means the Blackhawks have earned 22 out of 24 possible points and still haven't lost a game in regulation, or overtime for that matter (two shootout losses), this entire season.

Not bad for a team that has only played two games at home so far this year. Hopefully their road record is not an anomaly and they can keep the same intensity at home, but it seems like a pretty tall order to ask for perfection, which is basically the next step.

The Ducks have been on a tear to start the season as well. The NHL has quickly learned a few things about this rejuvenated team:
  • Viktor Fasth is a legitimate goaltender this season―oh and he's starting tonight.
  • Age is only a number to Teemu Selanne (14 points in 11 games).
  • Sheldon Souray always belonged in the NHL (seven points in 11 games).
  • They do have depth, young and old.
  • They are finding ways to win without Corey Perry or Ryan Getzlaf leading the team in scoring.
Interestingly enough, Getzlaf and Perry have only combined for four goals, which means there are seven players on the Ducks that have scored just as many goals (or more) individually. Can't deny that they have gotten it done without their best players being their best players, that either leads to a very strong team with depth or simply one team on a hot streak thanks to a couple players being on at the right time.

Whether you are headed to the game tonight or watching on TV, make sure you keep your eye on #8, Teemu Selanne of the Ducks. He's currently the 2nd highest active scorer in the league with 1,420 points in 1,352 games. Much like Jaromir Jagr (who is #1), this guy has been stellar despite his age. This year he has five goals and 14 points in 11 games which leads the Ducks in scoring.

Anaheim better hope the four line offensive production continues and that Viktor Fasth can continue his heroics, without that it's tough to say they will experience success throughout a full (yet shortened) season. Special teams has been wildly inconsistent, from a fairly productive power play to an abysmal penalty killing unit that is only preventing goals 67.5% of the time. That's a good sign for Chicago, considering their power play has dropped all the way down to 16th in the league after such a hot start. Although it's a small sample size, the Chicago power play is still top five at home this year.

Fasth has been a nice story for Anaheim, but Corey Crawford has been on fire lately with a 3-0-2 record, 1.34 goals against average, and 0.945 save percentage in his last five games. Crawford will get the start tonight for the Blackhawks and it should be a pretty good battle between him and Fasth.

IF HISTORY REPEATS ― The big four haven't exactly lit up the Ducks over their careers. Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, and Patrick Sharp have only averaged 0.46 goals per game combined. Hossa leads the team with 13 goals and Kane leads with 11 assists. Over Corey Crawford's career, he has a 5-3-0 record, 0.915 save percentage, and 2.17 goals against average against Anaheim.

THE BOTTOM LINE ― The Ducks penalty kill is awful and the Blackhawks need to take advantage of that. Hopefully the big four can produce more than their career averages indicate, if not then another line will need to step it up in a big way because the Ducks can score. Good news is that the Blackhawks are also a four line team so it's a good test to see where they stack up against a team with depth and playing as hot as anyone in the league right now. Bruce Boudreau is a good coach, so expect a lot of strategy between him and Joel Quenneville.

***

ACROSS THE POND ― Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender James Reimer has suffered a mild MCL strain against the Philadelphia Flyers and is expected to miss a week ... The Boston Bruins have signed Jay Pandolfo to a one-year, two-way contract and placed him on waivers ... Dustin Byfuglien returned to the Winnipeg Jets after missing the past five-games with an undisclosed injury ...Tampa Bay Lightning forward Ryan Malone is out for 3-4 weeks due to a lower-body injury ...

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