Besting Ducks can help Blackhawks win home-ice in two-team race for top
BY MARK LAZERUS email@example.com March 19, 2013 10:36PM
Chicago Blackhawks v Colorado Avalanche
BLACKHAWKS AT DUCKS
The facts: 9, CSN, 720-AM.
Updated: March 19, 2013 10:40PM
LOS ANGELES — About 10 minutes after the game clock hit zero on Monday night in Denver, Joel Quenneville already knew the Anaheim Ducks were beating the San Jose Sharks through two periods. He also knew that star forward Corey Perry had signed an eight-year contract extension — one that was announced while the Blackhawks were still playing the Colorado Avalanche.
So, yes, the Hawks have been paying attention to what’s been going on in Anaheim, even if the rest of the hockey world has been fixated on Chicago instead.
“As well as we’ve been playing this year, they’ve been right there, kind of hiding in the shadows, having a great season, too,” Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. “If we weren’t having the year we’re having, there would be a lot of focus and attention on them.”
The Hawks are off to one of the most impressive starts in recent pro sports history — 24-2-3, with 51 of a possible 58 points. But they can’t quite shake the Ducks, who are right behind them — 21-3-4, with 46 points and a game in hand. Nobody else is within 17 points of the Hawks, so it’s likely a two-team race for the top seed and home-ice advantage in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Anaheim beat the Hawks 3-2 in a shootout at the United Center in their only meeting so far this season.
“They’re doing pretty well, and they’re probably pretty excited with their [Perry] news,” Quenneville said. “So it should be a great contest. They can be a very important two points.”
The Hawks have repeatedly said throughout this season that every game is a big game, that the next game is the biggest game. This time, though, it’s easy to mean it.
“Those are going to be two big points we’re not going to want to give up,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “I think both teams will be wanting to prove who’s best. We’ve only been up against them once this year, so this will be a real test for us. It’s one of those games that we have to really get up for, and I’m sure they will, as well.”
The Ducks — whose record 16-game season-opening point streak in 2006-07 was shattered by the Hawks this year — have been quietly putting together another historic season. Led by Perry (nine goals, 15 assists), Ryan Getlzaf (11 goals, 22 assists) — who got an identical eight-year contract extension earlier in the season — and Bobby Ryan and Saku Koivu (eight goals and 14 assists each), Anaheim has a strong mix of skill and size. Also like the Hawks, the Ducks have two hot goalies — rookie Viktor Fasth (11-1-1, 2.00 GAA) and Jonas Hiller (10-2-3, 2.52).
The Ducks have been drafting a bit behind the Hawks — dominating opponents without having to deal with the media circus and hype that enveloped the Hawks during their 24-game point streak.
“Eventually, everything catches up, and stuff like that, you can’t really measure,” Quenneville said.
The Hawks might be without the services of right wing Marian Hossa, who left Monday’s game in the first period with an upper-body injury after getting crunched along the boards by Colorado’s Ryan O’Byrne. Quenneville gave his team Tuesday off, so there was no official word on Hossa’s status. Quenneville said Monday night that he was “not bad,” but with four days off following the Anaheim game, he might be inclined to hold Hossa out and give him the time to fully heal.
Even without Hossa, the Hawks played very well against Colorado, and enter Wednesday’s SoCal showdown on a three-game win streak. In fact, both teams appear to be in top form in the battle for Western Conference supremacy.
“It’ll be a good chance for us to really test ourselves here, and see what we’re made of,” Kane said. “A team like that could be a team you face later on in the [postseason], and it’d be nice to get a little confidence against them.”