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Upping the Ante: Blackhawks @ Ducks Preview

March 17, 2010

Game Time: 9:00 PM CST
TV/Radio: NHL-N, WGN / WGN (720-AM)
Know Thy Enemy: Battle of California, Anaheim Calling

Stat Pack:

Blackhawks
Ducks
L10
6-3-1 4-5-1
Record on the Road: 18-11-3 at Home: 20-11-3
PP% 19.2% (8th) 18.9% (11th)
PK 84.2% (6th) 79.6% (23rd)

Like I’ve said multiple times already, at the beginning of the year (or anytime before last Sunday, really), who would have thought that when the sky finally begins to proverbially fall, our goalies would be nowhere near its epicenter? (Should I not be mixing metaphors so early in the morning?)

As has been reported through various news outlets (possibly thrice already in this blog alone), Campbell is out 7-8 weeks with a fractured clavicle and rib. In the exact words of Dr Michael Terry, the Blackhawks’ head team physician, “he will likely avoid surgery,” as opposed to undergoing season-ending surgery, I guess, when there’s a chance he could come back in time for midway through the second round of the playoffs.

And that’s if the Blackhawks make it that far. Depending on who you talk to, the Blackhawks have either encountered a huge stumbling block in their Cup aspirations, or merely a blip in the radar. Most are still waiting to see what Johnsson brings to the table, however, which means we could be waiting a little bit longer. According to Jesse Rogers of ESPN Chicago, Kim Johnsson didn’t even make it to the trip to California, and could instead join the team this weekend in Phoenix.¬†Without Campbell and without Johnsson, the team practiced with Keith-Seabrook, Boynton-Hjalmarsson, and Sopel-Hendry for their defensive pairs, with Dustin Byfuglien participating in defensive drills for emergency purposes. In addition to that, Cristobal Huet was out with the flu and Corey Crawford has been recalled from Rockford to back Antti Niemi up tonight and possibly tomorrow as well.

So it’s come to this.

The Blackhawks haven’t really played well against the Pacific Division this season either, holding a 7-6-2 record against them. Take the Sharks out of the Pacific, though, and the Blackhawks can only boast of a 4-5-2 record. Tonight’s meeting against the Ducks is their last and final one, a chance to split the season series against a team who sits 13th in the West, 10 points out of playoff contention but with only 14 games left to play. Even if they ride on the back of Jonas Hiller as they did towards the end of last year when they stole that 8th playoff spot, and then almost to the final game of their Western Semi-Final series against the Red Wings, it would take a collective implosion of at least five teams ahead of them in the race for them to make it to the postseason this year.

But they’re still facing Jonas Hiller in net tonight, and they’ve only scored on him once on 71 shots this season. (The last time the Blackhawks won against the Ducks, Giguere was in net, and he got lit up 5 times.) Part of this is because the Ducks’ defense is able to clog the shooting lanes for the Blackhawks, forcing them to shoot from steep angles that enable Hiller to both see and stop them. Part of this too is that during the few times that the Blackhawks are able to get close enough to the net, Hiller is often there, standing on his head.

It should be interesting, then, to see what we’d get from the Men of Four Feathers tonight. They’ll need to crash the net and to crash it often in order to generate scoring chances that they can bury, which hopefully they’ll be able to do well enough with a weakened defensive corps. On the flip side though, against a strong goaltender it is important that the defense holds steadfast, especially since Teemu Selanne–likely back from injury–will inevitably score a goal against us. Getzlaf will likely dress tonight as well, and he and Perry are always quite lethal. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will likely eat up most of the minutes, which is necessary in theory though potentially problematic seeing as to how they will have to play again tomorrow.

Let’s just take it one game at a time for now, though.

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