Ah, what a difference a week makes. Last Wednesday, the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks were battling for supremacy in the Western Conference, with the Ducks winning and gloating a bit over their triumph. Where is that gloat now? I’d say it’s probably tucked away with their four straight losses in the past seven days.
Yes, the Blackhawks did lose to the Los Angeles Kings, but they once again came back from adversity and shut out the Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, losing back-to-back games to the Detroit Red Wings and San Jose Sharks (including a 4-0 shutout by the Sharks on Wednesday) have rather demoralized the Ducks. In fact, they even accumulated a few game misconducts due to tantrums in the waning moments of the second Red Wings game.
The Blackhawks need to capitalize on the Ducks’ vulnerability. The need to win could cloud their good sense in the heat of battle and make them do sloppy things, like take a ton of stupid penalties that will throw the Blackhawks a bone. Even though the power play is sketchy, if the Blackhawks given enough chances, a puck will eventually find its way into the net. Hey, even a blind squirrel inevitably finds a nut.
The good news for the Blackhawks is that this may be the last game they suffer without Marian Hossa. He and Patrick Sharp were in practice with the team today, but they won’t be on the roster for the game. Word from coach Joel Quenneville is that the two are close to returning but won’t be rushed, although Hossa is closer and might return for next Monday’s game against the Nashville Predators. This is welcome news, as his presence is really missed on the power play.
This is the last time in the season that the two teams will meet. The Blackhawks will look to make it count in front of the home crowd and hand the Ducks their fifth straight loss. Such is the curse of those who defeat the Blackhawks this season.