Coming off one of their best performances of the season, the Ducks will be looking to stay on the winning track tonight at Chicago.
Anaheim (9-16-5) defeated Pacific Division foe Phoenix 4-1 in its final home game before Christmas on Wednesday. Tonight's game against the Blackhawks is the first of five straight road games for the clubs.
Matchups between the Ducks and Blackhawks has been close as of late, with the last four matchups decided by one goal. The Blackhawks have taken both meetings this season, beating the Ducks 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 25 at the United Center and 6-5 on Nov. 25 at Honda Center.
Anaheim's defeat to Chicago last month was its sixth in a season-high seven-game slide. The Ducks have played better since the end of that losing streak, going 3-3-1 and avoiding a third consecutive loss with a 4-1 victory over Phoenix on Wednesday.
Niklas Hagman scored two goals and Jonas Hiller had to make only 19 saves for Anaheim, which got a major boost from the return of Lubomir Visnovsky. The defenseman, who returned after missing 13 games with a broken finger on his right hand, had an assist and ran the point on Anaheim's power play while racking up seven shots.
"They sure played hard tonight," coach Bruce Boudreau said after improving to 2-3-1 with Anaheim. "This is the hardest I've seen a team work this year that I've been coaching, and that includes the Capitals, so it was fun to watch."
Rod Pelley, acquired from New Jersey on Monday, scored in his Anaheim debut and Kyle Palmieri also had a goal for the Ducks. Anaheim, though, has gone 0-6-3 in its last nine away games and will set a team mark with a loss Friday. The Ducks went 0-5-4 on the road Oct. 11-Dec. 11, 2009.
Saku Koivu did not make the trip to Chicago. The center remains day-to-day and questionable for the next three games with a groin strain.
The Blackhawks (19-8-4) won their third straight in impressive fashion Wednesday, defeating NHL-leading Minnesota 4-3 in a shootout on the road. Patrick Kane scored the winner in the tiebreaker and Ray Emery stopped 15 of the 16 shots he faced in the third period for Chicago, which moved to within two points of the Wild for the league's best record.
"Nice game. It gets on the line, and he gets bigger," coach Joel Quenneville said of Emery.
The former Duck, who will be in net Friday, went 7-2-0 with a 2.28 goals-against average in his only season with Anaheim in 2010-11. He has started three games in a row since replacing the struggling Corey Crawford in a 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix on Dec. 5.
The resurgent Emery has played a key role in Chicago's hot streak, which started when the club broke a season-high three-game skid with a 6-5 victory over Anaheim on Nov. 25. That began a 7-1-1 surge, and Emery has gone 4-0-1 with a 1.75 GAA in six games - four starts - during that span.
All but one of Chicago's last seven victories have come by one goal.
"Just the way it's going to be. The NHL's so tight these days, you've got to be ready for it," Kane said.
Chicago's Jonathan Toews had two goals and three assists Nov. 25. Patrick Sharp recorded a hat trick in that game and has nine goals and four assists in his last nine overall.
Corey Perry has 11 goals and 14 assists in 25 games against Chicago, and he's recorded four goals and two assists during a four-game point streak in the series. Teemu Selanne, who has one goal and seven assists during a six-game point streak, had a goal and an assist in each of the two games versus the Blackhawks this season.
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