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The Anaheim Ducks expect to play better hockey in the second half of the season than they did in the first.
The defending Stanley Cup champions look for a season-high third straight win at home on Friday night while trying to continue their dominance over the injury-riddled Chicago Blackhawks.
Inconsistent play in the first 2 1/2 months of 2007-08 has Anaheim (20-17-5) in third place in the Pacific Division with 45 points, but the Ducks appear focused on making an extended run of success.
Anaheim avoided a third straight loss with a 2-1 home win over Columbus on Wednesday to kick off the season's second half. That contest was the first in a stretch in which the Ducks will play six of seven at the Honda Center.
"We have a great team here with a lot of good players and a lot of guys who know what it takes to win," said Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who has won four of his last five games. "Having said that, we still need to work hard and sacrifice ourselves to get wins. And (Wednesday) was a good start in that direction."
The Ducks are 5-2-1 since playoff MVP Scott Niedermayer returned after flirting with retirement and since obtaining forward Doug Weight in a trade with St. Louis. They'll look to win their fourth straight over Chicago (19-17-3) and 10th in their last 11 meetings.
Anaheim, which won 5-3 at Chicago on Dec. 7, is 10-0-1 against the Blackhawks since losing 3-1 in regulation on Nov. 2, 2003.
On Wednesday, Giguere made 26 saves for his 16th win, while Chris Pronger and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist for the Ducks, who have not allowed a third-period goal in their last eight home games.
"That's what we needed in our own building. We need to be stingy and not give the other team too many scoring chances," said Giguere, who has won five in a row versus the Blackhawks. "When we do that, we usually find ourselves in a good position."
Getzlaf, who had a goal and two assists versus Chicago last month, has two goals and four assists in his last five contests overall.
Chicago will try to avoid matching a season high with a fourth consecutive loss after falling 4-2 at Phoenix on Thursday.
It was the Blackhawks first game since rookie Jonathan Toews was lost for up to four weeks with a sprained left knee suffered in a 9-2 defeat at Los Angeles on Tuesday.
Toews, who has leads all rookies with 15 goals and is second with 32 points, joins injured forwards Martin Havlat (groin), Jason Williams (groin) and defenseman Brent Sopel (finger) for the Blackhawks, who lost four straight from Dec. 1-9.
Cam Barker scored and Kris Versteeg added a goal and assist Thursday for Chicago, which has been outscored 16-6 during its three-game losing streak.
"We're kind of struggling right now, and need to shore up our game," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "There's a great deal of character in this room and now is the time for everyone to step forward."
Nikolai Khabibulin made 16 saves, but allowed two first-period goals in his third straight loss. He's allowed 10 goals during that span after giving up nine in winning his previous four in a row.
Khabibulin has lost seven of his last eight starts against Anaheim, and could sit Friday in favor of Patrick Lalime, who is 6-1-0 with a 2.01 goals-against average in seven starts versus the Ducks, but hasn't begin a game against them since October 2005 while with St. Louis.
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