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Ducks @ Blackhawks - Tough Central Division Road Swing Starts In The Second City

After having a seven-game winning streak snapped on Sunday, Anaheim heads to Chicago for the first of a four game swing against teams that qualified for the postseason last year.

Captains Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews highlight a star-studded matchup.
Captains Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews highlight a star-studded matchup.
Jonathan Daniel

When the dust settled and the last of the sticks and gloves had been picked up off the ice at Honda Center, it felt like fans had seen a third period straight out of the Federal League in the Ducks 4-1 defeat at the hands of their northern rivals. A seven-game win streak snapped, Frederik Andersen's personal 10-game regular season win streak halted, and Corey Perry's scorching start snuffed silent for a night by the pads of Antti Niemi. While NHL discipline czars rule on the rampage of San Jose's Murdersaurus, the Ducks deal with the loss of an important defenseman while heading out on a tough four-game road swing through the cream of the Central Division.

Game Notes:

As reported by the OC Register's Eric Stephens on Twitter, the Ducks will be without the services of top pairing defenseman Ben Lovejoy for the next six to eight weeks due to a fractured finger suffered during his third period fight with Joe Pavelski on Sunday. Josh Manson has been recalled from Norfolk to fill his roster spot, but not much can be gleaned as to who will draw in as a replacement though Stephens mentioned Francois Beauchemin and Cam Fowler skating together in practice with Hampus Lindholm missing the session due to flu symptoms. He also reported that we may see the regular season debut of Dany Heatley in Ducks colors though no final decisions have been made. Sami Vatanen has picked up four points (all on the power play) in his past five games, while Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have each put up points in seven of the first nine games with neither being held without one in back-to-back games thus far.

For the Blackhawks part they've suffered only one loss in their previous four home games, an overtime affair against Calgary where former Duck Jonas Hiller made 49 saves to secure the 2-1 decision. Chicago had dropped two straight road games to Nashville and St. Louis before rookie goalie Scott Darling won his NHL debut in a 2-1 topping of Ottawa. Darling and Antti Raanta have held the fort in net while regular starter Corey Crawford has missed time due to an upper body injury. In six of the eight games so far the Hawks have outshot their opponents, with five of those being by a double-digit margin. Six players have attempted 20 or more shots, with top scorer Patrick Sharp (3G 5A) leading the way with 36. Patrick Kane is second in scoring with three goals and four assists while Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad are third with six points apiece, and Andrew Shaw also is tied for the team lead with three goals.

What Can We Learn From this Game:

The Ducks have improved in possession metrics as a team, averaging taking 51.8% of the unblocked shot attempts over the course of their first nine games this season, yet will face a Chicago team that is third in the league at 56.2%. Anaheim already has wins against the top (Minnesota) and second (St. Louis) best teams in that stat category, and only had two fewer shot attempts than the Wild in their meeting and out-attempted the Blues through the first 50 or so minutes as well. The Blackhawks are on a different level though, so considering how the games went between the two teams last season at the Madhouse with Chicago out-attempting Anaheim by 12 in the Ducks shootout win and by 36 in the 4-2 loss, we'll see just how far the Ducks have come. It's a really inopportune time to have to reshuffle the defense corps due to an injury, and seeing how Bruce Boudreau decides to configure the pairings will say a lot about how the team will be approaching the game.

Fearless Prediction:

Chicago takes advantage of a Ducks backend in disarray while Marian Hossa does as Marian Hossa does and scores a goal against Anaheim. Ducks Twitter melts down if Mark Fistric and Clayton Stoner are paired.