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Ducks/Blackhawks Preview

The Ducks play their final home game before heading off to Sochi and/or Cabo.

Jeff Gross

Last time these two teams met Chicago proved why they are the reigning Stanley Cup Champions and the Ducks are the reigning team who did really well in the regular season only to get bounced in the first round. The Ducks were thoroughly outplayed in just about every facet of the game and it kicked off the current stretch of five losses in their last nine games.

Keys to the Game: The Hawks did a fantastic job in the aforementioned game to seemingly be in every possible passing lane the Ducks attempted to use. That could be a huge problem as the Ducks have recently been doing a a much worse job of connecting on passes. In their last two games (losses to Columbus and Dallas) Anaheim has had a really tough time getting offense going due in part to sloppy passing which won't cut it against a team as talented as the Blackhawks.

One of the other major reasons that the Ducks have slipped below a .500 winning percentage in the past couple of weeks is getting to and winning lose pucks. Again tying back to the previous encounter with the Hawks, Marian Hossa was a force of nature on the puck for the full 60 minutes. If the Ducks continue to play as casually as the have in their last two games along the boards they may never see the puck.

Simply put, the Ducks have to improve the basic fundamentals of their game drastically to even have a chance tonight.

What Can We Learn From This Game: If the Ducks can find a way to step up their game enough to beat Chicago after the ugly performances they've put in over the past week it will be good to know that they are able to rise to the occasion of a big game. However it may spell trouble for the rest of the season since, barring a downturn for the Ducks or a strong run from the Sharks this might be the most meaningful game remaining on the schedule.

With the Olympic break starting on Sunday morning to remove a major distraction and/or allow time for rest and recovery it's not quite time to go all Chicken Little about backing into the playoffs yet. But it sure would be nice to hit the break on a high note rather than the doldrums that we've seen for the most part since the Dodger Stadium game.

Fearless Prediction: Ryan Getzlaf and Jonathan Toews place a bet during the opening faceoff that whoever loses this game has to drink a bottle of vodka out of a Putin-shaped Russian nesting doll before their Olympic opener against Norway next week. Patrick Kane volunteers to help, no matter who wins.

Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.