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California Dreamin’ On Such A Winter’s Day: Blackhawks vs. Ducks Preview

The Blackhawks look to use their momentum from Thursday’s win to face a spiraling Ducks team.

Anaheim Ducks v Chicago Blackhawks Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Blackhawks host the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night, looking to extend their win streak to four games — a feat that would tie them for longest win streak of the season. Conversely, the Ducks are hoping to regain winning form after being routed by the Minnesota Wild on Friday.

The Ducks are an unexpectedly decent team this season, having a 19-14-7 record good for 45 points and second place in the Pacific Division, a sharp turnaround from finishing second-to-last in the league last season. Considering they’re still in the bottom half of the league in shot metrics at 5-on-5 — including a sub-average expected goals share percentage — their success is being driven primarily thanks to their youth movement and exceptional special teams.

The top three leading scorers for the Ducks are all 24 or younger: Troy Terry has come seemingly out of nowhere to produce 34 points (22 G, 14 A) in 38 games while first-rounders Trevor Zegras (10 G, 19 A) and Sonny Milano (9 G, 16 A) were always expected to shine in the NHL. Zegras in particular has been lighting it up as of late: he has seven points (3 G, 4 A ) in his last six games, including a goal Friday night.

Not young anymore, but Ryan Getzlaf is still going pretty strong and rounding out the top four for the Ducks while leading the team in assists (22). The Ducks also have two veterans on the back-end in Cam Fowler and Kevin Shattenkirk that power their top-five power play.

Unfortunately for the Ducks, they’ve been on a bit of a spiral, going just 3-5-2 in their last 10 games. Much of that is due to their special teams not being particularly special for them, as four of their five losses were the only games in their last 10 in which they failed to score a power play goal despite 11 opportunities to do so. In their last game, when they fell 7-3 to the Wild, the Ducks were also without Terry (COVID-protocol) for the last game and lost Milano mid-game after he took an elbow to the face. The former is expected to still be in quarantine Saturday while Milano’s status for the game against the Blackhawks is unknown.

The Ducks are also expected to be without John Gibson (COVID-19 protocol) and Adam Henrique (lower-body injury).

The Blackhawks are trending in the opposite direction as the Ducks currently: they’ve managed to string together three wins after a six-game skid and are 4-3-3 over their last 10 games. Their latest victory was 3-2 over the Montreal Canadiens, when Philipp Kurashev scored the overtime winner in an unusual fashion. Dominik Kubalik and Patrick Kane also scored for the Blackhawks, with both players snapping goalless droughts: six games for Kubalik and 13 games for Kane. Top forward prospect Lukas Reichel also made his NHL debut and impressed despite not registering a point.

Despite their wins in recent games, the Blackhawks are still struggling to generate sustainable offense. Alex DeBrincat is the only truly consistent goal scorer on the team, but he didn’t find the net in two of the last three games. Secondary scoring has been up somewhat, especially from the defense, as Riley Stillman, Connor Murphy, and Calvin de Haan all scored in that same span. But it’s not consistent and lacks possession-driving factors that lead to offense. It’s an area the Blackhawks have had issues with all season and have not seen improvement from at the team level much.

The good news is the Blackhawks’ continued focus on defense is still noticeable: they were top 10 in both limiting scoring chances (27.21 per 60) and high danger chances (9.99 per 60) against per 60 at 5-on-5 over their last 10 games. Combined with a top 10 save-percentage of .928 from Marc-Andre Fleury in the same span, the Blackhawks have been able to win in spite of their offensive woes. Again, it’s not sustainable, but it’s enough to tide them over for the time being.

The Blackhawks are expected to play Saturday night without Kirby Dach, Dylan Strome, Seth Jones, and Jake McCabe (all in COVID-19 protocol). Brett Connolly was added to the same protocols on Saturday, while Ian Mitchell was recalled after playing with the IceHogs on Friday night.

Blackhawks — Statistic — Ducks

46.85% (27th) — 5-on-5 Corsi For — 48.79% (19th)

45.94% (26th) — 5-on-5 Expected goals for — 48.02% (22nd)

2.35 (29th) — Goals per game — 2.93 (17th)

3.32 (24th) — Goals against per game — 2.85 (15th)

48.9% (20th) — Faceoffs — 49.8% (16th)

18.3% (21st) — Power play — 26.4% (5th)

75.2% (27th) — Penalty kill — 85.3% (4th)

Projected lineups (subject to change)

Blackhawks

Hagel — Reichel — Kane

DeBrincat — Toews — Kubalik

Borgstrom — Lafferty — Kurashev

Khaira — Carpenter— Entwistle

de Haan — Murphy

Stillman — Galvas

C. Jones — Gustafsson

Fleury

Lankinen

Ducks

Steel — Getzlaf — Carrick

Comtois — Zegras — Rakell

Grant — Lundestrom — Silfverberg

Deslauriers — ?? — Robinson

Fowler— Manson

Lindholm — Drysdale

Larsson — Shattenkirk

Dostal

Stolarz

How to watch

When: 7:30 p.m. CT

Where: United Center, Chicago

TV: NBC Sports Chicago

Webstream: ESPN+