The Anaheim Ducks are not off to the greatest start. But the Blackhawks are still expecting a difficult test from their Western Conference foe.
The Ducks, who the Blackhawks needed seven games to eliminate in the Western Conference final last spring, are just 1-5-1 entering tonight’s game at the United Center. They’ve scored just six goals in those seven games. They’ve suffered as many shutouts in those seven games (four) as they did all of last season.
But the Blackhawks are expecting a big push tonight.
“That series we had with them last year was unbelievably tough and competitive. I’m sure coming in here [tonight] they can recreate that in an instant,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s a team we know can score and can make plays. Let’s make sure we build off what we’ve done the last couple of games. We like the progress in our own team game; we’re going to need that tonight.”
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The Ducks went through their offseason changes, but so did the Blackhawks. Marcus Kruger said he was a little surprised at the Ducks' start but won’t be shocked if they turn it around, either.
“Just look at the lineup: They have a great lineup and they’ve been good for a number of years and a top team,” Kruger said. “I think they’re still going to be that team and we know they’re going to be ready tonight.”
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau talked of the intensity between the two teams during that Western Conference final. He wants the Ducks to tap into that, as well as that passion to play the sport, starting now.
“Today I talked to them about how great it is to be a hockey player. We’re so lucky, so blessed to do this job that we love, rather than doing things that are forced upon you, and we have to play with that. We have to play with that enthusiasm,” Boudreau said. “So hopefully that wears off.”
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The Blackhawks will go with their same forward lines and defensive pairs tonight. Corey Crawford gets the start. Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.
Meanwhile, Duncan Keith continues to recover from the right-knee surgery he had last week. Quenneville said Keith’s not doing much at the moment.
“Slow process right now. It’s more of a recovery and just toning things down,” Quenneville said. “He’s moving, he feels real good. But [it] may be another week before he starts getting into the heavier training.”