But Saturday night at the United Center will certainly be a showdown against the Anaheim Ducks. The Hawks have 88 points, the Ducks have 87.
“You look back and we would say the next game is going to be the biggest one but this truly is,” Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. “You look at the remaining games we have, this is basically the last game we have against a team fighting for the same space we are. It really is a four-point game. It puts whoever wins in a pretty good spot.”
The Ducks, who took to the practice ice in Chicago after the Hawks on Friday, are coming off two emotional games against playoff contenders already this week.
“Obviously, when you’re playing the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks in their building, in the race that we’re in with them, it’s a critical game,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “As [Thursday] was in Nashville as [Wednesday] was in Dallas. You can’t hide from the games. And you can’t hide from the importance. We are going to meet these challenges head on.”
The chess match between coaches will be a sideshow to the game. Unlike the Hawks’ previous opponent, Florida, the Ducks have a powerful top line. Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, and 42-goal scorer Corey Perry are as good as they come. This is where the loss of Dave Bolland could be felt.
“They play a lot,” Quenneville said. “And they change on the fly. Matching up against them, I think everybody is going to see them. How much everyone sees them is going to vary but we expect at least three lines to see them. In a 60-minute game they’re playing 25 minutes. That’s a lot for forwards.”
The Hawks are playing three centers who didn’t start the season with the team. One of them, Marcus Kruger, has one NHL game under his belt, another, Michael Frolik, has played wing for all of his NHL career. It’s probably why Carlyle is expecting to see the Hawks captain against his top line.
“I think they’ll put [Jonathan] Toews, [Patrick] Kane, and if it’s [Marian] Hossa they move up and they’ll play head to head,” Carlyle said. “That’s what I would perceive they would do. I wasn’t here to watch their practice.”
He might be right about Toews and Kane but it will be Viktor Stalberg alongside the duo not Hossa. Either way, the game will go a long way to determining how much of a fight both teams will face to keep a playoff position. It’s not for all the marbles, but it’s for a bunch of them.
Corey Crawford will start for the Hawks while the Ducks won’t announce a starter until Saturday. Jonas Hiller was pulled in his first game back from injury. Ray Emery has been playing solid in his place.