The annual game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., on the day after Thanksgiving has become almost as traditional as turkey leftovers, college football and millions of shoppers looking for bargains.
When it comes to hockey, the Ducks seek to prevent Black Friday from becoming Blackhawk Friday.
Accomplishing that goal means finding the consistency that has eluded the Ducks for the first quarter of their schedule.
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Anaheim enters Friday's game with two successive losses following five wins in the previous seven games. After being outplayed Sunday night in a 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, the Ducks sustained another 3-2 loss in a 14-round shootout Tuesday night against the New York Islanders. Anaheim's Rickard Rakell scored at 9:08 of the third period to force overtime.
“We're not getting a lot of bounces right now,” Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf said. “But I thought our guys did a good job of battling back and getting a big goal in the end. We came away with a point. I thought we deserved more.”
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle also saw some hope after Tuesday night's defeat.
“We're going to try to build off the momentum,” Carlyle said. “We did a lot of good things. We need to find ways to win the specialty-teams battles. We lost the specialty-teams battle in the sense that we lost in a shootout.”
The Blackhawks, meanwhile, confront their own problems in the middle of their seven-game road trip, the team's longest of the season.
Despite leading the Western Conference, Chicago lost three of five road games and owns just one victory in regulation. The trip featured two one-sided losses against the Winnipeg Jets and the Edmonton Oilers, an overtime win after trailing 3-0 to the Vancouver Canucks and a victory that Marian Hossa secured by scoring with 2:28 to play in Calgary. Hossa's goal culminated a rally in which the Hawks nullified a 2-1 deficit.
“I know we came back in Vancouver but it's not the recipe for success, especially on the road,” right winger Patrick Kane told the Chicago Tribune. “We want to make sure we try and get the lead, and play with the lead. That should suit us better.”
The Hawks fell behind early in all five games, and those poor starts are exacting a toll, especially on the offense.
Kane, who won the Art Ross and Hart Memorial trophies last season, has yet to score on the trip. Center Artem Anisimov has only two assists in his past seven games. Center Jonathan Toews enters Friday's game without a goal in his past eight, and might not play against the Ducks after suffering an upper-body injury during Wednesday night's 2-1 loss in San Jose.
Chicago faces problems elsewhere. Goalie Corey Crawford allowed 13 goals in his past four games after conceding 11 in his previous eight. The Hawks' penalty killers permitted four goals in three contests after defusing 25 of 27 opposing power plays.
“We haven't been very productive on this trip in generating offense or enough sustained pressure in the offensive zone,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told NHL.com. “We'd like to play a little bit faster. We'd like to have better starts than we've seen.”