It’s been an up-and-down month for the Chicago Blackhawks, and they let one get away in their first game back from the break.
The visiting Blackhawks know they need to be better Friday night against the NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks, who are also looking to quickly put their latest effort behind them.
Chicago (30-16-2) sits in third place in the Central Division with 62 points, but it’s just 5-6-0 in January. The Blackhawks have led in three of their last four defeats, and their last five have all come against fellow Western Conference opponents.
Chicago put together back-to-back wins heading into All-Star weekend before opening the season’s second half with Wednesday’s 4-3 loss at Los Angeles. The Blackhawks blew leads of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 before allowing the go-ahead goal with 3:37 to go.
"We definitely left some points on the table this month, and we have to learn from it knowing that these are hard points to come by," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You put yourself in that position where you’re doing the right things for 50, 55 minutes and come up with air, that’s tough."
Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane combined for two goals and two assists as Chicago dropped to 3-4-1 in its last eight away from home. The Blackhawks are in the midst of seven straight road games.
"It’s certainly frustrating on our part, we can’t be happy," said Sharp, who has five points in the last four games. "It’s that time of year where points – they’re always valuable – but they’re even more valuable going down the stretch. We have to find a way to do better."
Things aren’t about to get any easier against the Ducks, who have won 11 of 13 at home, including four in a row by a 19-8 margin. However, Chicago is seeking a third consecutive victory at Honda Center after winning 4-1 on Nov. 28. Kane scored twice that day, giving him three goals and five points in his last five visits to Anaheim.
"They’re a big strong team, they play a heavy game," said Sharp, whose team has won three of four in the series after dropping the previous five. "They have a number of skilled players to complement their hard work ethic. This is a tough building to play in."
The Ducks (32-11-6) are surely looking forward to getting back home after falling 6-3 at San Jose on Thursday, their first loss in seven contests. Anaheim gave up five goals in the second period after allowing six in its previous five games combined.
Making just his fourth start, Ilya Bryzgalov surrendered all six goals on 25 shots before giving way to Frederik Andersen late in the second.
"That game was on 20 guys," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Five goals? I don’t know what happened to us. … We didn’t play very good in front of Bryzgalov."
The Ducks are expected to go back to Andersen, who is a league-best 17-2-1 with a 2.09 goals-against average since Dec. 1. His only appearance against Chicago came in the Nov. 28 defeat, during which he stopped 34 of 37 shots opposite Corey Crawford.
Crawford has dropped three of his last four starts behind a 3.49 GAA. He’s given up a combined three goals during a personal three-game winning streak against the Ducks, though.
Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews has just four points over a nine-game stretch in the series. He hasn’t scored in Chicago’s last 13 road games.