Two key points in the Western Conference playoff race will be up for grabs when the Anaheim Ducks host the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday afternoon at Honda Center.
Anaheim (32-21-12), which holds the final wild-card spot in the West, is 5-1-1 in its last seven games — a streak that started with a 3-2 victory on Feb. 15 in Chicago. The Ducks posted a 4-2 home victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. John Gibson, who missed three complete games after he suffered a leg injury against Vegas on Feb. 19, made 34 saves. He has 23 wins this season.
The Blackhawks (28-29-8), who are out of playoff contention, defeated the Kings 5-3 in Los Angeles on Saturday afternoon. The Blackhawks allowed three consecutive second-period goals after scoring first before pouring in four in the third period. Anton Forsberg was in net, making 29 saves.
Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf was scratched with the flu shortly before game time Friday. In his place, Derek Grant centered Corey Perry and Rickard Rakell. Getzlaf is expected to be healthy to play the Blackhawks.
The Ducks’ lineup features two new players. Jason Chimera came to the team in a trade from the New York Islanders, and Chris Kelly was signed as a free agent after winning an Olympic bronze medal while serving as captain for Team Canada. Against the Blue Jackets, the two played on the fourth line with Antoine Vermette, and the unit produced five of the team’s 35 shots on goal.
Rakell, who leads the team with 26 goals and 53 points, has seven points in the last five games after producing a goal and an assist on Friday.
The Ducks boast the No. 5 penalty-killing unit in the NHL after going 19 of 19 in their last six games while yielding only one power-play goal in 30 chances during the past 10 games. Anaheim has been short-handed more than any other team.
Anaheim is dangerous offensively when killing penalties. Andrew Cogliano scored short-handed versus the Blue Jackets, and Josh Manson scored right after bursting out of the penalty box at the end of the same Columbus power play.
The Ducks are tied with the Florida Panthers and the Buffalo Sabres with nine short-handed goals.
Manson’s goal was the game-winner.
“(The penalty kill) has been a strong suit of ours over the last little bit. Whenever you can get one like that, it’s easier also to win,” Cogliano said.
Cogliano’s short-handed goal was his 15th with Anaheim as he trails only Paul Kariya (16) in franchise history. Cogliano has 18 in his career.
“Obviously when you win the special teams game, you have a very good chance of winning the game,” Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. “Though we didn’t deliver on the power play, our penalty killing kept them off the board, and that was a big turning point, momentum-wise in the hockey game, when we get a (short-handed goal).
“Then we followed up with another one. Two goals made the difference in the hockey game, turned everything in our favor.”