A 24-game point streak and franchise-best 11-game winning streak have highlighted a record-setting start for the Chicago Blackhawks, and they find themselves rolling again as their road trip comes to a close.
That success has overshadowed the surging Anaheim Ducks, who seem just as much the Stanley Cup contender as Chicago.
Anaheim has won a team-record 12 straight home games and earned at least one point in 11 straight overall, and it will look to end Chicago's three-game winning streak Wednesday night in a matchup of the top teams in the Western Conference.
While the Blackhawks (24-2-3) have received heavy coverage and recently graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, the Ducks (21-3-4) have been making a splash of their own, complementing their sizzling start by signing two franchise cornerstones to long-term deals.
Anaheim, which won 3-2 in a shootout at Chicago on Feb. 12, is 8-0-3 in its last 11 following a 5-3 win over San Jose on Monday. The Ducks are within five points of the Blackhawks for the top spot in the West with one game in hand.
During Monday's game, the team announced an eight-year, $69 million extension for former Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, who will serve the last of his four-game suspension Wednesday for a hit on Minnesota's Jason Zucker.
The deal came less than two weeks after Ryan Getzlaf agreed to an eight-year, $66 million extension, keeping the career linemates from reaching the free-agent market.
``We've been through a lot of things together,' said Perry, who teamed with Getzlaf to help the Ducks win the Stanley Cup in 2006-07. ``We're great friends off the ice, and on the ice he's been there every game I've played. It's an exciting time for both of us.'
Getzlaf tops the team with 33 points and had a short-handed goal and an assist Monday. The Ducks haven't lost in Anaheim since dropping their home opener Jan. 25.
``We always want this building to be a tough place to come into,' said Getzlaf, who scored one of his team-leading 11 goals in the first meeting with the Blackhawks. ``Our fans have shown it this year, and we've shown it. That's what we want to do down the stretch here - keep winning our home games and win as many as you can on the road.'
The Honda Center has indeed been a tough place for Chicago to play, as it's dropped eight of 11 visits. The Blackhawks, though, are 13-1-2 away from home this season and have outscored opponents 14-4 in non-shootout goals while winning the first three on their four-game road trip.
Following a 2-1 shootout victory over Columbus on Thursday, Chicago routed Dallas 8-1 on Saturday before a 5-2 victory over Colorado on Monday.
The streak has followed the Blackhawks' only two regulation defeats in which they gave up six goals each time.
"I look back over the course of the year and we've had three bad periods - one of them (in Colorado on March 8), the first period against Edmonton (in a 6-5 loss March 10) and the third in Calgary (in a 3-2 shootout win Feb. 2)," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We've gotten some juice back in our team and I think we've had good jump the past couple games."
Patrick Kane, who has recorded 26 of his team-best 37 points on the road, had a goal and two assists Monday while double-shifting at times after Marian Hossa went down with a first-period injury.
Hossa is day to day with an upper-body injury and may not play Wednesday. Chicago also has been without winger Patrick Sharp since he suffered a shoulder injury March 6.
"We hope to have Hossa back soon and hopefully it's just a precautionary thing," said captain Jonathan Toews, who also had a goal and two assists. "But we know when a guy like that goes down everyone has to be better."
Former Duck Ray Emery improved to 11-0-0 with Tuesday's victory, though Quenneville may opt to go with Corey Crawford, who stopped 47 of 49 shots while winning the first two games of the trip.
It's uncertain if Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau will start rookie Viktor Fasth, who made 28 saves in the first meeting with Chicago, or Jonas Hiller.
Regardless of who's in goal, Quenneville expects a tough contest.
"They've got a lot of things going right for them and they protect their house well," he said. "We've got a lot of momentum ourselves going into the game, too, so it should be a great challenge for us."
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