Ducks know Chicago Blackhawks are tough, but they're confident anyway

 Ducks know Chicago Blackhawks are tough, but they're confident anyway
Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen, center, stops a shot as Hampus Lindholm (47), Jakob Silfverberg (33) and Blackhawks' Kris Versteeg (23) watch in a game earlier this season. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

The Ducks understand what they're in for with the Chicago Blackhawks.

The hardy Midwesterners are appearing in their third consecutive Western Conference finals.


They've won the Stanley Cup twice in the past five seasons.

They tied Montreal for fewest goals allowed during the 2014-15 regular season (2.31 per game), are coming off a sweep of Minnesota in the conference semifinals and, starting with Game 3, will pack the United Center with more than 21,000 proud, vocal souls.

Bring it, the Ducks have all but said, with instigating center Ryan Kesler labeling the Blackhawks "beatable."

While winning three consecutive Pacific Division titles, the Ducks have gone toe to toe with Chicago, winning five of nine regular-season matchups.

"It's the Western Conference finals — a battle, a war for sure," said Ducks forward Matt Beleskey, who'll take a five-game goal-scoring streak into the series that's expected to begin Sunday afternoon in Anaheim.

"We'll have a good scouting report and we'll be ready. There's a reason we're here too. We're good teams. There'll be tight checking, lots of scoring. Let's get ready for it."

Chicago, which overcame home-ice disadvantage to eliminate Nashville in the first round, beat the Ducks in their two meetings in Anaheim this season.

Patrick Kane, who has seven goals and 13 points this postseason, scored twice in a 4-1 win at Honda Center on Nov. 28, and Patrick Sharp had four assists in a 4-1 triumph on Jan. 30.

In the only meeting in Chicago this season, on Oct. 28, backup goaltender John Gibson silenced the Blackhawks with 38 saves, and the Ducks notched a third-period goal to win, 1-0.

"We've got our hands full, but we're a confident group," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We think we're OK. We've played them well and we're looking forward to the challenge.

"Nothing's going to rattle [the Blackhawks]…. They know what playoff hockey's all about, the pace they have to play. We're going to have to be better. I'm depending on our guys to do their jobs."

Boudreau hopes the strong play of his second line continues. Kesler, Beleskey and Jakob Silfverberg have combined for 12 goals and 25 points during a nine-game blitz of the Winnipeg Jets and Calgary Flames.

Anaheim's power play also is converting at a league-best 31%, and first-line right wing Corey Perry has a league-high 15 points.

Chicago is "a good experienced team that skates well," Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said. "We'll have to adjust our game plan a little bit for the different things we'll have to do. They have a very active defense."


That impressive unit is led by Duncan Keith, who is an NHL-best plus-10 in the playoffs. That said, Getzlaf proclaimed, "You have to be careful not to" over-respect them.

Yet, there is plenty to respect. Winning the series, Boudreau said, will require the Ducks to stunt a Chicago attitude that makes it "seem like when they need it and want it, they turn it on."

"Really impressed by how they skate, defend," Boudreau continued. "They can play whatever game you want to play. … We know we're playing a team with a great mind-set, that didn't win the Cup last year and is probably a little angry about that."

It took a third trip to Chicago last season for the Kings to finally stamp out the defending champions, who couldn't hold a third-period lead in Game 7 and lost in overtime.

Now, can the other Southern California team match that resolve?

"We believe in this group in here, we know how to win games," Kesler said. "We have to make it our kind of game, and we'll be fine."

Twitter: @latimespugmire