Ducks face a big challenge when they play West-leading Blackhawks on Saturday

Ducks face a big challenge when they play West-leading Blackhawks on Saturday
Ducks defensemanHampus Lindholm tries to clear the puck while pressured byBlue Jackets winger Brandon Saadduring their game Thursday night. (Jay LaPrete / Associated Press)

The Midwestern swing of the Ducks' trip has swung back, and now here comes a heavyweight.

After Chris Stewart got knocked out and Ryan Getzlaf banged up in a deflating loss to Columbus on Thursday, the Ducks must face the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks in a potential playoff preview Saturday at United Center.

"I don't know if I'd call it a measuring-stick game, but I'll see how far we've progressed," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Stewart returned to Orange County to be examined for a possible broken jaw after he took a right hand to the face in a fight with Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout. His status probably will be known Sunday and Boudreau said he assumed Stewart will miss the rest of the trip.


The Ducks recalled left wing Nick Ritchie and also have Harry Zolnierczyk as a spare forward. Zolnierczyk has 59 games of NHL experience but has yet to play with the Ducks. Ritchie, 20, had one assist in 11 games with the Ducks this season. At 6-foot-2, 232 pounds, he displayed some of the rugged power-forward game that will be needed as the Ducks finish their trip against four Western teams in Chicago, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver.


"We know what he's all about," Boudreau said. "He's a big strong guy."

Getzlaf was bleeding from the nose from a hit by Prout but finished the game. Boudreau said Getzlaf "has a sore face" but assumed he'll play Saturday.

Getzlaf's presence will be critical because the Ducks' matchups with Chicago always revolve around both teams' centers. The Ducks need Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler to help counter Chicago's Jonathan Toews, who haunted them in last year's playoffs and has 15 goals and 13 assists in 35 career games against Anaheim.

After the worst start to a season in his career, Getzlaf has two goals and 15 assists in his last 14 games and leads the Ducks with 40 points. His plus-nine rating is tied with David Perron for the team lead.

Boudreau said it was a matter of time before Getzlaf rounded into form.

"My experience is the leopard doesn't change his spots," Boudreau said. "When you're one of best players in the league, all of a sudden you're not going to go bad."

The Ducks have not beaten Chicago since Game 5 of the Western Conference final last May. The Blackhawks won Games 6 and 7 and the first two games this season in overtime, one on a goal by Toews 51 seconds into the extra session.

Is there a key to defending Toews and Patrick Kane?

"Pick one," defenseman Josh Manson said. "I think for us, we need to play our defensive style. We need to try to eliminate their speed. They're a resilient team and they're great at [playing consistently]."

Chicago also seeks a turnaround after scoring a total of two goals in consecutive losses to San Jose and Dallas, the latter a matchup of the top two teams in the conference. For Boudreau, that only adds to the intensity of what has been a tremendously entertaining series.

"When we play Chicago, it's a different element than playing other teams," Boudreau said. "The crowd itself will get you into the game before it starts. We're looking forward to the challenge."



When: Saturday, 5:30 p.m. PST.

On the air: TV: Prime; Radio: 830.

Update: Kane scored his career-high 33rd goal of the season Thursday, behind only season leader Alex Ovechkin of Washington, and leads the NHL with 77 points. Artemi Panarin is recovering from illness and could play. Goalie Corey Crawford is expected to start.