Anaheim (41-28-5) at Chicago (40-25-8)

By KATE HEDLIN, STATS Writer Friday, Mar 25, 2011 Puck Drop: 8:30 pm EDT Sat Mar 26, 2011

With the standings in the Western Conference still tight, neither the Chicago Blackhawks nor the Anaheim Ducks can afford a loss - especially to each other.

The Blackhawks look to win their seventh straight home game when they meet the Ducks in another big conference showdown Saturday night.

Chicago (40-25-8) is two points out of fifth place in the West but holds just a one-point lead over eighth-place Anaheim (41-28-5). The Ducks also don’t have much breathing room as they are one point ahead of ninth-place Dallas.

The Blackhawks will try to create some separation after they improved to 11-2-2 in their last 15 games with a 4-0 win over Florida on Wednesday. Corey Crawford(notes) made 23 saves and Chicago broke the game open with three goals in the third period.

It was a second solid start by Crawford, who was in net for a 2-1 win at Phoenix three nights earlier. Crawford is one victory away from becoming the first Blackhawk to record 30 in a season since Jocelyn Thibault won 33 games in 2001-02.

“I thought the ‘D’ did a good job of limiting their shots, and the forwards had great back-pressure,” defenseman Brent Seabrook(notes) said Wednesday. “It was a great team effort.”

Crawford has started all three games against the Ducks this season, going 2-1-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average.

The Blackhawks are looking to build on his strong performances as they try to take advantage of Saturday’s home game. They will play five of their final eight on the road, beginning a three-game trip Monday against Central Division-leading Detroit.

Besides the difficult schedule, Chicago has the additional pressure of playing without leading goal-scorer Patrick Sharp(notes), who is expected to be sidelined at least two weeks with an injured left knee.

Viktor Stalberg(notes) replaced Sharp on the top line Wednesday along with Jonathan Toews(notes) and Patrick Kane(notes), and they combined for five points.

The Blackhawks are looking to win seven straight at home for the first time since an eight-game run Oct. 24-Dec. 1, 2009. They’ve won five of six against the Ducks at the United Center.

While Chicago has received consecutive solid outings from its starting goaltender, Anaheim had its four-game winning streak snapped with a 5-4 loss to Nashville on Thursday as Jonas Hiller(notes) was pulled in the first period of his first game back after missing 15 due to vertigo issues.

Hiller allowed three goals on nine shots before being replaced by Dan Ellis(notes).

The Ducks, 9-3-1 in their last 13, almost rallied from a 5-1 deficit after outshooting the Predators 18-6 in the final period.

“We battled and battled and battled,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “Specifically, it was our start that killed us. You can’t give up three goals in an important game like this.”

Hiller’s struggles could mean another start for Ray Emery(notes), who was in net for three of the previous four games before Hiller returned. Emery is 3-0-0 with a 1.51 GAA in four appearances this season.

Hiller has started all three games against the Blackhawks in 2010-11, posting a 2.76 GAA. He is 6-3-1 with a 2.13 GAA lifetime versus Chicago.

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