Wednesday Night Hockey: Slumping Blackhawks take on red-hot Ducks

Joey Alfieri
NBC Sports

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Wednesday night’s matchup between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Anaheim Ducks at 10:30 p.m. ET. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

It’s been a miserable year for the Blackhawks. They’re currently lost four games in a row and they’ve dropped 15 of their last 18 contests (3-12-3). As you’d imagine, they find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference standings. The Blues and Kings are only two points away from catching Chicago.

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Here’s a not-so-fun fact for ‘Hawks fans: The last time the Blackhawks finished last in the NHL standings was back in 1956-57, when the league was made up of only six teams.

“We’re seeing improvement in parts of our game at times and then it just seems like we make other mistakes and all the good things that we’re doing are never good enough,” said captain Jonathan Toews. “It’s frustrating when you don’t get the results. When you see pucks go in and you get wins, it’s just easier to mentally reinforce what you want to do as a team. It’s just not happening right now. We can’t sit around and sulk and think things will turn around that way. All you do is you keep working and stick with it.”

So, which areas of their game do they have to improve on? Chicago is dead-last on the power play (12.5 percent), 30th in goals allowed per game (3.68), 29th on the penalty kill (73.5 percent) and 26th in shots allowed per game (33.6). Yeah, that’s not good.

The Ducks are on the other end of the spectrum right now, as they’ve won four straight. Despite falling behind 5-1 to the Washington Capitals on Sunday, Anaheim managed to score five straight goals to complete the comeback.

[WATCH LIVE – 10:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“We still have to learn to play 60 minutes,” head coach Randy Carlyle said after the win over Washington. “Simple as that. It just gives you confidence that when you’re in situations and it seems maybe it would be insurmountable, that if you change some of the things that are going on out there as players and then get back to more blue-collar hockey, then we’re going to give ourselves a chance. You can’t say that we’re sitting here and we’re saying you’re going to come back in every game or come back down from three down, four down, any of that. That’s unrealistic.”

Anaheim have a minus-13 goal differential this season, but they’ve still managed to climb all the way to second spot in the Pacific Division. The Ducks have been looking for some scoring help, so they decided to trade defenseman Marcus Pettersson to the Pittsburgh Penguins for forward Daniel Sprong.

Sprong has been a productive AHLer, but he’s had a hard time fitting in at the NHL level (he has four assists in 16 games this season). The 21-year-old should get a golden opportunity to become a regular in Anaheim.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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