When the Blackhawks look in the rear view mirror, all they see are the Anaheim Ducks trying to gain on them.
Everyone else in the Western Conference is out of sight. That’s what starting the season with a record of 24-2-3 will do.
The Hawks led the Central Division by 17 points over St. Louis prior to the Blues playing at Vancouver on Tuesday night.
If it weren’t for the Hawks’ incredible start, the Ducks and their 21-3-4 record would be the talk of the NHL. The two teams meet Wednesday night at the Honda Center separated by only 5 points in the West standings.
Anaheim made big news on Monday by extending Corey Perry’s contract. It’s an eight-year deal worth $69 million, matching the contract center Ryan Getzlaf got recently from the Ducks.
Perry won’t play on Wednesday as he serves the final game of his four-game suspension for an illegal hit on Minnesota’s Jason Zucker last week.
“The Ducks are playing pretty well and they’re probably pretty excited about their news (about re-signing Perry),” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters after Monday’s win at Colorado. “It should be a great contest. It’s going to be a very important 2 points.
“They’ve got a lot of things going right for them. They’re big and they protect the house well. Offensively they’ve got a lot of different guys that can contribute so it’ll be a good matchup for us. We’ve got a little bit of momentum ourselves going into that game.”
The Hawks have won three games in a row all on this road trip, the last two over Dallas and Colorado by a combined score of 13-3.
“I look back over the course of the year and we’ve played three bad periods,” Quenneville said. “One of them was in Colorado (the second period in their loss on March 8); we had a bad period to start against Edmonton (in a 6-5 loss on March 10); and at Calgary, the third (on Feb. 2). We’ve been fairly consistent in our game.
“We’ve got some juice back in our team having those couple days off there after that seven (games) in 11 (days). I thought we had good jump the last couple games. I love the consistency of our team game here, so that’s what we’re going to try and reinforce here at the end.”
The Hawks continue to roll four lines and get contributions from all of them. It was Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw igniting the offense in Monday’s 5-2 win over the Avs.
“It was huge to see those two guys get us on the board,” Jonathan Toews told Blackhawks TV. “That was a big part of our success throughout our little run there, the fact we have everybody in our lineup scoring and contributing. Getting those 2 goals in the first period gave us a lot of energy.”
With Perry’s new deal, it’s the same length as the extension signed by Getzlaf earlier this month — the longest contracts allowed under the NHL’s new collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s a huge relief,” Perry said. “There were a lot of factors. How the team is playing right now. With Getzy signed, that’s a huge part of it. You look around the room, there’s a lot of guys in that dressing room that are going to be here for a long time, and we can definitely contend every year.”
Perry and Getzlaf came into the NHL together and have played on the same line for nearly every game of their careers, winning the Stanley Cup in 2007. Both forwards were scheduled to be unrestricted free agents this summer, but both decided Anaheim was the place they wanted to stay.
“We’ve been through a lot of things together,” Perry said. “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.”
“That’s a big step in the right direction for this organization,” Getzlaf said. “The free agency thing is a route that some guys like to go, but we’re in a pretty good situation here with a great ownership group, and we both showed that now.”
Ducks general manager Bob Murray, the former Hawks GM, said keeping his two stars while maintaining enough room under the salary cap to contend was a priority.
“When you’ve got two elite players like this, two winners, and you know they’re winners, God forbid they get away, or one gets away,” Murray said. “They’re here, they’re going to be here, and we’ve got something to build around and move toward our goal to win another Stanley Cup.”
Ÿ Follow Tim’s hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.