Now this is a showdown.
Sometimes we throw that word around too lightly, but Friday's game between the Blackhawks and Anaheim Ducks is just about as big as they come during the NHL's long regular season.
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The Ducks are hotter than any team in the league, having won 18 of their last 19 games, including a 9-1 blowout of Vancouver on Wednesday -- a game in which they scored 6 power-play goals.
"It's pretty impressive to score that many goals in this league," Hawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said.
Anaheim has won eight in a row and leads the Hawks by 6 points in the Western Conference standings (77-71).
"I try not to pay any attention to that," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I really don't because it gets in your head. We're just trying to win games. You win enough games and you look up and go, 'Holy cripes, we've got that many points? That's pretty good.'
"We want to make sure nobody gets their heads swollen."
The Ducks are led by center Ryan Getzlaf and winger Corey Perry, the best 1-2 punch this side of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins, and Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Hawks.
Getzlaf is among the league leaders in points (55) while Perry's 27 goals were second to Alex Ovechkin.
"Anaheim has a lot of offensive skill," Hjalmarsson said. "It's not just Getzlaf and Perry that can score on that team. They have four or five other guys too that you've got to be aware of on the ice. At the same time, they have good puck-moving defensemen and a good goalie (Jonas Hiller), so they're definitely the team to beat right now."
Both teams are using this game as a so-called measuring stick.
"It will definitely show us where we're at," Anaheim forward Andrew Cogliano said. "I feel like we're going pretty good now, but the Blackhawks are a team at home that's really tough to beat, and that building is pretty cool to play in.
"It's going to be a really fun game and I think it's something we can build on if we can get a big win."
The Hawks have lost four of their last five, although they have taken points in three of the losses.
"They're on an amazing run here," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Game in and game out they're a hard team to play against, and they have a lot of guys contributing and who have been a part of it."
The Ducks are the NHL's hottest team since the Hawks started last season 21-0-3.
"We've been through something like that before," goalie Corey Crawford said. "It seems like everything goes your way and every bounce you can get happens on your side, but there's a reason for that too. You have to be working hard and you have to put yourself in the right position to get those bounces.
"They're the best team right now and we better be ready."
The game with Anaheim kicks off a big weekend for the Hawks, who host Boston on Sunday morning in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final. The two teams haven't met since Game 6 at TD Garden when the Hawks scored twice in 17 seconds in the last two minutes to win the Cup.
"It should be kind of where we left off, that kind of playoff atmosphere," Hawks left wing Bryan Bickell said. "I know the building will be rocking and we look forward to both games."
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