Will Ducks take over first place from Hawks?

By the time the Blackhawks play again on Monday against Los Angeles at the United Center, they could be out of first place in the Western Conference for the first time all season.

The Hawks lead Anaheim by 3 points in the West standings following Wednesday’s 4-2 loss at the Honda Center with the Ducks set to play a pair of home games against the Detroit Red Wings on Friday and Sunday.

With 18 games to play in the shortened NHL season and a playoff spot all but assured thanks to their 24-3-3 record, winning the West and securing home ice throughout the conference playoffs should be the Hawks’ main objective the rest of the way.

“I think a lot of us don’t even know how many games are left in the season,” defenseman Duncan Keith told Blackhawks TV. “We’re just enjoying the season knowing it was going to be a short season. When you sit out a lockout that long and you don’t have hockey, you’re excited to play. We’re excited about every game.”

The Hawks play 11 of their last 18 games at the United Center, where they are 11-1-1. They are 13-2-2 on the road, just finishing a 3-1 trip to Columbus, Dallas, Colorado and Anaheim.

“I liked how we played every game on this trip,” coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. “We did so many good things.”

The Hawks were within five and a half minutes of a perfect road trip, leading the Ducks 2-1 when Ryan Getzlaf took over and set up goals by linemates Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne 64 seconds apart. Sheldon Souray scored into an empty net in the final minute after Corey Crawford was pulled for a sixth attacker.

Before the game, Jonathan Toews talked of how dangerous Getzlaf could be if you left him unchecked like the Hawks did.

“You have to be very aware where a guy like Ryan Getzlaf is on the ice,” Toews told reporters. “You can’t give him too much space because he’s one of those big bodies that just seems to bide time for his linemates.”

The Hawks have one game left with the Ducks on Friday, March 29, at the United Center, and it’s sure to be another battle for first place.

“You want to finish as high as you can,” Quenneville said.

The last five-plus minutes on Wednesday were a disaster for the Hawks. They turned the puck over twice on the tying and go-ahead goals by Anaheim.

“Their third one we had a couple chances to get it out and we didn’t,” Patrick Kane told Blackhawks TV. “The second one was probably my guy on the backcheck.”

Kane played a whopping 25:21, the most minutes on the team, but was minus-4.

“I could have been better tonight; obviously I wasn’t good enough,” Kane said.

“We had a couple breakdowns and they made us pay,” Toews said. “We didn’t pick up (Ryan) on the backcheck, and then we didn’t get the puck out of the zone and they turned right around and scored another goal. The next thing you know, we were down.

“They’re a very good team. There’s a reason why they’re up there with us in the standings.”

Daniel Carcillo returned to the lineup after being a healthy scratch for three games but played only 3 shifts. Quenneville instead elected to double and triple shift Kane.

“The last game I like how the lines were going and the rotation there with Kaner getting a little more than everybody else,” Quenneville said.

Off now until Monday, this is the only four-day break in the schedule for the Hawks.

“This can be looked at like this is the last little break we’re going to get before this last stretch going into the playoffs,” Toews said. “So we’ve got to try and recharge the batteries.”

Ÿ Follow Tim’s hockey reports on Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at

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