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Ducks Battle Blackhawks In Chicago In Battle Of Playoff Positioning

(Sports Network) - The Ducks and Blackhawks will meet tonight for a crucial battle in the Western Conference playoff race, as Chicago welcomes Anaheim to the United Center.

Just one point (88-87) is currently separating the Blackhawks and Ducks in the West standings and the clubs are occupying the conference's final two postseason spots. However, Dallas is just one point behind the Ducks for the West's ninth seed and Calgary is an additional one point back in 10th place.

To make the playoff situation out West even tighter, Los Angeles and Nashville are also just two points ahead of the Blackhawks. The Stars, Flames, Kings and Predators are all in action today.

The Blackhawks enter tonight's test on a two-game win streak and the defending Stanley Cup champions have won three out of four since a three-game skid.

Chicago's most recent win came Wednesday over the visiting Florida Panthers, as Corey Crawford posted his fourth of the season with 23 saves in the 4-0 triumph at the United Center.

Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook each tallied a goal and an assist for the Blackhawks, while Viktor Stalberg and Tomas Kopecky each lit the lamp for the victors. Chicago led by a slim 1-0 margin after 40 minutes before pulling away in the third period.

"We stuck to our gameplan," Seabrook said. "We got one on the power play and we started rolling in the third period."

The victory over Florida was the Blackhawks' sixth consecutive win on home ice. Chicago, which last lost a home tilt against Columbus on Feb. 18, is 23-14-0 in the Windy City this season.

The Blackhawks will once again be without injured forwards Dave Bolland (concussion) and Patrick Sharp (left knee).

Anaheim put forth a furious comeback effort in its last trip to the ice, but the Ducks still wound up having a four-game win streak halted with Thursday's 5-4 setback in Nashville.

The Predators appeared to be in cruise control after David Legwand buried a short-handed marker to expanded their lead to 5-1 at 9:29 of the third period. But Anaheim's Teemu Selanne capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play 10 seconds later. The veteran Finn cashed in on another two-man advantage at 15:14, when his pass towards the net deflected in off a Nashville player.

The Ducks managed to pull within a goal as Corey Perry's shot from the left wing was inadvertently kicked in by Predators defenseman Ryan Suter with 26.5 seconds remaining and goaltender Dan Ellis on the bench. Nashville, though, held on to record the win.

Jonas Hiller, seeing his first start for the Ducks since Feb. 13, was pulled in the first period after allowing three goals on nine shots. The Swiss goaltender had missed 15 straight games with vertigo. Ellis finished with 17 saves in relief.

It's unclear if Hiller, Ellis, or possibly even Ray Emery will get the start for tonight's big game. Emery went 3-0 with a 1.51 goals-against average during Hiller's absence, but was a healthy scratch on Thursday.

Anaheim had won three straight on the road before dropping Thursday's tilt in Nashville. The Ducks are completing a three-game swing this evening and are 18-16-3 as the guest this year.

The Blackhawks have taken two of three from Anaheim this year, but the Ducks picked up a 2-1 regulation win in Orange County when the clubs met last on Jan. 2. Chicago has claimed six of the last 10 meetings overall, while the Ducks have dropped five of their last six in the Windy City.

For more news and information on tonight's game, be sure to read Anaheim Calling.