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Friday, February 24, 2012

NHL Betting : Anaheim Ducks Host Chicago Blackhawks

The Chicago Blackhawks hope to stay hot in a trip down to Southern California when they take on the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday night in this week’s NHL spotlight matchup of the weekend.

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It has been a bizarre month of hockey for the Chicago Blackhawks. Back on January 21, Chicago lost to Nashville and would go on to lose nine straight games (0-8-1). The defense and goaltending were horrific over that stretch as the Blackhawks gave up 4.2 goals per game.

But on February 16, Chicago ended its losing streak in an unlikely place - on the road against the Eastern Conference’s best team, the New York Rangers.

The Blackhawks have now won four straight, including wins over two of the best teams in the Western Conference in St. Louis and Detroit. Overall, Chicago is now 33-21-7 (33-28 straight up on the NHL betting moneyline).

It would appear that the Blackhawks have put their poor play behind them, but they’ll get a tough stretch of three games in four nights through the weekend.

The Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars on Thursday night before playing in Los Angeles against the Kings on Saturday night and then at Anaheim on Sunday night.

Chicago’s leading goal scorer, Jonathan Toews (29 goals), will miss Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury. He is expected to return by the weekend, but his status should be closely monitored by bettors.

At 10-22-6 after their first 38 games, the Anaheim Ducks sat with Columbus and Carolina at the bottom of the league, and looked to be a shoo-in for a bottom five finish. But while virtually everyone was writing Anaheim off, the Ducks had other plans.

Since that low point, Anaheim has lost in regulation just three times, going an astounding 15-3-4 over its last 22 games. At home, the Ducks are 8-1-1 in 10 games during that run. The tale of two seasons brings Anaheim’s overall record to 25-25-10 (25-35 SU on the NHL betting moneyline).

Leading the Ducks in scoring is the ageless wonder, Teemu Selanne. At 41 years old, Selanne has 53 points (20 goals and 33 assists). Corey Perry has the team lead in goals with 29.

Anaheim’s recent surge put the team back in the playoff hunt, entering Wednesday’s action six points out of a playoff spot. They are still a longshot to make the postseason, but if they stay this hot it is possible. The Ducks play on the road at Carolina on Thursday before returning home to face Chicago on Sunday.

Both teams enter Sunday’s game hot, but only one can leave the Honda Center with two points. Which will it be?

Chicago has owned the Ducks this season, winning all three meetings between the two teams thus far; but all three came during the Ducks' 10-22-6 start to the season, so Anaheim is undoubtedly playing at a higher level at this point in time.

Two factors could work against Chicago here; fatigue and the venue. While both teams play Thursday night, Chicago playing Saturday night while Anaheim gets an extra night of rest could play a role.

Also, as previously mentioned, the Ducks are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games at home; Chicago has been quite bad on the road this year with a 12-15-3 record (12-18 SU on the NHL moneyline). Furthermore, Anaheim needs this game to keep its playoff hopes alive, while Chicago is fairly comfortably in a playoff spot.

While many factors point to Anaheim, Chicago’s strong play against elite competition over the last four games make them a tough team to pick against. This one should be a very close game between two great hockey teams.

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