Anaheim defenseman Sheldon Souray learned one thing when the Ducks beat the Blackhawks 3-2 in a shootout at the United Center.
"Well, we learned they're beatable," Souray said. "They're not invincible."
No, neither the Hawks nor the Ducks are unbeatable. But they're about as close as they can be. And heading into Wednesday night's showdown of the Western Conference's top two teams, there's nothing but respect on both sides.
"We also learned we probably got a little lucky to beat them," Souray added. "They're a great hockey team. They're the best team we faced so far."
Both teams are looking at the game as a measuring stick for the home stretch, as the two teams -- separated by five points, though the Ducks have a game in hand -- jockey for the top seed in the West, with no other team within sniffing distance.
"It is kind of a measuring stick to see how close these teams are together, and where we compare to them," Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. "They've had a great season. They'd probably have a lot more attention if we haven't had the season w'eve had. It's a good measuring stick, but at the same time, we want to prove ourselves and show we're the best team in the West."
Both teams will have to do it without some star power. Anaheim's Corey Perry, its second-leading scorer, is out, serving the final game of his four-game suspension for a late hit to the head of MInnesota's Jason Zucker. And the Hawks will be without Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa. Hossa suffered an upper-body injury in the first period of Monday's game at Denver. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Hossa's injury was not serious, and that he's day-to-day. He said the fact that the Hawks have four days off following the Ducks game did not factor into his decision to keep him out.
"I don't think it has anything to do with the time away," Quenneville said. "Last game, someone asked me the same question, if the score wasn't like that, would Hossa have been out there. He wasn't ready to come back and he's not ready tonight."
With Hossa out, Daniel Carcillo returns to the lineup after being a healthy scratch the last three games. Quenneville also said that Kane could double-shift again -- as he did at Colorado -- to help offset Hossa's absence.
Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said each team is deep enough and confident enough to handle their stars' absence.
"Both teams have won without their best players playing," he said. "I don't think it bothers either team that that's going to be happening."