If Marion Hossa's first game is any indication, the Chicago Blackhawks appear to be a legitimate contender for their first Stanley Cup in nearly 50 years.
Hossa looks to build on an impressive season debut and help the Blackhawks win their ninth in a row Friday afternoon when they visit the Anaheim Ducks.
Hossa signed a 12-year, $62.8 million contract with Chicago (16-5-2) in July but missed the first 7 1/2 weeks of the season while recovering from right shoulder surgery.
The Central Division-leading Blackhawks had been doing just fine without their prized free-agent acquisition, but gladly welcomed Hossa to the mix Wednesday against Western Conference-leading San Jose. The four-time All-Star scored twice in helping Chicago to a 7-2 victory, the team's eighth in a row and fourth on a six-game road trip.
"I didn't expect to click right away like that," said Hossa, who led Detroit with 40 goals last season.
The Blackhawks, who haven't won the Cup since 1961, weren't expected to win as easily as they did, either. Chicago had three short-handed goals, matching a franchise record, and kept the high-powered Sharks off the scoreboard until 3:43 left in the game.
The Blackhawks have 34 goals during their streak, their longest since winning nine in a row from Dec. 7-28, and have tallied at least five scores in three of their last four.
"We feel like we have lots of energy and we want to keep going," said Hossa, who had a goal and two assists in four games against the Ducks in 2008-09 with the Red Wings.
While Chicago's offense is surging, the defense has been just as outstanding.
The Blackhawks boast a league-best 2.13 goals-against average, and Cristobal Huet, who made 22 saves Wednesday, has posted a 1.83 GAA in winning his last seven starts.
Huet enjoyed similar success against Anaheim last season, going 2-1-0 with a 1.66 GAA in three starts. The Blackhawks went 3-1-0 against the Ducks in 2008-09.
While Chicago is moving closer to the West's top spot, the Ducks (9-11-3) own the conference's second-worst record.
After making 41 saves in Monday's 3-2 shootout victory over Calgary, Giguere stopped 27 shots in Wednesday's 3-2 win over Carolina. He was 0-3-2 with a 3.38 GAA in his first six games while bothered by a strained groin.
"For this team to put some wins together and have some confidence, the goaltending can't be an issue. It has to be strong," Giguere said. "We just have to give the team a chance. And if we do that on a consistent basis, the guys are going to feel confident enough to play their game. And then we'll see a big turnaround."
Anaheim's Corey Perry had an assist Wednesday to extend his career-best point streak to 16 games, the longest in the NHL this season and one off the franchise record set by Teemu Selanne in 1998-99. Perry has nine goals and 13 assists during his run, but has just two assists in his last five games against the Blackhawks.
In Giguere's only start against Chicago last season, the 12-year veteran stopped 34 shots in a 3-2 overtime loss on March 3.
Jonas Hiller, who is 1-3-0 with a 3.78 GAA since Nov. 11, was 1-2-0 with a 2.03 GAA against the Blackhawks in 2008-09.