Hawks end regular season in Detroit
Friday, 04.06.2012 / 6:32 PMBLACKHAWKS (44-26-11) at RED WINGS (48-28-5)
TV: NBC (HD); TSN2
Chicago 6-1-3; Detroit 4-4-2
This will be the sixth and final meeting of the season between the Original Six rivals, with the Blackhawks winning three of the first five and gaining points in two overtime losses. Three of the first five games have finished with a 3-2 score, while the other two concluded in 2-1 games - including the last two, both won by Chicago.
Detroit is fifth in the Western Conference and third in the Central Division with 101 points, while the Blackhawks are sixth in the West and fourth in the Central with 99. A regulation win for Chicago would tie them with the Wings in points and catapult them into the fifth slot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs based on tiebreakers -- pitting Chicago against Nashville. Any kind of Detroit win would consign Chicago with the sixth seed, while a Red Wings win plus a regulation loss for Nashville in Colorado would give the Wings home-ice advantage in a first-round series against the Preds. In short, there is still a lot left to play for besides bragging rights in one of the League's oldest and fiercest rivalries.
Chicago has done a remarkable job of winning without captain and top center, Jonathan Toews
, who will miss his 21st straight game dealing with concussion symptoms. However, the Hawks still can't be happy with their last two games. Both ended in shootout losses to the Minnesota Wild -- 5-4 at home on Sunday and 2-1 on Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. In that one, Jamal Mayers
gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first period and they nearly made it stand up. However, Cal Clutterbuck knotted it up 1-1 to cap a power play with Chicago just 3:12 away from earning its first shutout of the season. After a scoreless overtime, Devin Setoguchi scored the deciding goal of the shootout for a second straight game against the Blackhawks -- whose hopes of earning home-ice advantage in theirfirst-round vanished.
"Just look at [the Central Division]," Chicago forward Andrew Brunette
said of how tight things are in the Western Conference. "It's like the [American League] East of baseball. If you get in, you have a chance. Every team is scary."
Thursday night wasn't kind to Detroit's playoff situation either. The Red Wings could have clinched home-ice in the first round with a win and a Nashville regulation loss, but neither happened. Not only did the Predators beat the Dallas Stars, but the Red Wings dropped a tight defensive battle 2-1 at home to the New Jersey Devils. Tomas Holmstrom tied the game 1-1 on a power play in the second period, which was a brief bit of good news for Detroit's struggling special-teams unit, but it was a small consolation prize for letting a golden opportunity slip away.
"We had a couple of games [recently] where I thought we played stronger and it felt like we were going," captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "[Wednesday night] we had a real strong effort in St. Louis, where we came from behind to get two points in a shootout and [Thursday night] I don't think we had that much gas. We had it in bits and pieces in the game, but not for the whole game, so we're not quite where we want to be heading into the playoffs and we have one more game before everything starts."
Who's Hot: Patrick Sharp
had a three-game goal streak snapped at Minnesota, but has nine goals and five assists in the past 15 games for Chicago. Viktor Stalberg
has five goals and five assists in the Hawks' past 12 contests. … Jiri Hudler has four goals and three assists in the past seven games for Detroit, while goalie Jimmy Howard has allowed just eight goals in the past four contests.
Chicago defenseman Steve Montador
(upper body/suspected concussion symptoms) is out, while Toews (concussion symptoms),Andrew Brunette
(foot) and Dave Bolland
(upper body) are questionable for the Blackhawks. … Darren Helm (knee), Joey MacDonald (back) and Patrick Eaves (injured reserve/concussion) are out for the Red Wings.
Both teams have struggling power plays. Chicago has scored on just nine of its last 67 power plays (13.4 percent) over the past 20 games, while in the same timeframe the Red Wings have found the back of the net just eight times in 70 man-advantage opportunities (11.4 percent).
Chicago is 9-3-2 in the last 15 trips to Joe Louis Arena dating back to 2007-08 season, including a 3-0-0 mark last season and 1-0-1 record heading into Saturday's game; Detroit's Johan Franzen has 10 game-winning goals and needs one more to tie Sergei Fedorov at 11 for the most in one season in team history.