While beating the league's best team twice in the final week of the season would be good for the Chicago Blackhawks' morale, it will not ensure them of snapping a lengthy postseason drought.
Needing to boost their sagging playoff hopes, the Blackhawks on Wednesday night welcome the league-leading Detroit Red Wings, who need one point to clinch the Presidents Trophy and home-ice advantage throughout the postseason.
|If the young Chicago Blackhawks hope to make a return to the playoffs, they will have to beat the NHL's best Detroit Red Wings twice in the final week of the regular season. (AP Photo/Jerry S. Mendoza)|
Chicago (38-33-8), which is in 11th place in the Western Conference, will host Nashville on Friday before traveling to Detroit for the regular-season finale on Sunday. The Blackhawks have 84 points - 13 more than last season's total - but are still trying to reach the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Denis Savard's club opened the season series with four straight wins over the Red Wings. Detroit (52-20-7), though, has won two straight from Chicago since then, both by 3-1 scores.
But Chicago is surging of late, looking for its third win in a row overall and fourth straight at home. On Sunday, rookie Patrick Kane scored his seventh shootout goal in nine chances as the Blackhawks defeated Columbus 5-4.
"I don't know what it is," said Kane, who set a franchise rookie record with his 48th assist earlier in the game. "Last year, I was 4-for-10 in junior (in shootouts). It's crazy to think about that. You just develop moves to become successful with. In pressure situations like that, it comes in handy."
Kane has registered a point in 10 of his last 12 home games, totaling four goals and 10 assists. Chicago is 7-2-1 over that span when he has a point.
The top overall pick in last season's NHL draft had a goal and three assists in his first three games versus the Red Wings, but hasn't had a point in three games against them after that.
Detroit went 10-2-1 in March, and Johan Franzen was a main reason behind that success. He broke Gordie Howe's franchise record with his sixth game-winning goal of the month, scoring 3:21 into overtime on Sunday in a 1-0 win over Nashville.
Howe established the mark in February 1952 and matched it in January 1956. Henrik Zetterberg equaled Howe in January 2007.
"To take something from him, that's unbelievable," Franzen told the Red Wings' official Web site of breaking Howe's record. "It's always fun when he's in the house, it's like you get some extra inspiration and you want to play a good game when he's got his eyes on you."
As of Tuesday, Franzen is tied for fourth in the NHL with eight game-winners, two behind co-leaders Alex Ovechkin of Washington and Jeremy Roenick of San Jose.
Franzen has six goals during a five-game run, and is third on the Red Wings with a career-high 26. He's managed only one goal in five games versus Chicago this season.
At 43 years old, Dominik Hasek isn't showing any signs of slowing down heading into the playoffs. After missing two games with the flu, the six-time Vezina Trophy winner turned aside 22 shots Sunday for his fifth shutout this season and 81st of his career.
"It's nice to be back and even nicer to have a win and get a shutout," Hasek said. "It's very important for me to play, and play well, for the last few games before the playoffs start."
Hasek, though, is 0-2-1 with a 3.27 goals-against average against Chicago this season. Chris Osgood is 2-1-0 with a 1.68 GAA when facing the Blackhawks this season, and 6-1-1 with a 1.85 GAA at the United Center since March 2004.