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Posted On Wednesday, 05.22.2013 / 5:19 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Blackhawks tweak lines, power-play combinations

CHICAGO -- It appears Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville might stick with a slight change in his forward lines that he put together during Game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinal series Monday against the Detroit Red Wings.

The Blackhawks lost 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena and trail 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But Quenneville saw something he liked from flip-flopping his top two left wings, rookie Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.

Saad dropped to the second line to play with center Dave Bolland and right wing Patrick Kane, and Sharp moved up to play the left side of the top line with center Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa.

They stayed that way for line rushes during practice Wednesday at United Center, but Quenneville was still non-committal, officially, when asked about it afterward.

"We'll see on the lines," he said. "I know that it's something we'll talk about going into the game."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.21.2013 / 4:55 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Faceoffs, puck movement concerns for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks put 40 shots on goal, played much better overall and still lost 3-1 to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday night at Joe Louis Arena.

The loss put Detroit up 2-1 in what's become a heated Original Six Western Conference Semifinal, but Chicago isn't showing signs of panic.

The core group of stars that powers the Blackhawks also was down 2-1 in the conference quarterfinals against the Nashville Predators at one point in 2010 before coming back to win that series and eventually the Stanley Cup.

"I think we played well [Monday night]," said Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was on the 2010 championship team. "There were a lot of chances that we could've scored on. We battled really hard and I think it was a pretty good effort overall. They just scored more goals than we did. As long as the battle effort is there, you can't really be too upset with the loss."

Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is Thursday night at Detroit (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2) and each side knows how pivotal it could be.

"We all know the importance of the next game there in [Joe Louis Arena]," Hjalmarsson said. "We’re all focused on that task and looking forward to it."

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Posted On Sunday, 05.19.2013 / 4:41 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Wings found way to clog middle, slow Hawks' attack

CHICAGO -- Mike Babcock wasn't happy with the way his Detroit Red Wings defended the middle of the ice to start their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Chicago Blackhawks this past week, so the coach changed it up.

After dropping the opening game 4-1 at United Center, a better-rested Detroit team paid more attention to the middle of the ice, particularly in the neutral zone, in Game 2 on Saturday. The Red Wings won 4-1 to even the best-of-7 series at a game apiece, but how they did it was impressive.

Detroit made sure the middle of the ice was accounted for almost all game, from the neutral zone all the way back to its net, and pressured Chicago forwards sooner -- gumming up the Blackhawks' rush game before it got started.

"They do a good job of clogging things up and making it tough to skate," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said after practice Sunday, prior to leaving for Detroit. "Both teams skate really well and both teams are dangerous when their skill players have the puck in open ice. They've always been good at making it tough to get to the net and making it tough to get pucks back on the forecheck. They're a good team at [doing] that."

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Posted On Sunday, 05.19.2013 / 2:45 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Speedy Stalberg likely to return to Blackhawks lineup

CHICAGO -- It's not a guarantee, but it looks like Viktor Stalberg will re-enter the Chicago Blackhawks lineup Monday night for Game 3 of their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The best-of-7 series is knotted 1-1 with the next two games in Detroit, and the Blackhawks are looking to rebound from a lackluster 4-1 loss in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at United Center.

Stalberg, a fast-skating right wing, appears on track to get back in the lineup at that position after practicing there Sunday with the linemates he's spent most of the season with: left wing Bryan Bickell and center Andrew Shaw.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Stalberg is likely playing Monday night.

"I think you just keep playing the way I have all year," Stalberg said. "If we get to play together again, we've been effective all year, so I don't think you want to change too much.

"I don't want to make too big of a deal of it. I just want to get back in playing and hopefully that's [Monday]. We'll see what happens. If I get a chance to play, I'll do anything I can to make a difference and help us win these games."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.18.2013 / 6:22 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Miller feels good in return to Red Wings lineup

CHICAGO -- Drew Miller didn't score a goal, didn't record a point, and played 12:07 for the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at United Center in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks, but he had an impact in his return from a broken bone in his finger.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.18.2013 / 6:16 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Penalty kill, Kane's goal positives for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- One of the bright spots for the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal loss to the Detroit Red Wings was their penalty kill, which remains perfect through seven games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite losing 4-1 at United Center, Chicago went 4-for-4 killing penalties and upped its string of consecutive kills to 24.

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Posted On Friday, 05.17.2013 / 6:23 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Red Wings need more kick from Mule

CHICAGO -- If the Detroit Red Wings are going to make their Western Conference Semifinals series close, they know they need an ornery "Mule" on the ice against the favored Chicago Blackhawks.

The hard part for Detroit coach Mike Babcock is pushing the right buttons on Johan Franzen, a Swedish power forward nicknamed "Mule" who can score goals by the bunches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Red Wings need captain Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to shine, but Franzen has a knack for scoring in the postseason that many players don't possess.

Tapping into that knack consistently, however, can be an issue at times.

Franzen didn't record a point, finished minus-2 and got one shot on goal in the series opener Wednesday at United Center, a 4-1 Chicago victory.

The second game is Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in the same building, and the Red Wings hope to see a snorting, sneering Mule on the ice.

"He [can] be pretty mean, but I think he's playing the best hockey when he's a little grumpy," Zetterberg said. "I think maybe it's up to us to get him a little bit grumpy before the games."

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Posted On Friday, 05.17.2013 / 3:46 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Stalberg taking demotion in stride

CHICAGO – Friday, the Chicago Blackhawks hit the ice for a practice during their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Detroit Red Wings. And forward Viktor Stalberg again worked outside the top four forward lines.

After playing 47 games in the regular season and all five games of Chicago’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series at right wing on the third line, Stalberg was bumped from the regular playing group prior to the start of the semifinals.

Stalberg was scratched for Game 1 against the Red Wings in what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville termed a coach’s decision, and his playing status for Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) remains up in the air.

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 5:31 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Detroit defensemen see need to improve

CHICAGO – Entering the Western Conference Semifinals, the Detroit Red Wings' hopes of upsetting the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks hinged on the play of their defensemen, especially in the defensive zone.

The Red Wings knew it. Yet there they were in the last 40 minutes of Game 1 on Wednesday night at United Center with pretty much all of their worst nightmares coming to fruition.

They turned over the puck too much against an endless wave of fresh Blackhawks forecheckers. They got stuck on the ice for long stretches and felt their legs turn to jelly. They couldn't complete those desperately needed first passes to the forwards in order to exit the defensive zone for a rush up the ice.

They also wound up hanging goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 38 saves in the contest, out to dry on a night in which he battled hard to keep them in the game. Now it's up to the Red Wings -- especially their blueliners -- to fix things for Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m., NBC, CBC).

"I think it took way too long for us to get out of our own zone, and when we get out we don't have any energy to attack, so we had to [take chances]," said Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who played on Detroit's top pairing with Niklas Kronwall. "We have to do a much better job in the [defensive zone] and the [defense] has to do a better job of getting the pucks up and the forwards have to do a better job being open."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.16.2013 / 4:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Stalberg scratch not about ice-time complaint

CHICAGO -- The Viktor Stalberg saga took another little turn Thursday afternoon at United Center, when Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville met with reporters a day after Chicago's 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings in the opening game of the Western Conference Semifinal series.

Quenneville denied the accuracy of a report Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune that Stalberg, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, was being punished. The report, citing an unidentified source, said Stalberg approached an unnamed Blackhawks coach about his diminished role on the power play in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Minnesota Wild.

After logging more than two minutes a game on the man-advantage during 47 games of the regular season, Stalberg averaged 11 seconds of power-play time while playing all five games against the Wild. Quenneville, who did have a conversation with the speedy third-line wing about the situation, was asked directly about the report Thursday by the Tribune's Chris Kuc. The coach categorically denied its validity.

"First of all, that story is 100 percent inaccurate," Quenneville said. "Viktor didn't play and he knows the reasons why. It had nothing to do with anything about our conversation. It was strictly nothing to do with that at all."

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Quote of the Day

You get the right the whistles at the right times, you can leave him out there. He's a beast when it comes to being on the ice. I thought [Saturday] he was a big man. That first period, he did that lateral cut and it was like three bowling pins bounced off him. There's not too many guys that can do that.

— Capitals coach Barry Trotz on Alex Ovechkin, who enters February tied for the NHL lead in goals