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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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Posted On Wednesday, 05.15.2013 / 4:42 PM

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

Toews, Datsyuk great admirers of each other

CHICAGO -- Ask Jonathan Toews about Detroit Red Wings center Pavel Datsyuk and his eyes light up a little bit.

The Chicago Blackhawks captain usually tries to fight back a smile, knowing he's talking about a rival team's top player, but it's usually futile. Toews envies Datsyuk's two-way game quite a bit -- making him a lot like the rest of the hockey world -- and 34-year old Datsyuk said he's been impressed by the two-way force 25-year old Toews has grown into in Chicago.

That's why it was somewhat fitting to see each of their names listed Wednesday, along with Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, as Selke Award finalists. The award is given to the NHL's top defensive forward as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.15.2013 / 2:47 PM

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

Emmerton added to Red Wings lineup

CHICAGO -- Cory Emmerton will be back in the Detroit Red Wings lineup centering the fourth line when they face off against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at United Center in the first game of their Western Conference Semifinal series.

Emmerton was scratched for Game 7 of Detroit's Western Conference Quarterfinal against the Anaheim Ducks and was replaced by veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, who has been plagued by injuries all season.

Samuelsson, who missed 41 games with a pair of injuries, hopes to play in this series but had another recent flare-up of an upper-body ailment that initially occurred in a 7-1 loss to Chicago on March 31 at Joe Louis Arena. He played 4:20 in the series-deciding game against the Ducks before apparently reaggravating the injury.

Emmerton said he got the message loud and clear from Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's decision.

"You don't want to watch ever. I got to watch and it wasn't a lot of fun," he said following Detroit's Wednesday morning skate. "I'll do my best to not get in that situation again. Everything's a learning lesson as you go along in your career. You do what you can do, move forward and keep getting better."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.15.2013 / 1:58 PM

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

Stalberg finds himself a healthy scratch for opener

CHICAGO -- Instead of manning the right wing on the third line for the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at United Center, speedy forward Viktor Stalberg will be in street clothes when the puck is dropped.

Stalberg will be a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks play host to the Detroit Red Wings in the opener of a highly anticipated Western Conference Semifinal series between the Original Six rivals (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).

He's not injured, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville termed it a coach's decision when asked if there was something other than Stalberg's play factoring into the somewhat curious call to scratch their fastest skater against a fast-paced team like Detroit.

"He's out tonight," Quenneville said. "Coach's decision. I had a conversation with him, so he knows how it stands and [what] the situation is, but we'll leave it at that."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.14.2013 / 4:54 PM

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

Teams to take advantage of extra days off

Neither team plans to stick around long after the first and third games of a Western Conference Semifinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

The series starts Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and the Red Wings plan to fly back to Detroit prior to Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in the same arena.

Two days off between games combined with a short flight was too good for the Red Wings to pass up -- regardless how much coach Mike Babcock talked up the great places to eat in Chicago following Detroit's upset of the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday night.

"It's a little different," Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told reporters following a Tuesday practice in Detroit. "I wasn't expecting all of this time off, but we'll definitely use it to our advantage of not really hanging out in Chicago and coming back here. The comfortability is a lot more."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.14.2013 / 4:27 PM

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

Stalberg could find himself watching start of series

CHICAGO -- Viktor Stalberg has practiced outside of the top four lines, in a white jersey, for each of the three practices the Chicago Blackhawks have held since winning their Western Conference Quarterfinal series last week.

That's usually a designation for a player who is injured -- meaning it's a non-contact jersey -- or for those who aren't being considered for the active lineup. The Blackhawks open their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and Stalberg isn’t injured.

So that can mean only one thing: He’s in coach Joel Quenneville's doghouse for some reason, likely based on his play in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. The only way to get out is to wait for another chance to impress, after finishing the first series with one assist.

"Stay ready," Quenneville said Tuesday when asked what Stalberg can do to get himself back on his usual spot at right wing of the third line. "Nobody said he's out of the lineup (for Game 1), but … make decisions tough on us."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.09.2013 / 3:27 PM

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

Harding will start Game 5 with Wild's season on line

CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild had three goalies on the ice for their morning skate Thursday, but Josh Harding will start against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center in Game 5 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).

Harding, who left Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday after one period with a lower-body injury, told Wild coach Mike Yeo following the skate he's healthy enough to start the elimination game. The Wild trail the best-of-7 series 3-1.

"[I was looking] to see him, obviously, go out there and make saves and more importantly for him to come to us and say he's ready," Yeo said. "We don't know how he feels, but you have to trust him. He says that he's good to go and there was absolutely no doubt about it. That's what we were looking for."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.09.2013 / 3:22 PM

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

Bolland, Emery again out for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The groin injury Dave Bolland is dealing with right now probably doesn't hurt the Chicago Blackhawks center as much as the fact he's not playing.

Bolland, along with goalie Ray Emery (lower-body injury), will miss Game 5 of the team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. CBC, RDS2, NBCSN). The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and with a win would advance to the conference semifinals.

Bolland and Emery have been scratched for the previous four games of the series.

"It eats [at you] a lot," Bolland said. "It's pretty painful, actually. It's not fun hanging out in the training room and the workout room while the guys are on the ice playing. You want to stay out of there as much as you can. It's never fun."

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Quote of the Day

It's always a little bit weird, but it moves on. They've got a good team, and they played well tonight. I think that's just part of it.

— Peter Laviolette on facing his former team (Flyers) for the first time since his departure