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Huet likely to start Game 4 for Blackhawks

Saturday, 05.23.2009 / 8:56 PM / Conference Finals: Detroit vs. Chicago

By Brian Compton - Deputy Managing Editor

CHICAGO -- Get ready for another juicy "Original Six" matchup on NBC Sunday afternoon.

One week after kicking off the Western Conference Finals at Joe Louis Arena, the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks will continue the best-of-7 series in front of a national-TV audience in Game 4 at the United Center. Detroit leads 2-1, but the Blackhawks are coming off an emotional 4-3 overtime victory on Friday night.

Patrick Sharp won Game 3 for Chicago at 1:52 of the extra period, averting what would have been a devastating defeat. The Blackhawks led 3-0 late in the second period before three Detroit defensemen scored in a 4:23 span to tie it.

Unlike Game 1, the national audience will likely see Cristobal Huet in goal for the Blackhawks. Huet was forced to play the third period and the short overtime for Chicago after Nikolai Khabibulin went down with a lower-body injury.

Despite the fact that it was Huet's first game since April 11, the 33-year-old showed few signs of rust. He stopped all six shots he faced and allowed his teammates to regain their composure after the rough second period.

Khabibulin did not practice with the Blackhawks on Saturday and is questionable for Game 4. Should he not be able to go, Huet will be presented with an opportunity he's waited several weeks for -- one that he signed up for when he landed a four-year, $22.5 million deal last summer.

"Usually you don't skip the first two rounds," Huet joked on Saturday. "But I have to really step up and do my best."

While the Blackhawks will likely be without their No. 1 goaltender, they're not the only team suffering from the injury bug. Veteran forward Kris Draper did not skate for the Red Wings on Saturday and has already been ruled out for Game 4 due to a groin injury. Hart Trophy candidate Pavel Datsyuk (foot) also did not skate and is questionable for Sunday. Datsyuk has only one goal this postseason but is capable of scoring every time he has the puck in the offensive zone.

Draper will be replaced by rookie forward Justin Abdelkader, who made his postseason debut in Round 2 against the Anaheim Ducks. Detroit coach Mike Babcock is hopeful that Datsyuk can return to his place on the top line alongside Tomas Holmstrom and Marian Hossa. If he can't go, Valtteri Filppula will once again fill that role. Ville Leino took Datsyuk's spot in the lineup for Game 3.

"I noticed his stuff was hanging up (in his locker)," Babcock said of Datsyuk, who had 97 points during the regular season and is also one of the League's top defensive forwards. "They're hoping that they can get him in his boot and get him going."

After a 5-2 loss in Game 1 -- a game that was 2-2 with 10 minutes to go -- the Blackhawks responded with a better effort in Game 2 and lost on an overtime goal by Mikael Samuelsson. Overtime was required again on Friday, and the Blackhawks eked out the victory to trim the series deficit.

"Anyone who's won the prize knows how hard it is," Babcock said. "The greatest thing about it is it's that hard to do. It's supposed to be hard. It's not supposed to be easy. We're playing a really good team. I'm sure they felt they could have won Game 2. Let's just keep playing."

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