-- They will arrive at the United Center in limousines, walk down a red carpet amid a throng of screaming fans and return to their home ice to raise a hockey championship banner for the first time in nearly half a century.
Then the Chicago Blackhawks
say they will begin to focus on Saturday night's opponent, the Central Division rival Detroit Red Wings
-- turning off any emotions they might still have of winning last season's Stanley Cup.
In short, the Hawks are ready to start their title defense.
"For us, it's going to be special from 5 o'clock to 7 o'clock, and then once that ceremony is over it's time to get to work," said forward Patrick Kane
, whose goal ended the Cup Final in Game 6, giving Chicago its first League title in 49 years. "It's going to be a special night. It's going to be a fun night. It's going to be something we all cherish a long time down the road, but you know … we've got to make sure we stay focused and worried about beating this team tonight."
Kane and his teammates hope the ceremony, which is slated to begin around 7:30 Central and last for about 30 minutes, will finally give all the 2010 Cup talk a rest.
"Questions about the Cup are getting old here," Kane said following the Hawks'morning skate on Saturday. "The new season (has started), so that will put some closure on it."
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews
, also known as "Captain Serious," echoed those sentiments. When asked if he was looking forward to the Cup chatter subsiding, he formed a slight grin before answering.
"We've been looking forward to that for awhile here," Toews said. "We're happy to be able to put up a banner in our own building here tonight, and as soon as it's up there we're going to start our quest to hang another one."
Still, even Toews knows that excitement from the team's championship won't just go away that easily.
"People around here are always going to be excited about it," he said. "Fans will always like to brag about being the defending Stanley Cup champs from last year, all the way up until there's a new winner … and hopefully there isn't a new winner."
Hawks sizing up Wings
: One team that many think has a good chance to be that new Cup winner is the Red Wings, who opened their season in dominating fashion with a 4-0 win at home against Anaheim on Friday.
After getting a longer offseason rest than they're used to, the Wings also added veteran center Mike Modano
, veteran defenseman Ruslan Salei
and exciting young winger Jiri Hudler
to the mix. The Hawks didn't overlook any of those factors.
"Yeah, that doesn't sound good," Toews said, smiling. "But it's always fun, especially early in the season, to prove yourself and play against the best players and the best teams in the League. Detroit's always been one of those teams. We know what Hudler is all about. He was there a couple of years ago. We'll be aware of him and a guy like Modano, as well. He'll be a tough addition to their team."
Former Red Wings and current Hawks winger Marian Hossa
feels likewise -- especially after seeing the Wings on TV Friday night.
"They've got a great team right now," Hossa said. "Not that they didn't last year, but they improved so much at each position. Bringing in those guys makes them more powerful."
Datsyuk does it all
: Teams already had to worry about Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk
as a playmaker, great skater and ferocious backchecker. Now, after his fight on Friday against Anaheim's Corey Perry
, Datsyuk also proved he can handle his own in an altercation.
Players from both the Wings and Hawks had plenty to say on Saturday about the scrap.
"Oh yeah, I texted him," Hossa said. "I told him, ‘Great job. Well done.'"
Hossa said the sight of his former teammate duking it out with the much larger Perry took him by surprise initially.
"When I first saw it, I kind of stopped and was frozen and started watching the TV," he said. "It was something you don't see often, you know … Pavel fighting. But he looks like he's done it lots of times. He's unbelievably strong, so I'm not surprised he held up strong. I tried to text him and say, ‘Uh, there's no fighting tonight.'"
Toews had a chuckle about it, as well.
"I guess he really can do it all," Toews said. "He must be sick of all the trophies he's collecting at the end of every year, whether it's the Lady Bing or the Selke Award he's been getting. So I'll have to look out for him in the scrums, I guess."
Kane was also an admirer, being a smaller, skilled player himself.
"I thought it was pretty cool to see out of him," he said. "He didn't back down from Perry. He stood up for himself. It's good to see a player like that do that."
Hawks aim to improve on D
: One of the Hawks'biggest trademarks last season was limiting opposing shots on goal by blocking shots and controlling the puck.
In the season opener on Thursday at Colorado, a 4-3 overtime loss, the Avalanche got 41 shots on goal against new Hawks goalie Marty Turco
. They aim to correct that situation tonight, with Nick Boynton
stepping into the lineup in place of Jordan Hendry
"It's a little bit of everything really," said Duncan Keith
, who won the Norris Trophy last season. "Managing the puck better, keeping the puck on our sticks when we have it and not giving it to them. We made a lot of mistakes, let's face it. We're looking to improve in basically every area for tonight."