-- The Minnesota Wild
sealed the Chicago Blackhawks
' fate Sunday night. After a nervewracking afternoon, the 2010 Stanley Cup champs will get to defend their crown after all.
Indeed, despite Sunday's 4-3 loss to the Detroit Red Wings
at the United Center, the Hawks clinched the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference thanks to the Wild's 5-3 win against the Dallas Stars
at the Xcel Energy Center. The Stars needed to win in regulation or overtime to unseat Chicago for eighth place.
The No. 8 seed in the West was the lone playoff spot yet to be determined on Sunday. The Blackhawks will now face the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks
in a Western Conference quarterfinal. Had Chicago gotten two points against the Wings, the Blackhawks would've been locked into the fifth seed and faced the No. 4 Anaheim Ducks
in the first round.
Had the Hawks gotten even one point, they would've been locked into the seventh seed and faced the second-seeded San Jose Sharks
-- and former goalie Antti Niemi
, who started every game in Chicago's postseason run to the Cup a year ago.
In other matchups in the West, the Sharks will face the seventh-seeded Los Angeles Kings
, while the third-seeded Red Wings will play the sixth-seeded Phoenix Coyotes
in a rematch of last season's first-round series between the two, which Detroit won in seven games. Also, No. 4 Anaheim faces the fifth-seeded Nashville Predators