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FOX: PENGUINS - RED WINGS REMATCH

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS

 

vs.

 

Detroit Red Wings (2)
  Chicago Blackhawks (4)

Playoff History: This will be the 15th post-season meeting between the Original Six franchises – the only match-ups occurring more often in Stanley Cup Playoff history are Montreal-Boston (32), Detroit-Toronto (23) and Chicago-Montreal (17). Chicago has won eight of the 14 previous series. The Red Wings captured the most recent series, defeating the Blackhawks 4-1 in the 1995 Western Conference Final. Detroit recorded three of its wins in overtime.

Old Rivals: The Red Wings and Blackhawks are participating in their 83rd NHL season, both having joined the League in 1926-27. The clubs have met 703 times in regular-season play -- no NHL opponents have faced each other more often.

Winter Classic Memories: The combination of iconic Wrigley Field, the longtime 'Original Six' rivals Blackhawks and Red Wings and perfect New Year's Day weather made the 2009 Winter Classic a hit with the critics and television viewers. The game earned a 2.9 overnight rating on NBC, the best overnight NHL regular season rating in the U.S. in nearly 13 years (Feb. 3, 1996 on Fox, 3.0).

City Connections: Red Wings defenseman Chris Chelios hails from Chicago and played nine seasons in a Blackhawks uniform from 1990-91 until he was dealt to the Red Wings at the trade deadline in March, 1999. He won two Norris Trophies as the League's top defenseman with the Blackhawks, in 1993 and 1996. Red Wings defenseman Brett Lebda was born in the Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, IL and played his collegiate hockey at nearby Notre Dame. Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane grew up in Buffalo but moved to the Detroit area to play minor hockey in the Honeybaked organization and then two seasons with the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based U.S. National Team Development Program.

Goaltending Matchup: Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood, 36, has won three Stanley Cups (Detroit '97, '98 and '08), is tied for 10th place on the all-time regular-season victories list with 389 and is 10th on the career playoff wins list with 67. The Blackhawks' Nikolai Khabibulin, also 36, has captured one Stanley Cup (Tampa Bay '04), ranks 24th on the all-time regular-season victories list with 299 and is 22nd on the career playoffs wins list with 39.

Blackhawks' Super Scout: No one has closer ties to both organizations than legendary NHL head coach Scotty Bowman, who captured three Stanley Cups behind the Red Wings bench in 1997, 1998 and 2002, served the club in an advisory capacity through its 2008 championship and has acted as senior advisor for the Blackhawks since August, 2008.

Season Series: The Red Wings captured the 2008-09 regular-season series by posting eight points (4-2-0) to the Blackhawks' six points (2-2-2) in the six games. The Red Wings won each of the first four contests, culminating with the 6-4 win at Wrigley Field in the Winter Classic on New Year's Day. The Blackhawks won both ends of a home-and-home series over the final weekend of the regular season Apr. 11-12.

Red Wings forward Jiri Hudler had the Blackhawks' number all season, leading all scorers in the season series with nine points (four goals, five assists) and a +5 rating in six games. His best performance came on the biggest stage, tallying 2-1--3 in Detroit's 6-4 victory in the Winter Classic. He scored back-to-back second-period goals to wipe out a 3-1 Chicago lead and earned an assist on the game-winning goal by defenseman Brian Rafalski in the third.

Conference Semifinals Recap: In a match-up of Stanley Cup champions from the past two seasons, the Red Wings eliminated the Anaheim Ducks in a thrilling seven-game series. The outcome hung in the balance until Detroit forward Dan Cleary scored with three minutes remaining in the third period of Game 7, lifting the Red Wings to a berth in the Western Conference Final for the third consecutive year and for the eighth time in the past 14 seasons.

The Blackhawks earned the nickname 'Comeback Kids' in round two, eliminating the Vancouver Canucks in six games to reach the Conference Finals for the first time since 1995. The Blackhawks had trailed in each of their four victories and scored 14 of their 23 goals in the third period or overtime. Second-year star Patrick Kane paced the Blackhawks with eight points (six goals, two assists), including his first career hat trick in the series-clinching Game 6.

First-Round Recap: The Red Wings posted a four-game sweep over Columbus, outscoring the Blue Jackets 18-7. The Red Wings were the only club that did not trail throughout its opening-round series. Forward Johan Franzen led the club in scoring with 2-4--6, capped by the series-winning goal with 47 seconds remaining in Game 4 that broke a 5-5 tie. It marked the sixth consecutive series in which Franzen tallied a game-winning goal and the seventh in his eight series since the start of the 2007 post-season.

The Blackhawks posted their first playoff series win since 1996 by upending the Calgary Flames in six games. Forward Martin Havlat lifted the team in the pivotal opening game by scoring the game-tying goal late in the third period and adding the winner just 12 seconds into overtime -- the third-fastest overtime goal in NHL playoff history. Calder Trophy finalist Kris Versteeg led the Blackhawks in scoring (2-5--7).
Foxy Says: Detroit in Six
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GAME 5: Detroit 2, Chicago 1 OT


EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS


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Pittsburgh Penguins (4)
  Carolina Hurricanes(6)

Playoff History: This is the first Stanley Cup Playoffs meeting between the franchises.

Brotherly Love? Brothers Eric and Jordan Staal will oppose each other for the first time in an NHL playoff series and could well spend a great deal of time on the ice together. Eric is Carolina’s top-line center and offensive star. Jordan is Pittsburgh’s checking center who regularly is assigned to shut down the top opposing pivot. In last year’s Conference Semifinals, Jordan and the Penguins eliminated a third Staal brother, Marc of the Rangers.

Ronnie Franchise: Hurricanes associate head coach Ron Francis is one of the most popular figures in the history of both franchises. Francis is the Hurricanes' all-time leader in goals, assists and points and had his number 10 retired by the club in January, 2006. He also played eight seasons in Pittsburgh and was a key member of the Penguins' back-to-back Stanley Cup championship clubs in 1991 and 1992.

Change is Doubly Good: Both teams made midseason coaching changes pay off. Carolina replaced Peter Laviolette with Paul Maurice on Dec. 3 and the Hurricanes went 33-19-5 the rest of the regular season. Pittsburgh replaced Michel Therrien with Dan Bylsma on Feb. 15 and went 18-3-4 thereafter. In both cases, familiarity helped breed success. Maurice had previously coached the Hurricanes from 1995-2003, guiding them to the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. Bylsma had been an assistant coach for two seasons with Pittsburgh’s AHL affiliate Wilkes Barre-Scranton before being elevated to that club’s head coach to begin this season. The last team to win the Stanley Cup after making a coaching change during the season was the 1999-2000 New Jersey Devils, who replaced Robbie Ftorek with Larry Robinson.

Forward Thinking: Each team was bolstered by trade deadline-beating deals for veteran forwards. Carolina brought back home-grown RW Erik Cole from Edmonton in a three-way deal on deadline day (March 4) and went 12-3-2 after his return. Cole scored 15 goals in 17 games after the trade and helped spark a late surge by Staal. Pittsburgh loaded up for the stretch run by dealing for LW Chris Kunitz and RW Bill Guerin in the week leading up to the deadline. Guerin has five goals and four assists and Kunitz has seven assists in the playoffs.

Precocious Goaltenders: As a 22-year-old in 2006, Cam Ward became the fourth rookie goaltender in NHL history to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoffs MVP when he backstopped Carolina to the Stanley Cup. At age 23 last spring, Marc-Andre Fleury was brilliant -- 1.97 goals against average -- in getting the Penguins all the way to Game 6 of the Final.

Better Late than Never: The Cardiac ‘Canes have made it impossible to turn away from their games until the final buzzer sounds. They snatched first-round series victory away from New Jersey with a stunning two goals in the final 1:20 of Game 7. And that was after Jokinen’s goal with 0.2 seconds left won Game 4. They then won twice in overtime in the Conference Semifinals by bouncing back after blowing third-period leads.

Special Somethings: Pittsburgh’s potent power play has clicked on 19.7% of its chances in the playoffs, with Crosby (five) and Malkin (four) leading the postseason in PPGs. But Carolina’s penalty killing has been tremendous, permitting only five goals in 54 times shorthanded – a 90.7 percent success rate. The battle figures to be less titanic when a Penguin is penalized. The Hurricanes have scored just five power-play goals on 48 playoff chances while Pittsburgh’s PK ranks a middling seventh among the 16 teams that made the postseason.
Season Series: The teams split their four regular-season meetings, with each winning once at home and once on the road. The Penguins prevailed in the first two meetings -- 4-1 at Pittsburgh on Oct. 23 and 5-2 at Carolina on Dec. 4. The Hurricanes won, 2-1, at Pittsburgh on Jan. 20 and 3-2 in overtime at Carolina on Apr. 4. Centers Sidney Crosby (1-6--7) and Evgeni Malkin (2-3--5) led Pittsburgh’s offense during the four games. Carolina G Cam Ward did not play in either of the first two meetings and held the Penguins to a total of three goals in two victories in the last two meetings.

Conference Semifinals Recap: Pittsburgh emerged from a star-studded, seven-game Conference Semifinal series with Washington by drubbing the Capitals, 6-2, in Game 7. The Penguins rallied after losing the first two games to win three straight. Crosby (8-5--13) and Caps LW Alex Ovechkin (8-6--14) more than lived up to the hype that surrounded their first postseason meeting. G Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove save on an Ovechkin breakaway early in Game 7 enabled the Pens to burst out to a 4-0 lead. Malkin (2-8--10) came on strong after a slow start in the series, scoring the OT winner in Game 5. D Kris Letang scored three goals in the series, including one in overtime to end Game 5.

Carolina survived its second straight seven-game series, eliminating Boston in the Conference Semifinals on RW Scott Walker’s goal 18:46 into overtime. It was Walker’s first goal in 25 career playoff games. G Cam Ward improved to 4-0 in career Game 7s and finished the series with a 2.32 goals against average and .915 save percentage. C Eric Staal and LW Sergei Samsonov led the Hurricanes with four goals apiece. LW Jussi Jokinen kept up his late-game heroics from the first-round, scoring two game-winning goals, one in overtime.

First-Round Recap: The Penguins eliminated the Philadelphia Flyers in the Conference Quarter-Finals, vanquishing their intra-state rival for the second consecutive playoff year. The series was capped by a 5-3 victory in Game 6 at Philadelphia, a match the Penguins had trailed, 3-0. Malkin, the NHL's scoring champion in the regular season, also led all players in the first round with 4-5--9. Crosby was one of three players tied for second with eight points (4-4--8).

The Hurricanes eliminated the New Jersey Devils in the Conference Quarter-Finals, scoring twice in the final 1:20 of Game 7 to make one of the most stunning turnarounds in playoff history. Staal scored the series-winning goal with just 32 ticks of the clock remaining and led the club in scoring with 5-2--7, but Jokinen also will be remembered for his heroics. Jokinen scored the go-ahead goal with 0.2 seconds remaining in Game 4 -- the latest game-winner in playoff regulation time ever -- and tallied the game-tying goal with 1:20 to play in Game 7.

Foxy Says: Penguins in Five
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