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Blackhawks host Red Wings in series opener

by Brian Hedger


(Game 1 of best-of-7 series)


Season series: The Chicago Blackhawks went 4-0-0 against the Detroit Red Wings during the regular season, but the lone game decided in regulation was a 7-1 rout on Easter Sunday at Joe Louis Arena. The other three games all went past regulation: Nick Leddy's goal 2:45 into OT won the first meeting on Jan. 27 at United Center. Patrick Kane tied the March 3 game in Detroit at 1-1 with 2:02 left in regulation and won the shootout. In the final meeting, rookie Brandon Saad got the winner in another shootout victory, 3-2 on April 12 in Chicago.

Big story: The Blackhawks, who ousted the Minnesota Wild in five games in the first round, have accomplished a lot in a short amount of time with their current core group of stars, including a Stanley Cup victory in 2010. But one thing this group hasn't done is beat Detroit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- Chicago's last series victory against Detroit came in 1992. The Red Wings beat the Blackhawks in the 2009 Western Conference Finals in five games -- three that went to overtime. The Blackhawks who experienced that series would like to return the favor. Seventh-seeded Detroit is in the unfamiliar role of underdog after upsetting the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in a seven-game Western Conference Quarterfinal.

Team Scope:

Red Wings: Detroit has dealt with a multitude of injuries that forced the Red Wings to play young guys in regular roles much sooner than the Red Wings normally would. Those players turned it up a notch heading down the stretch of the regular season, when Detroit needed to win its final game to assure a playoff spot. After knocking off the Ducks, the Red Wings have their sights set on the top-seeded Blackhawks, who piled up 77 points to win the Presidents' Trophy. They haven't beaten Chicago in seven straight games dating to last season, but sound eager to face the NHL's regular-season champions.

"It's going to be fun to play them again," captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "They had our number in the regular season, so it's going to be a challenge for us. We've played better the last 10 games of the regular season and the postseason. We improved as a team and [have] been through a lot. It's going to be fun to see what we can do against Chicago.''

Blackhawks: Chicago wants to ramp up the intensity for this series after eliminating the Wild fairly easily in the first round. Coach Joel Quenneville was not pleased with his team's level of play in the series, even in comfortable victories in Games 4 and 5. During three practices held after clinching the opening series, speedy forward Viktor Stalberg has worked on a line outside the top four groups and might not dress for Game 1. It might also be a motivational tool by Quenneville, who hasn't said Stalberg won't play. It's all part of the Blackhawks' preseries plan to increase the hunger and anger in their game.

"The fact that we're playing the Wings, whom we've seen a bunch of times over the years, kind of sparks things off the ice with the fans and the media," forward Patrick Sharp said. "On the ice, we know what kind of team they have. We have a lot of respect for what they can do. It's going to be a tough, hard-fought series right from the first shift of Game 1."

Who's hot: Sharp scored five goals for Chicago in the first round after scoring six in 28 regular-season games. Bryan Bickell added three goals and an assist, Kane dished out five helpers, and Marian Hossa scored three goals and picked up three assists against the Wild. … Zetterberg scored three goals and added two assists combined in Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim, and Pavel Datsyuk added two goals and five assists.

Injury report: Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus (unspecified) missed two straight practices for what Quenneville termed "maintenance." Center Dave Bolland and goalie Ray Emery are expected to suit up the first time this spring. … The Red Wings won't have speedy center Darren Helm (back) or rookie defenseman Danny DeKeyser (broken thumb) for the entire series and will start without veteran forward Drew Miller (finger/hand fracture), who might return at some point against Chicago. Goalie Jimmy Howard is playing through a nagging hamstring issue.

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