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Cup win ratchets up Hawks' rivalry with Wings

by Brian Hedger /
In the long history of rivalries, one axiom has always been at the heart of each one: it's not truly a rivalry if both sides don't win their fair share of battles.
So for the better part of the last 15 years, the Chicago Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings hasn't really been much of a two-way hate conglomeration. While the Red Wings built their own little hockey version of the Ming Dynasty starting in the mid-to-late 1990s, the Hawks stumbled, bumbled and typically dwelt in or near the Central Division's cellar.
The bitterness, as a result, developed mostly in one direction.
Chicago fans came to detest Detroit even more than they had before. The very sight of the winged wheel nowadays prompts some to shout things at Detroit players and fans that, simply put, probably shouldn't be published where young eyes could read it.
Yet, it doesn't really go the other way when the teams play in the Motor City -- likely because the Hawks had never really taken anything directly away from the Wings or Detroit fans. Now that the Hawks are defending Stanley Cup champions, however, that might start to change.
"It's great," veteran Wings goalie Chris Osgood said of the Hawks' return to prominence. "That's something that we kind of missed a little bit there in the late 1990s, when Chicago was struggling a little bit. We wanted it back."
Osgood has played 13 of his 17 NHL seasons for the Red Wings and remembers well the dark days for the Hawks. The United Center would've been a ghost town when the two teams played were it not for rabid Wings fans helping to fill it up. Now, tickets are hard to come by for fans of either team.
"We were happy when they won (the Cup)," Osgood said. "It gives us an opportunity to create an even bigger rivalry, now that the champion is in our division and we have to try and knock 'em off."
'Cheli' gets chilly reception: One of those Hawks-Wings games will be held on Dec. 17 in Chicago, when Chicago will have "Chris Chelios Heritage Night," to honor the legendary defenseman who played nine seasons with the Blackhawks and 10 with the Red Wings.
Chelios, though, became somewhat of a traitor in the eyes of some Hawks fans by winning two Cups with Detroit in 2002 and 2008, staying with the Wings for so long and even putting his popular bar, "Cheli's Chili", in the Motor City. 
Chelios, who was born in Chicago, is also a member of the Red Wings' front office. After his "Heritage Night" was announced at the United Center on Saturday, there were audible boos -- which means there's a good chance he will become the first "Heritage" recipient to get booed on his big night.
Babcock says Hawks still formidable: Despite the Blackhawks having to replace 11 players from last season's Stanley Cup championship roster, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock doesn't expect the turnover to make Chicago any less dangerous. Just different.
"Their team's going to be different this year, but it's still going to be good," he said following a 4-2 preseason loss on Saturday night in Chicago. "It was a good crowd tonight, but every time we come here it's a good crowd. I think what's happened here is they're back to the old way, with the National Anthem and the excitement in town. It's a great community, and (owner Rocky Wirtz) is … let's face it, since he's been over here things have gone unbelievable."
Babcock, like many others in the NHL, is also amazed at the Hawks' 22-year old captain Jonathan Toews -- whom he coached to a gold medal for Canada in the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"The one thing I know about winning is, once you've won you want to keep winning," Babcock said. "That's why we've been fortunate over a long period of time to do a lot of winning, and it just becomes the custom. A guy like Jonathan Toews? You know, they've got a lot of great players, but there's not too many players who've got a deeper will well than this guy. When you've got a guy like that as your captain, that sets you up good."
Kindl still improving: Babcock said there aren't many positions open on the Wings' roster for prospects to win. Still, he mentioned a few by name on Saturday night that have caught his eye.
Defenseman Jakub Kindl, Detroit's first-round pick in the 2005 Entry Draft (No. 19), is one of them, along with fellow defenseman Brendan Smith, who assisted on a goal by Valtteri Filppula in the second period of Saturday's 4-2 loss at Chicago.
The 23-year old Kindl, who has played the last two seasons in Grand Rapids of the AHL, is still trying to crack the Wings' roster. He didn't record a point against the Hawks, but played 4:05 on the power-play and 5:11 on the penalty-kill units.
"I think he's knocking right on the door, and I thought he took another step tonight," Babcock said. "The question is, can he keep taking a step, and then if we're healthy and you start the year as the seventh (defenseman), do you keep taking a step or do you go, ‘Oh geez, I'm not confident?' I don't know the answer, and that's why I'm going to keep watching."
Two other prospects who got a mention by Babcock were center Cory Emmerton and left winger Jan Mursak, neither of whom recorded a point on Saturday.
"You've probably never heard of those names, but they're going to play in the NHL -- and to me that's a great thing," he said. "Now, are they going to be starters? Probably not. But they're going to be players -- and I like to see that."
Osgood dinged up: Wings veteran backup goalie Chris Osgood was seen hobbling to the bus after Saturday's game, and when asked what happened he said it was a "charley horse" type injury to his leg that happened at some point in the first period.
It might have happened on a break by Hawks winger Patrick Kane, who barreled into Osgood and appeared to bang his own shoulder on the side post of the net. Osgood played the entire game and allowed four goals in 34 shots.
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