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Two-game edge gives Wings breathing room

by Brian Compton / Detroit Red Wings
DETROIT -- The Red Wings know they can win in any building. That knowledge didn't stop them from breathing a collective sigh of relief Tuesday night when Mikael Samuelsson gave them a 2-0 series lead in the Western Conference finals.

Samuelsson's game-winning tally at 5:14 of overtime in Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena cemented Detroit's 3-2 win and allowed the Red Wings to avoid a split heading into Chicago, where the series resumes Friday night. It's no secret just how electrifying the United Center can be -- which is arguably the biggest reason why the Red Wings are thrilled to be up two games.

"It's a lot better than 1-1," Wings forward Johan Franzen said. "I think they played a better game tonight. They're probably going to bring it even more in their building, so we've got to be ready."

The Blackhawks were ready for Game 2, and got off to another quick start when Jonathan Toews scored on the power play midway through the first period. Chicago forced overtime when Toews erased a 2-1 deficit with 7:40 to play in regulation.

But a costly turnover by Brian Campbell at his own blue line in overtime led to a 3-on-1 the other way, and Samuelsson made it a miserable ride home for Chicago when he beat Nikolai Khabibulin from the slot.

"They played pretty well ... real well, actually," said forward Valtteri Filppula, who fed Samuelsson on the game-winner. "It was a really close game. I think it's going to be the same way when we go into Chicago. I'm really happy that it's 2-0 right now. That's a tough place to play. It's a good thing we're two up."

As tough as it is, several of the Red Wings are excited to have the opportunity to play a playoff game in the Windy City. It's been 14 years since these teams last met in the Western Conference Finals.

"It's going to be a great atmosphere in Chicago," Detroit forward Henrik Zetterberg said. "It's always good games when you go and play there. It's been a while since the Wings and Chicago have played playoff games in Chicago. It's the first for me, and I'm looking forward to it."

Considering the short time between series -- Detroit clinched Round 2 against the Anaheim Ducks with a Game 7 victory last Thursday -- Wings coach Mike Babcock is thrilled that this series doesn't resume until Friday. According to Babcock, his team is in desperate need of a day off, which it will receive Wednesday. The Wings will skate at Joe Louis Arena Thursday before heading to Chicago.

"We need two days (off) in between games so bad it's not even funny, just to re-energize," Babcock said. "I didn't think we had any legs or any pop whatsoever, right through our lineup. I thought it was very evident right from the get-go.

"This is a team that's going to be very difficult to put away. They're determined and they're skilled."

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