(Sports Network) - The well-rested Chicago Blackhawks will get back to work on
Wednesday, as they host the rival Detroit Red Wings in Game 1 of the Western
Conference semifinals at United Center .
The top-seeded Blackhawks ousted Minnesota in five games during the opening
round and haven't played since beating the Wild by a 5-1 score last Thursday.
Although the series ended with a lopsided win, the Presidents' Trophy winners
had to work hard earlier in the first round.
The Blackhawks needed overtime to win the opener against eighth-seeded
Minnesota and even lost Game 3 in OT before eventually closing out the series
in five. After a 3-0 win in Game 4 and the 5-1 decision in the series
clincher, the Blackhawks wound up outscoring the Wild by a 17-7 margin in the
Chicago wore down the Wild in Round 1 thanks to its superior depth at both
ends on the ice. The deep roster includes plenty of familiar faces from the
Blackhawks' Stanley Cup championship team of 2010. Forwards Patrick Kane,
Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland and defensemen
Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson all helped Chicago lift
the Cup three years ago and head coach Joel Quenneville can lean heavily on
that postseason experience this spring.
Sharp and Hossa paced Chicago with six points apiece in the opening round.
Sharp, who had 11 goals during the Blackhawks' title run in 2010, notched five
goals and one assist against Minnesota, while Hossa had three goals and three
Every Chicago forward who played in all five games during the first round
registered at least a point and nine of those players had at least two points.
The Blackhawks also will get centerman Dave Bolland back for the start of
Round 2. Bolland missed the entire first series with a lower-body injury, but
is ready to go for Game 1 against Detroit.
Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford had a terrific start to this year's
playoffs, posting 1.32 goals against average and .950 save percentage over
five games. The 28-year-old is now 9-9 with a 2.11 GAA in 19 career playoff
Crawford started 28 games for Chicago in the regular season, while 19 starts
went to Ray Emery, who was unavailable in the first round due to a lower-body
injury. However, Emery, who posted an amazing 17-1-0 record this season, is
ready to back up Crawford at the start of this series. Emery is 20-15 with a
2.57 GAA and .903 save percentage in 36 career playoff games.
The Red Wings fought hard to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season in
2013 and the seventh-seeded club proved it still belongs there with an upset
of Anaheim in Round 1.
Although Detroit's seventh-place finish in the West is the club's worst
seeding since it last missed the postseason in 1989-90, the Red Wings knocked
off the second-seeded Ducks in seven games during this year's conference
The Red Wings now find themselves in the conference semifinals for the sixth
time in seven seasons after getting bounced out by Nashville in the opening
round last spring.
Detroit used a balanced scoring attack and timely stops from goaltender Jimmy
Howard to outlast the Ducks in seven games.
The Red Wings had six forwards post two or more goals in the battle against
Anaheim. Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen led the way with three goals
each, while Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Cleary, Damien Brunner and Justin Abdelkader
notch two goals apiece.
Zetterberg led the Red Wings with eight total points in the opening round and
Datsyuk finished with seventh. This is Zetterberg's first postseason run as
captain after he inherited the "C" following Nicklas Lidstrom's retirement
last summer. The loss of Lidstrom still looms large on the blue line for
Detroit, but the club did finish fifth in team defense this season with just
2.29 goals per game.
Howard had a busy series in net for Detroit in the conference quarters, as he
faced an average of 32 shots per game against the Ducks. In the end, Howard
posted a 2.74 GAA and .911 save percentage over the seven games and he proved
his worth in close games, recording a 3-1 record in the four tests that went
The 29-year-old Howard is 17-18 all-time in the playoffs with a 2.65 GAA and
.914 save percentage.
Chicago won all four meetings in this year's season series and has claimed
seven straight against the Red Wings overall. Three of the four encounters
between the clubs ended after regulation, while the other contest was a 7-1
rout in Detroit on March 31. That blowout loss represented a season-high in
goals allowed for the Red Wings, who have dropped nine of their last 10 games
"It's going to be fun to play them again," 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."
Chicago, which also gets to host Game 2 on Saturday, was 18-3-3 at the United
Center this season before going 3-0 in home games in the opening round.
Detroit was 11-9-4 as the guest in the regular season and split four games in
Anaheim in the conference quarters.
The Central Division and Original Six foes also have met 15 times in the
playoffs and Chicago has taken eight of those series. However, Detroit has
taken the last two postseason encounters, including a five-game series win
when the franchise's last met in the playoffs in the 2009 Western Conference
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