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The Blackhawks celebrate after beating the Ottawa Senators Friday night.
After a much needed win against the Senators on their little mini-trip, the Hawks will tackle the reverse of the Central Division obstacle course they aced a couple weeks ago. In other words, they will be vying to get wins in Detroit and St. Louis, and those two teams have lost a combined nine times at home all year.
The Hawks are still without Jonathan Toews, and it will take a Herculean effort from everyone -- especially Kane and Hossa -- to make up for that. The Hawks have not always been consistent in finding that necessary level.
However, if there is a time to catch Detroit, it is right now. The Red Wings are without Pavel Datsyuk as they were the last time they faced the Hawks. But this time captain Nicklas Lidstrom and Jonathan Ericsson are out with injuries. Additionally, Todd Bertuzzi will be a game time decision. Chalk it up to the wear and tear that comes on the end of a long season.
While people like to whisper about how the Wings are a different class than the Hawks, the four games between them tell a different story. All games were one goal affairs, with the two teams each taking a pair of contests. The Wings have failed to score a victory in regulation thus far, having been outskated by the Hawks in at least nine of the 12 periods between them.
Chicago envies the way Detroit plays, including how well they are equipped to defend. They like to carry the puck into opponent’s zones, creating lots of openings for puck movement. This is important so the Hawks can stand up at their blue line and not worry about chasing dump-ins behind them. Thus, opponents turn the puck over constantly, leading to offensive rushes with more offensive player then the defense can handle in the spurt.
Secondly, and this may sound crazy to some people, but the Wings blue line simply is not fast enough to deal with the speed of the Hawks’ forwards. When they try and stand up at their blue line, Hossa, Kane, Sharp, Stalberg, and a couple others easily get around the Wings defenders. Plus it is not in their blood to give up the blue line and sink back.
That does not mean this contest will be easy by any means. In Datsyuk's absence, Henrik Zetterberg has found that man on fire form that was missing all season. Valtteri Filppula, Jiri Hudler, Johan Franzen just find a way to score anyway, and there's always Jimmy Howard to steal a game when they need.