Red Wings, Blackhawks begin series tonight
While the Eastern Conference has the Boston Bruins facing the New York Rangers, the West has its own second-round series involving Original Six teams as the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks host the seventh-seeded Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday.
The showdown is the opener of the set between the Central Division rivals. After beginning the lockout-shortened season with an NHL-record 24-game point streak, Chicago went on to win the second Presidents' Trophy in franchise history. The Blackhawks made short work of Minnesota in the first round of the postseason, eliminating the Wild in five games.
Detroit waited until the final day of the regular season to extend its streak to 22 consecutive playoff appearances, sneaking into one of the last spots in the West. The Red Wings upset Pacific Division champion Anaheim, posting overtime victories in Games 2, 4 and 6 before edging the Ducks 3-2 on the road in Game 7.
Detroit and Chicago are meeting in the postseason for the 16th time, and first since the Red Wings rolled past the Blackhawks in five games in the 2009 conference final. Chicago, which won all four regular-season meetings with Detroit, holds the all-time edge in postseason matchups, 8-7.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS
ABOUT THE RED WINGS: Captain Henrik Zetterberg recorded a team-high eight points against Anaheim and shared the goal-scoring lead with Johan Franzen, who also tallied three times. All three of Zetterberg's goals came in the final two games of the series. While he may have been battling a hamstring problem, Jimmy Howard played well enough for the Red Wings to oust the Ducks. But the netminder certainly doesn't think he performed at his best, as his 2.74 goals-against average and .911 save percentage can attest.
"I still think I can be better for the guys," Howard told the Detroit News.
Coach Mike Babcock could make a change to the team's fourth line on Wednesday as Mikael Samuelsson is a bit banged up. Cory Emmerton and Jordin Tootoo are options to replace the veteran Swede.
ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS: Patrick Sharp scored a team-best five goals in the first round and shared the club lead of six points with former Red Wing Marian Hossa. Despite his team needing only five games to defeat Minnesota, coach Joel Quenneville was not happy with the effort from some of his players.
Viktor Stalberg appears to be his main target as the right wing did not have a spot on any of the top four lines during practices leading up to the series opener against Detroit.
"I don't really have anything to say about it," Stalberg said. "Ask (Quenneville)."
Tempers flared during Tuesday's practice as Daniel Carcillo and Jamal Mayers exchanged words and slashes and appeared ready to drop the gloves before defenseman Duncan Keith intervened. Quenneville was not concerned.
"I've seen it escalate to a different level. I thought that was kind of on the friendly side," he said. "I wouldn't consider it that bad."
1. Chicago went 21-0-3 during its season-opening point streak.
2. Detroit scored only five goals in its four regular-season games against Chicago, with Franzen and Emmerton each tallying twice. Captain Jonathan Toews led the Blackhawks in the series with five points.
3. The Blackhawks have won seven consecutive meetings between the teams since suffering a 3-2 overtime loss on Jan. 13, 2012.