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Victorious Blackhawks want Red Wings next -- or Sharks

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Hawks-Wings rivalry.jpgStop the presses -- the Hawks have no preference whether they face the Detroit Red Wings or the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference semifinals next week.

''It doesn't matter who it's going to be. [Either way] it's going to be a tough opponent,'' Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. ''We can expect that much and prepare ourselves for the second round.''

The seventh-seeded Red Wings trail the Anaheim Ducks 3-2 in their first-round series, with Game 6 tonight at Joe Louis Arena. If the Wings rally to win the series, they will face the Hawks in the second round. If not, the Hawks will face sixth-seeded San Jose, which swept the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round.

The Blackhawks were 3-0-0 against San Jose, winning 5-3 in San Jose (after falling behind 3-1 in the first period); and 4-1 and 2-1 at the United Center.

The Hawks were 4-0-0 against the Red Wings, with two shootout victories and one in overtime. They won 2-1 in overtime at home; 2-1 in a shootout in Detroit; 3-2 in a shootout at the United Center. And blew out the Red Wings 7-1 at Detroit.

The Red Wings, of course, are the Hawks' biggest rival and likely would be the people's choice. The Hawks lost to the Red Wings 4-1 in the Western Conference finals in 2009, losing twice in overtime. They also lost to them 4-1 in the 1995 conference finals, losing three times in overtime. (The last time the Hawks beat the Red Wings in the playoffs was the 1992 division finals, when they swept the Wings en route to the Stanley Cup Finals.

But the Sharks would provide plenty of storyline fodder. The Hawks swept San Jose 4-0 in the conference finals on their way to winning the Cup in 2010 -- winning four close games. Antti Niemi, the hero of that series with 44 saves in Game 1 and Game 3, now is the Sharks' goaltender.

Raffi Torres, who helped send the Hawks to a first-round elimination by knocking out Marian Hossa with a vicious hit that earned him a 21-game suspension, plays for the Sharks. Former Hawk agitator Adam Burish, who played on the 2010 Cup-winning team, is on the Sharks but will miss their second-round series with an upper-body injury he suffered in Game 4 of a 4-0 sweep of the Canucks.

''Whoever you play there's always a story line,'' Hawks winger Patrick Kane said. ''I think San Jose's playing great right now. It's almost like they have no pressure on them. They're kind of running with the way they're playing. They played awesome the first round against Vancouver.

''And Detroit's always been a big rivalry for our team and the fans. We'll be watching and see what happens. But it's only two options, so we'll see.''

A Blackhawks-Red Wings series would be a fitting sendoff for the Hawks and Wings, who will be in different conferences next season as a result of NHL realignment. The Hawks and Wings have been division rivals since 1981-82, when the Red Wings were moved to the Smythe Division of the old Clarence Campbell Conference. They have been Central Division rivals in the Western Conference since the most recent realignment in 1993-94.

(The Blackhawks and Red Wings are Original Six teams, but the Hawks were moved into the expansion-laden Western Division in 1970-71. The NHL went to four divisions in 1974-75, with the Hawks in the Campbell Conference and the Wings in the Norris Division of the Prince of Wales Conference.)

Until a future realignment, the Hawks and Wings will meet twice a year. So this could be a last hurrah of sorts if the Wings recover to beat the Ducks.

''Yeah, that's a good point,'' Kane said. ''I know the last time we faced them in the playoffs they got the best of us in a five-game series. That's really the team that we have kind of -- I don't want to say grown to be, but it's almost like they've groomed us to be the Red Wings the way their team's made up. And it's a team we've never beaten in the playoffs. So, I guess we'll be watching to see if they can pull out a win in their series. It'll be fun for sure.''

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Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.



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This page contains a single entry by Mark Potash published on May 10, 2013 7:47 AM.

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