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Top lines for Blackhawks, Red Wings, neutralizing each other

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There's been a lot of talk during this Western Conference semifinal about how the Red Wings' top two lines have neutralized the Blackhawks' top two lines, and how the frustration had mounted for players such as Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

The flip side of that story, however, is that the Hawks' top two lines have essentially done the same thing to Detroit. Pavel Datsyuk has one goal and no assists this series, while Henrik Zetterberg has no goals and three assists.

"We do the same job against each other," Datsyuk said. "It's like that the whole series."

Up until the Hawks' breakout 4-1 win in Game 5, Detroit's role players -- including the third line of Damien Brunner (two goals, one assist), Gustav Nyquist (one goal) and Joakim Andersson (two assists) -- had been carrying much of the offensive load.

Datsyuk said there has been no frustration in the Wings dressing room about the stars' lack of production.

"Everybody knows the goal is to win [the] series," Datsyuk said. "Nobody cares about this. ... Team. Our team [is] our star."

Hawks winger Marian Hossa, held just one assist since his Game 1 goal, echoed those sentiments down the hall in the Chicago dressing room.

"Everybody would like [to get goals], but it doesn't matter who scores, as long as we win the hockey game," Hossa said. "We're facing the top two lines against the top two lines, so you kind of cancel each other out. We have to be playing extremely well defensively against each other, because you [can't] give them a little room."

Detroit coach Mike Babcock said he figured this series would come down to the bottom two lines and the blue line, given the two-way talent on each teams' scoring lines.

"That's normally what happens in hockey," Babcock said. "That's why they give you a third line, and that third line's supposed to win you the series. That's what happened for Chicago and Anaheim in the regular season -- their third line was better than everyone else's. ... That's what's happened for us, is our third line's gotten better. The third line, like the rest of our group the other night, was not very good. If we're going to be successful, we need our third and fourth lines to be good. Their third and fourth lines were better than ours the other night."

Defenseman Brendan Smith, who's chipped in a goal and an assist, agreed.

"They always want to get on the board; they're our best players," Smith said of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. "But I think our team is a little different, where it seems that a lot of people have stepped up and scored timely goals. You saw a bunch of the young guys in Nyquist and Brunner and we've had some 'D' score, so I think it's not just those guys with our team. I think maybe with Chicago, those big guys have consistently got on the board a lot, so I think that can be frustrating for them if they don't continue to do that in the playoffs.

"Obviously, they want to get on the board and when they do, it helps our team out that much more. But I think when we're scoring, it's more of a team effort. There's a lot of people chipping in for us. That's how we're successful."

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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 Lazerus published on May 27, 2013 10:35 AM.

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