- Scott Powers, Reporter
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks' players said Wednesday they were concerned their rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings would be lessened if the Red Wings move to the Eastern Conference as proposed recently by the NHL.
The NHL's plan, which was leaked by a team source to ESPN.com on Tuesday, includes the Blackhawks remaining in the Western Conference and the Red Wings going to the Eastern Conference next season. The NHL's previous alignment proposal in December, 2011 included the Blackhawks and Red Wings remaining in the same conference.
"Yeah, sure, we wouldn't see them as much," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "Any time you face the Red Wings, it's a fun atmosphere whether it's in Detroit or at home. It would be tough to see them go. It's always fun to play them. But again, we'll see what happens."
The Red Wings and Blackhawks are two of the Original Six teams that pre-date the NHL's 1967 expansion. They have played 722 times since they first met in 1926.
"Obviously, it will (affect the rivalry,)" Blackhawks forward Jamal Mayers said. "I think over time playing each other 6-8 times a year and in the playoffs creates rivalries. You take that away that will certainly diminish that. But I think any Original Six team will have a rivalry, but it may diminish what it means over time."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said recently he believed the rivalry would stay intact even though the Blackhawks would only play the Red Wings a few times each regular season.
"I don't think it'll go away if it does happen that they're on the other side," Quenneville said' "I think Blackhawks-Detroit will always be a special rivalry, a special game."
Even if the Red Wings jump conferences, their rivalry with the Blackhawks will remain special.