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Thursday, April 8, 2010
Red Wings unlikely first-round foe

By Jesse Rogers

Blackhawks
The Blackhawks still control their own destiny in the race for home-ice advantage in the Western Conference Playoffs.

Those concerns of facing the Detroit Red Wings in the opening round of the playoffs may have faded overnight.

The Chicago Blackhawks 6-5 win over St. Louis Wednesday, combined with Detroit’s 4-3 victory over Columbus and Nashville’s 5-2 loss to Phoenix shook up the Western Conference standings.

The Hawks have tied the Sharks for the top spot in the West while the Red Wings jumped from the No. 7 seed to No. 5. If the playoffs started today, Chicago would face Colorado, while Detroit would get Phoenix. The Hawks play in Denver Friday, then close the regular season at home Sunday vs. the Red Wings.

There’s bound to be plenty of jockeying left with one point separating seeds 5-7. No. 6 Nashville has one game left, Detroit has two and the No. 7 Los Angeles Kings have three.

The Hawks and Sharks each have 109 points and two games remaining. If they end the season tied, the Hawks would win the tie-breaker by virtue of having more wins than San Jose. That would give them home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs.

There was some cause for concern after Wednesday’s win. The Hawks weren’t very happy they blew a 6-1 lead and needed to kill a power play in the game’s final minute to preserve the win. Kris Versteeg had been inches away from scoring an empty netter which would have made it 7-4, and no one would be talking about the Blues comeback. Alas, he missed, and Andy McDonald ended up with a breakaway and subsequent penalty shot which Brad Boyes scored on. The NHL may take a look at Dustin Byfuglien’s whack of McDonald that earned him a five-minute major (slashing) and game misconduct penalty. Further punishments are possible.

Chalk the third period up to some disinterest considering the Blues were out for their usual blood and the Hawks had the game in hand. The good news is the Hawks continue to spread the scoring around. On this night, Versteeg was the best forward on the ice for Chicago, and it paid off with a four-point evening.

It’s on to Denver for a possible first-round playoff preview.