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Blackhawks prepare for another intense, fun, but not easy series against Red Wings

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks

Detroit Red Wings v Chicago Blackhawks

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Updated: May 14, 2013 3:14PM

The Blackhawks have won seven consecutive games against the Detroit Red Wings, including a four-game sweep during the 2013 regular season. Corey Crawford has better numbers against the Red Wings than any other team. The Hawks finished atop the league standings, while the Red Wings had to scramble over the last week of the season to qualify for their 22nd consecutive postseason. The Hawks are the top seed. The Red Wings are the seventh seed.

Is any of that relevant as the teams prepare for the Western Conference semifinals, which begin Wednesday at the United Center?

“No, not at all,” Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said.

Hawks fans were hoping that the Red Wings would rally from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks. For one, the Ducks swept the season series against the Hawks and posed a serious threat. For another, the Red Wings seemed to be a better matchup than the red-hot Sharks. Lastly, the thought of sending the hated Red Wings to the Eastern Conference next year with one last kick in the hockey pants was too good to pass up.

Well, as always, be careful what you wish for.

These might not be the dominant Red Wings of a few years ago, but they’re not the seemingly overmatched Red Wings of a couple months ago, either. They’re as talented as ever up front, with two-way standouts Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. They’re as solid in net as ever with Jimmy Howard. They’re healthier, with Todd Bertuzzi and Mikael Samuelsson back; they’re more experienced, with a talented young defensive corps getting a crash course in playoff hockey in a taut seven-game series with the Ducks; and they’re playing their best hockey at the right time, winning their last four games of the season to make the playoffs, then knocking off the Ducks.

“It’s that same relaxed, patient, experience that they’ve shown in the playoffs that makes them a tough team to beat,” Toews said. “They’ve got some veteran guys who have won Stanley Cups, and they understand what it takes to win during playoff time. That’s the reason they came out on top.”

Aside from a 7-1 thrashing March 31 at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings played the Hawks tough this year — the other three losses came in two shootouts and overtime. The Hawks’ 2-1 win March 3 at Detroit, in which Patrick Kane tied it with 2:02 left then won it in a shootout, was the most riveting game of a remarkable season.

After slugging it out with the defensive-minded Wild, the Hawks are just as excited as their fans to be playing the Red Wings.

“They’re two different teams,” Bryan Bickell said. “We had trouble with the Wild at times, but we’re looking forward to opening it up and playing our speed game. It should be fun.”

The history and passion behind the rivalry isn’t lost on the Hawks. This will be the 16th time the teams have met in the postseason — the Hawks have won eight, but the Wings won the most recent meeting in the 2009 conference finals — and the final one as division rivals.

Everyone expects it to be intense, heated and a whole lot of fun.

Just don’t expect it to be easy.

“Probably a lot of people, a lot players, a lot of teams underestimated them and thought Anaheim was going to come out of that series — and lo and behold, it’s Detroit,” Duncan Keith said. “They’re able to find a way, and that’s what makes them a tough opponent.”

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