Blackhawks

Game 82: Status quo for Blackhawks-'Wings rivalry

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Game 82: Status quo for Blackhawks-'Wings rivalry

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 1:42 p.m.

By Tracey MyersCSNChicago.com
DETROIT Its rare when the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings need more incentive when they face each other. The matchup already demands a fairly bright spotlight, given their history, the divisional rivalry and the quality hockey that usually comes with the games.

But just for grins sake, lets throw in all the playoff implications, shall we?

The Blackhawks will be feeling the enormity of those when the puck drops at the United Center on Sunday morning. They need one point to guarantee a playoff spot and eliminate any chance the Dallas Stars had to catch them. Two points would be even better, and with help from others, the Blackhawks could finish higher in the standings.

Weve played a lot of big games this year, especially the last little stretch. So theres nothing new for us (Sunday), said Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford, who will be vying for his 34th victory this season. Its a lot better to be deciding your own fate than worrying about someone else. The Wings are not going to give us anything. We expect a hard game.

WATCH: Milbury previews NBC's Game of the Week - Blackhawks vs. Red Wings

It doesnt hurt that the Blackhawks have played the Red Wings very well this season. Their 4-1-0 against Detroit, and their 4-2 victory there on Friday was one of their best outings. But considering how angry the Red Wings were with Fridays loss, theyll probably come in determined.

We expect a dangerous team, with a lot of incentive on their side and ours. There is a lot of meaning in that game, coach Joel Quenneville said. We havent had an easy (game) all year and I dont expect it for one more.

Well, that and Detroit has its own reasons for finishing strong. Despite losing on Friday, the Red Wings are one point behind the second-place Sharks, who also lost on Friday. The Wings will be without Niklas Kronwall and Henrik Zetterberg but both are said to be a go for the postseason. Zetterberg was seen sporting a large brace on his left knee in Detroit on Friday.

Its just about having one more game and weve got to get ourselves ready, get the brain in gear and get playing, Mike Babcock told reporters on Friday. The good thing about the playoffs is its only long for two teams. For us, we can be done in a heck of a hurry. And the sense of urgency that weve got to have and the change in our mindset that weve got to have obviously is very apparent in just watching this game (Friday) night.

Its Game 82, and its status quo for the Blackhawks-Red Wings rivalry. Its going to be fierce. Its going to be competitive. And its going to be for marbles bigger than just one game.

We have to get points, Quenneville said. We have to control our destiny.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Dennis Gilbert defends decision to stand up for Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat

Dennis Gilbert defends decision to stand up for Blackhawks teammate Alex DeBrincat

The Blackhawks racked up a season-high 27 penalty minutes in Sunday's 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, 17 of which came from Dennis Gilbert alone. And it all came on one sequence.

After watching Coyotes defenseman Jason Demers deliver a hit from behind on Alex DeBrincat that went unpenalized, Gilbert skated half the length of the ice to confront Demers and initiated a fight with the 11-year NHL veteran. The scrap didn't last long, but Gilbert was assessed a two-minute penalty for instigating, five for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.

DeBrincat said after the game he appreciated Gilbert sticking up for him and so did the Blackhawks bench, most of whom gave Gilbert fist bumps and head taps as he was escorted out. But it came at a time when the Blackhawks were leading 3-2 near the midway mark of the second period and, unfortunately for Gilbert and the team, the Coyotes capitalized on the power play to even things up at 3-3 and it turned out to be the last goal scored in regulation.

"I thought it was a dirty hit," Gilbert said. "His numbers were showing and he decided to follow through and make the hit still. So it's tough, having to get an extra penalty for it. It's no fun and watching them score on the power play, they tie the game up and we end up not getting the win, which is unfortunate. But if you let that stuff happen to players on your team, especially your best players, it's going to keep happening.

"I'm not a fighter by any means; it kind of happens that coincidentally it's two games in a row. But I'm going to stand up for myself and for my teammates. ... I'm not going to sit back and let somebody get taken advantage of, whether it's on the ice or walking down the streets in Chicago."

A lot has been made about whether it was the wrong place and wrong time for Gilbert to stand up for his teammate. But the Blackhawks — both players and coaches — acknowledged it's a penalty they don't mind trying to kill off because the intention sent a powerful message throughout the locker room.

The Blackhawks were eight seconds away from killing off the penalty and this wouldn't be a discussion if they did. Still, Gilbert said he would do it again if he had to because he believes it's the right thing to do.

"I think it's kind of an instincutal thing," Gilbert said. "As a defenseman on a defenseman, it can be hard to orchestrate that. I don't like staged fights. It was an in-the-moment thing. I saw what I thought was a dirty hit and it wasn't penalized, so you've got to address it. Like I said, it's tough being shorthanded, but I think that it's important, especially on your better players, to make sure that guys know if you're going to hit them or take a shot at them, you're going to have to pay a price."

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Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

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USA Today

Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

The Blackhawks' struggles on the penalty kill last season have been well-documented. They ranked dead last with a 72.7 percent kill rate, which was the worst percentage of any NHL team in the past 30 years.

And what made the number more alarming is the fact the Blackhawks committed the third-fewest minor penalties last season, so it's not like they were shooting themselves in the foot in that regard. They simply couldn't rely on their penalty kill in any situation.

"It felt like it didn't matter what we tried to do to turn things around," Jonathan Toews said. "It just kept snowballing in the wrong direction for us." 

That's changed this season, but the Blackhawks haven't been doing themselves any favors as of late.

Since Nov. 29, the Blackhawks have committed the most minor penalties (23) of any team for an average of 3.83 per game over the last six contests. They've also given up the most power-play goals (six) in that span. 

Before that, the Blackhawks had committed just 78 minor penalties across 24 games, which ranked ninth-fewest. They've killed off 79.6 percent of their penalties this season, good for 17th, but the Blackhawks have put their special teams in a difficult position in the last half dozen games and it’s costing them points.

"We have to keep it out of our net and obviously stay out of the box too," Alex DeBrincat said following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. "Two of their goals came on power plays, so if we stayed out of the box I think we win that in regulation."

The Blackhawks committed a season-high six minor penalties on Sunday and played 10:07 of the game shorthanded, which was by far their most of the season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Two games prior in Boston, they spent 8:00 of the game on the penalty kill, which tied their third-highest total of the season.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton is pleased with the progression of the penalty kill and how the Blackhawks are pressuring at the appropriate time, denying entries and making big saves. They got away from that a bit on Sunday, but you won’t win many hockey games if you commit six penalties.

Staying out of the box is something that’s the bigger issue.

"I think our PK has been very good," Colliton said. "If we just talk about the last game, we got to focus on getting the puck all the way down and getting our structure back. When we're trying to attack, it's fine. It's great to score, but when we're trying to attack and it doesn't go well, we lack numbers back. They scored off the rush. They entered clean on the second goal and created zone time. We need our numbers to defend the entries."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.