The defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks head into their regular-season finale uncertain to make the playoffs. They are, however, in control of their postseason destiny.
Two days after getting off to a fast start and picking up a crucial win in Detroit, the Blackhawks look to earn a return trip to the playoffs when they host the Red Wings on Sunday.
Chicago (44-28-9) is eighth in the Western Conference, two points ahead of ninth-place Dallas, the only other team still in contention for a playoff spot.
The Blackhawks can clinch a spot by earning a point against the Red Wings. Chicago can also get in if it loses in regulation and the Stars lose to Minnesota or beat the Wild in a shootout - a scenario that would give Chicago the final seed.
The Blackhawks, who would move all the way up to the No. 5 seed if they beat Detroit in regulation or overtime, appear to be in good position to take care of business themselves, as they’ve outscored the Red Wings 15-6 in winning four straight in the series.
The most recent of those games came Friday, a 4-2 win at Joe Louis Arena. Chicago played with an extreme sense of urgency, grabbing a 3-0 lead 8:45 into the game.
Brent Seabrook(notes) opened the scoring 27 seconds in with his eighth goal of the season and third against the Red Wings, while rookie Ben Smith(notes) and Brian Campbell(notes) also had first-period goals. Smith’s score was the first of his career.
“Obviously, they are already in the playoffs and we don’t have sure playoffs. We had the energy,” said forward Marian Hossa(notes), who put the Blackhawks up 4-0 in the second period with his 25th goal. “It seemed like we took the momentum right from the beginning.”
The Red Wings (46-25-10) are headed to the postseason for the 20th straight time, but they came out flat Friday, getting outshot 13-5 in the first 20 minutes. They’ve lost four of six and have gone 3-5-2 in their last 10.
“Obviously you want to go in (to the playoffs) feeling good about yourself,” coach Mike Babcock said. “There’s no way we can leave the rink (Friday) feeling good about ourselves.”
Detroit’s playoff position is set. The Red Wings are locked into the West’s third seed after San Jose secured the No. 2 spot with a win over Phoenix on Saturday night.
Detroit was without center Henrik Zetterberg(notes), who leads the team with 56 assists and 80 points, for the first time this season Friday because of a lower-body injury. He will also miss the finale, and will be day-to-day for the playoffs.
Crawford, who has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his last 10 starts, has been in net for each of the last four games against the Red Wings, posting a 1.50 goals-against average.