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Wednesday, October 28

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Blackhawks Thu Mar 26 2009

Playoff tickets, atmosphere reign at United Center

Yesterday afternoon the Blackhawks announced that single-game postseason tickets go onsale March 31, then last night showed there's reason to believe the team could make a deep playoff run, beating the West-leading San Jose Sharks 6-5.

Tickets for the first two postseason rounds will be available beginning at 10 a.m. at all the usual places (box office, Blackhawks store, Ticketmaster outlets, online or by phone), and customers are limited to 8 total tickets with no more than 4 for one game.

On the ice, the Hawks put together one of their strongest periods of the year to start last night's game, jumping out to a 3-1 lead in the first 10 minutes on goals by Martin Havlat, Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd. The one goal given up was at the tail end of a ferocious Sharks power-play, an area that Chicago has struggled in lately, but the Hawks left to a standing ovation after a dominating 20 minutes. They extended the lead to 4-1 midway through the 2nd before faltering and letting San Jose take the momentum and eventually tie the game up with 3 minutes left. After a scoreless overtime, Patrick Kane and Jonathon Toews connected in the shootout (usually another area of concern), and goaltender Nicolai Khabibulin made the key saves to earn the Hawks the crucial extra point while improving their shootout record to 4-6.

Sunday saw the spectacular return of forward Patrick Sharp, who joined with Havlat in netting a pair of goals in a 4-1 win over the L.A. Kings, ending the team's 5-game losing streak. Chicago turned in a superb defensive performance in limiting the Kings to 15 total shots, but seeing Sharp's scores were a welcome relief for a team that went 6-7-3 in the 16 games he missed with a knee sprain.

The two wins have helped the Hawks regain the 4th-seed and first-round home ice, but the team continues a tough stretch of games this weekend. Tomorrow sees the New Jersey Devils come to the United Center for the first time since Jan. 15, 2006, and just a week after Devils goalie Martin Broduer beat the Hawks in Jersey for the all-time win record. Looming even bigger is Sunday's game against the Vancouver. The Canucks are only 2 points back of the Hawks' 89 in the playoff chase and the two teams could very well meet in the opening playoff round, making the game crucial both in the conference standings and postseason psyche. Chicago has gone 2-1 against Vancouver this season, but their most recent meeting was a 7-3 shellacking Feb. 7th.

With a 10-point lead on the 8th seed, the Hawks should make the playoffs for the first time since 2001-2002, barring a monumental collapse. However, earning home ice in the first round would do wonders to help the league's youngest team calm any jittery nerves. Despite their recent struggles this month, Chicago is still 20-7-7 at the United Center and will get a taste test of playoff atmosphere come Sunday.

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