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Wednesday, October 21

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Blackhawks Mon Apr 06 2009

Proving their playoff mettle

Although Blackhawks fans have been focusing on playoff expectations for months thanks to the team's strong start, the official invitation was inked Friday as the Hawks beat Nashville 3-1 to clinch their first postseason trip in 7 years. The Hawks followed up that celebration with a 1-0 OT win in Columbus yesterday in a tight, playoff-intense atmosphere, giving the team a taste of what's to come in April.

While the playoffs are assured, the Hawks find themselves in a tight race for home-ice advantage in the first round. With 4 games left, Chicago is 3 points ahead of Vancouver for the 4th playoff seed, and also has a game in hand. Vancouver is also in a battle with Calgary for the Northwest division lead, which could have major implications for the Blackhawks first-round opponent. After last week's 4-0 drubbing by the Canucks (which left me too forlorn to mention in this space), Chicago would do well to avoid Vancouver in the first round in favor of the Flames, whose season series the Hawks swept.

After a March swoon of 6-7-2, the Hawks first sub-.500 month this season, the two victories to start April are a step toward solidifying the team in preperation for the playoff run, and the rest of the schedule should provide a strong warmup. Tomorrow the Blackhawks head to Nasvhille, where the Predators are desperately fighting for the final playoff spot, and Wednesday the team returns to the UC to battle Columbus, who currently sit sixth but are looking to clinch their first-ever playoff spot, the sooner the better. And with a weekend home-and-home against Detroit, the Hawks will get a chance to battle the defending Stanley Cup champs before beginning their own quest next week.

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