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Friday, October 23

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Blackhawks Sat May 23 2009

Huge win, Hawks still fighting

Thanks to a thrilling overtime win Friday, the Blackhawks are still in the conference final series against the Red Wings heading into Sunday's game 4. After dropping the 1st two games in Detroit, including a heartbreaker in game 2, the Hawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first 22 minutes at the United Center, only to see the Wings tie the game up by the end of the 2nd period. After a sloppy, scoreless third, Patrick Sharp made short work of the Wings in OT with his 2nd of the night to give Chicago the crucial victory.

Being down 2-1 isn't nearly the impediment a 3-0 deficit would be, and a win Sunday evens up the series as it heads back to Detroit. More importantly, a game like Friday's can help build some confidence. Even though the Blackhawks gave up a three-goal lead, they regrouped and rebounded to earn a win, something that has been lacking in the first 2 games.

However, Game 4 provides unique challenges Chicago has yet to face, including the possibility of missing two of their top players in Martin Havlat and goaltender Nicolai Khabibulin. Khabi left after the 2nd period with what's been dubbed a "lower-body injury", though speculation is a troublesome groin that's hobbled him the past few years. Cristobal Huet came in and made six saves while looking strong, but after not playing since April 11, may have some rust when it comes to a full game.

As for Havlat, he was brutalized along the boards by the Red Wings Nicholas Kronwall in a heart-stopping, questionable hit. Havlat was unconscious before he hit the ice, and was then piled on top of as a scrum broke out around him, and left the game with a concussion. While he was able to skate off the ice and coach Joel Quenneville has said he's optimistic Havlat can play today, there's no telling how he'll be feeling come game time since symptoms can linger.
There's been a lot of debate regarding the legality of the hit (Kronwall was given a 5 minute major for interference and a game misconduct), but the video is below.

Detroit was also without one of their top scorers in Pavel Datsyuk, and he's expected to be a game-time decision for Game 4 as well. Not having Datsyuk does lessen the Wings potency, but they have the depth to play through his absence more than the Hawks do if Havlat misses the game.

While Game 4 isn't nearly the must-win that Friday's game was, the tenor of the series would change dramatically if the Blackhawks earn a victory. The series would essentially be a best-of-3, and the Hawks would show they can handle the Wings, having outplayed them in most of Games 2 and 3. More importantly, after a long 7-game series against Anaheim, an older Detroit will have to dig even deeper to find fresh legs the longer the series goes.

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