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Blackhawks Mon Apr 11 2011

Hawks Back Into Playoffs as No. 8 Seed

Thumbnail image for blackhawks.gifAfter weeks and months near the edge of the cliff in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks will have a chance to defend Lord Stanley's Cup after all, earning the eighth and final playoff berth last night when the Dallas Stars lost in Minnesota in the last game of the NHL regular season.

Sunday afternoon, the Blackhawks lost 4-3 to the Detroit Red Wings, putting their playoff fate in the hands of the Wild.

Despite winning four of six games against the Wings this season, including Friday's 4-2 road win, the Hawks couldn't push past Detroit's defense on Sunday in their last and most important matchup. A win would have clinched Chicago a playoff berth without having to wait for a Dallas defeat.

After the ugly loss to Detroit, Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews told locker room reporters he didn't know if he could even watch the Dallas game, and would instead opt for updates.

"I don't know if I'm ready to watch that right now," he said.

However, his coach disagreed, and phoned in a conference call with reporters shortly after the Dallas loss.

"I've never been more excited in a hockey game in my life that I didn't participate in," Joel Quenneville said. "I was acting like a 2-year-old. Maybe a 3-, 4-, or 5-year-old celebrating his birthday. It was unbelievable. I was shocked the way the whole game unfolded."

No rest for the weary: The Blackhawks will open the playoffs Wednesday at 9 CT at top-seeded Vancouver, which won the Presidents' Trophy this season with 117 points.

It wasn't surprising the final spot in the West came down to the final day. Only two points separate spots four through eight, with the point gap closing in recent weeks. Unfortunately for the Hawks, its much more than a two-point gap that separates them from the Canucks.

"We know against Vancouver we have to be special, we have to be great," Quenneville told reporters. "I think the enthusiasm of making the playoffs after what we had to overcome throughout the year should be something we take forward. Anything can happen. All the teams are comparably even."

Despite the coach's enthusiasm, it's looking like an up-hill battle for the eighth-seeded defending champions. After a month of fighting for another chance at the Cup, the Hawks need to give their thanks to the Wild and prepare for battle all over again.

 
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