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Friday, February 23

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Blackhawks Fri Apr 06 2012

Hawks Wrapping Up the Regular Season

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.pngAnother shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday doesn't necessarily inspire confidence as the Hawks prepare for playoffs. The Wild is looking at their possible worst season finish in 10 years. Though, the team seems to be going out with a fight - taking their last five games past regulation with a 4-0-1 record to show for it. That said, playing casually, as Coach Quenneville described it, isn't a great way for the Blackhawks to get in the postseason mindset.

Saturday, they face the Detroit Red Wings in the regular season finale. This game determines which team the Blackhawks will face in the first round of playoffs. A win will put the Hawks in fifth place in the division, pitting them against the Predators in Nashville territory to begin the series. A loss puts the Hawks in a position to play the potentially weaker Pacific Division champ, which is currently a tight race between Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix.

Despite the hype of being the regular season finale, this isn't necessarily a "must win" game. The Predators have been a tough competitor, beating the Hawks in four of their last six meetings. A win may put the Blackhawks in just as challenging (if not more so) of a position as a loss.

Not that this means a win isn't welcome. After all, every Blackhawks fan enjoys seeing the Red Wings crushed on their home turf, and going into the postseason after a victory certainly boosts morale.

However, Coach Q may take this opportunity to rest his big guns, and give some extra playing time to some of the active rookies who have yet to skate in an NHL postseason game. Forwards Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig, along with defensemen Jimmy Hayes and Dylan Olsen are looking at their first NHL playoff series.

Meanwhile, veterans who've been playing rough for the last few games could use a break. Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook saw increased playing time while Duncan Keith was out for five games; and keeping the top scorers like Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa healthy and uninjured will be important. Jonathan Toews, while cleared for contact last week, has yet to play. This might be a good game to test out his resilience after a 21-game injury hiatus before he's thrown into playoffs. Although, avoiding another concussion could motivate the coaching staff to keep him on the bench Saturday.

Surely the Hawks will play to win on Saturday, but more than anything, they should be playing to enter the playoffs with a winning team.

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