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Blackhawks Mon Apr 22 2013

No Rest for the Weary - Hawks Enter Final Week

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png With the Western Conference all wrapped up, and the President's Trophy (award given for best overall record in the league; includes home-ice advantage in Cup Final) within grasp, the Hawks find themselves looking back on a season in which pretty much everything went right. It's hard to believe that nearly three months ago to the day, Joel Quenneville's squad was taking to the ice for the first time in what otherwise appeared to be another lost season due to a lockout.

Cooler heads prevailed, and now the Hawks have the most points (73), the second most goals scored (146) and the least amount of goals against (94) in the entire league. The awards and accolades are all great, and obtaining the President's Trophy would be a great honor, but one question arises in this and every sport: is it best to rest your top players, or do you keep riding into the playoffs with momentum?

"We put ourselves in good position, but at the same time I think all of us still love competing," Hart Memorial Trophy candidate Patrick Kane said. "We're just trying to get better as a team and feel as best as we can going into the playoff run."

And who would know better than Kane, who, coming into this season, played overseas for EHC Biel of the Swiss league, and has looked as fresh and sharp as anyone in the NHL. So fatigue isn't an issue, at least yet, for the younger legs, but current injuries remain a question.

It's possible that Patrick Sharp (upper-body injury) might make an appearance before the playoffs begin. Not to mention, Ray Emery (lower-body injury) could make a start between the pipes before the season comes to an end this coming Saturday in St. Louis, but it's too early to tell. It's fortunate, however, that neither have the severity of what ails the Bulls' Derrick Rose (inside-his-head injury).

It's safe to say that injured players will take their time before coming back; it's a luxury for Quenneville and staff by being the best regular-season team through 44 of 48 games. The rest of the team will look to finish out the final four games of the season, with the potential of shaved minutes to preserve energy and limit freak injuries en route to the playoffs.

PresidentsTrophy.jpg And while the President's Trophy would look nice in the United Center collection of hardware, Hawks' fans remember all too well the last and only time the team captured the league's best record: the 1990-91 season with 106 points and a first-round loss to the hated Minnesota North Stars. Not to mention last year's President's Trophy winner, and tonight's opponent for the Hawks, the Vancouver Canucks, took home the hardware only to lose to the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings.

"It's a cool thing that people talk about, but they won't talk about it very long," Captain Jonathan Toews said of the trophy. "It's not that important."

This from a guy who stuck with tradition (rather, superstition) and refused to hold the Clarence Campbell Bowl after smoking the Sharks in the 2010 Western Conference Finals.

If all pistons are firing, this team should cruise through to at least the Western Conference Finals, and then, hopefully, to bring the Stanley Cup home again. As long as focus isn't lost, weary legs shouldn't be an issue.

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