(WGN-AM) - It's one of the biggest rivalries in the National Hockey League.... the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Red Wings. The Blackhawks will face the Wings in the NHL's Western Conference Finals, after Detroit beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in Game Seven of their Semi-Final series.
Detroit's victory set up an Original Six matchup against the well-rested Hawks in the conference finals beginning this weekend at Joe Louis Arena. The series will be a rematch of the last time the Hawks reached the third round in 1995, when the Wings advanced to the Stanley Cup finals four games to one.
"Detroit is arguably the best team in the league," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Coming off winning the Cup they know what it's like to win and play in big games. They have several high-end offensive guys. They have maybe the best player in the league in [ Nicklas] Lidstrom on the back end. They're strong and very explosive. Seems like every game we played them this year there were a lot of goals scored. There's a lot to be concerned with."
The Hawks were 2-2-2 during the regular season against their Central Division rivals, including home-and-away victories over the final weekend.
"There really are no weaknesses in their game, starting from the goaltender on out," said Hawks winger Patrick Sharp, who had a goal and two assists in four games against the Wings this season. "They're an experienced team, they have been there before and every time we play them it seems to be an intense rivalry.
"They execute so well and they manage the puck so well. Even when they're dumping it in or chipping it in they're putting it in spot where they can get it back."
The Wings, who will have home-ice advantage in the series, outscored (23-20) and outshot (216-195) the Hawks in the regular season and were especially adept on the power play with eight goals in 24 opportunities (33.3 percent).
Jiri Hudler did the most damage with four goals and five assists in six games while Johan Franzen and Pavel Datsyuk each scored three times. Marian Hossa and Henrik Zetterberg each added two goals and four assists.
Chris Osgood, who has handled goaltending duties in all 11 of the Wings' postseason games, played against the Hawks just once, falling 3-0 in the regular-season finale.
After losing the first four games to Detroit (two in shootouts), the Hawks' triumphs in the final two contests gave them confidence against the defending champions.
"We did good things against them all year," said Hawks defenseman Brian Campbell, who had seven assists against the Wings. "We just had some mishaps here and there that really killed us. We can take some confidence from the whole year against them and especially the last two games."
The series should be one of high-intensity with the rivalry between the teams reaching a fever pitch.
"You could tell when fans were chanting after our last game about Detroit it's something that's definitely in place," Quenneville said of the rivalry. "A playoff series wouldn't take much to light that fire."
(The Chicago Tribune contributed to this report)
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