CHICAGO – Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville assumed the role of a Detroit Red Wings defender Monday as he tried to poke-check the puck away from some of his players.
“I used to be better,” Quenneville said with a chuckle after practice. “Our guys are good.”
A five-day break between games has put the coach in a good mood.
Look for smiles to be replaced by glares this week when the No. 1 seed Hawks face off against the No. 7 seed Wings in the Western Conference semifinals. The best-of-seven series will begin with Game 1 at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the United Center.
Although the Hawks went 4-0 against the Wings during the 48-game regular season, the “Original Six” rivals have not met in the playoffs since 2009. The Wings eliminated the Hawks in five games that season, but this time around the Hawks are the favorites.
Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said he and his teammates would need to play better than they did in the first round of the playoffs against the Minnesota Wild. Toews watched on TV as the Wings knocked off the No. 2 seed Anaheim Ducks on the road late Sunday.
“They just came off of a tough seven-game series where they beat a really good team, so they’re obviously playing really well,” Toews said. “We have to be ready for them.”
The return of second-line center Dave Bolland and backup goaltender Ray Emery should help the Hawks’ cause. Bolland practiced alongside Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp on Monday, while Brandon Saad rejoined the top line with Toews and Marian Hossa.
As Bolland returns, veteran forward Viktor Stalberg could be squeezed out of the lineup. Stalberg did not skate with the top four lines during Wednesday’s practice, and Quenneville was noncommittal when asked whether the winger would play in Game 1.
Regardless, Quenneville said, he expected an old rivalry and a loud crowd to lead to an intense second-round series. This will mark the last meeting between the Hawks and Wings before the Wings join the Eastern Conference next season.
“We found that when we played Detroit and the teams in our division, the intensity is right in place and the motivation’s in place,” Quenneville said, “whether it’s the tradition, the animosity, from the fans all the way to the players. It’s a special history there.
“We want to make sure we take care of our own business. It’s a strong hockey team that plays with a purpose. We’re going to have to be at our best. But let’s welcome it and look forward to it.”