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updated: 12/29/2011 2:23 PM

Familiar foes: Hawks ready for Red Wings

With Red Wings in town, there's a lot on the line again

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  • Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews won this faceoff against Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk last spring, and the two NHL superstars will be seeing plenty of each other as the Hawks play the Red Wings three times in their next eight games. The rivalry returns with Friday's game at the United Center.

      Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews won this faceoff against Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk last spring, and the two NHL superstars will be seeing plenty of each other as the Hawks play the Red Wings three times in their next eight games. The rivalry returns with Friday's game at the United Center.
    Associated Press

 
 

Don't expect it to take too long for the Blackhawks and Red Wings to become familiar with each other again.

It has been almost nine months since the Central Division rivals last played, but that changes Friday night when the Red Wings come to the United Center.

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In fact, the Hawks will play Detroit three times in their next eight games, which should reboot one of the league's best rivalries.

"It seems like every time we play them there's something to play for -- top of the West, standings, getting points, trying to create separation," Patrick Kane said.

The Hawks are first in the West but lead the Red Wings by only 3 points.

"I guess it's kind of fitting that we play them at this time of year," Kane said. "We're both at the top of the standings in the West and have something to play for. It's pretty cool."

Here's a closer look at the rivalry. as well as some matchups and key figures:

Not the Canucks:

For the Hawks, their rivalry with Detroit is different from the one they have with Vancouver.

"Not as chippy," goalie Corey Crawford said.

The Hawks don't like the Canucks after three straight years of playoff battles. There seems to be more of a respect factor involved when it comes to facing the Red Wings.

"Detroit's a good team, and we have to be cautious of them," Dave Bolland said. "I don't know how many years they've been on top in the league. They're one of those teams that are always good, they have good players, and they're always doing the right things."

For Hawks veterans such as Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, the rivalry with Detroit is one they grew up experiencing.

"It's the No. 1 rival since I've been here," Sharp said. "Even going back to the days when we had 8,000 or 10,000 people, it seems Detroit came to town the building was sold out, lots of energy and fans get into it a lot on both sides.

"In the early goings they beat up on us a lot, and now we've kind of evened the ground a little bit. They're a team, I don't want to say we look up to, but we kind of model ourselves after. When we first started, me and Duncs and Seabs, we were getting beat 6-1 every time we played those guys.

"As far as the comparisons to Vancouver, there's probably a little more dislike against Vancouver because of the playoff series and the head-to-head matchups, but they are two great rivalries."

Toews vs. Datsyuk:

There aren't two more complete centers in the NHL than the Hawks' captain and the Red Wings' dynamic Russian.

"Johnny just keeps getting better and better," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Datsyuk is the total package as well, highly skilled and physical. He regularly turns in plays that make jaws drop.

For Bolland, the Hawks' shutdown defensive center, there are tough matchups, and then there is trying to contain Datsyuk.

"He's got some pretty nice dangles," Bolland said. "The way he uses his body in front of the puck, he's a great player and one of the top players in this league. He's really deceiving even throwing some of those counter hits. I think I've tried to do it one or two times and he's always got me.

"He's got great hands, he's got great skill, he's got great vision. I don't think there's much else to say about him."

The Lidstrom factor:

Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom is 41 years old.

Really, he is.

You wouldn't know it by his numbers, which include a plus-18 in almost 24 minutes of ice time per night, 8 goals and 23 points.

Nobody on the Wings plays more than their ageless captain, who has won seven Norris Trophies and at this point in the season would certainly have to be considered a finalist for an eighth award.

Advantage, Hawks:

When the Red Wings decided they didn't have enough money to keep Marian Hossa following the 2008-09 season, it was one of the greatest things that could have happened to the Hawks.

Dale Tallon, then the Hawks' general manager, jumped at the chance to add Hossa and the rest has helped make hockey history in Chicago.

Hossa helped the Hawks win the Stanley Cup in 2010 and this season has been one of the best players in the NHL -- a top-10 scorer in the league with 40 points and certainly at least the team's co-MVP with Toews through the first three months.

No introductions:

A program from last April would still work with this Red Wings team.

The only significant addition since last season is defenseman Ian White, while defenseman Brian Rafalski and goalie Chris Osgood have retired.

For the most part, all the names are the same in Detroit: Datsyuk, Lidstrom, Zetterberg, Cleary, Bertuzzi, Kronwall, Franzen, Filppula, Hudler and Holmstrom -- names you'll be hearing a lot over the next few weeks.

The Hawks have six players who will be experiencing the Detroit rivalry for the first time, including Daniel Carcillo.

"It's always nice to play in these kind of games," Carcillo said. "Detroit plays with a lot of passion and it will be a good challenge for us as a team to play them."

• Follow Tim's Hawks reports via Twitter @TimSassone and check out his Between the Circles blog at dailyherald.com.

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