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updated: 4/8/2012 12:11 AM

Blackhawks will face Phoenix in first round

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  • Blackhawks center Patrick Kane gets Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard leaning to his right before putting the puck past him Saturday for the only goal in the shootout.

      Blackhawks center Patrick Kane gets Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard leaning to his right before putting the puck past him Saturday for the only goal in the shootout.
    Associated Press

 
 

A year ago on the final day of the NHL season, all eyes were on Minnesota to see if the Blackhawks had a chance to somehow back into the postseason fight.

This year, the Hawks looked to Minnesota on the final day again, but only to determine when and where to book their flight.

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Phoenix it is.

The Coyotes clinched the first Pacific Division title in franchise history with a 4-1 victory over the Wild, setting up an opening-round showdown against the sixth-seeded Hawks beginning either Wednesday or Thursday in Phoenix.

For a while Saturday afternoon, it looked like the Hawks were a sure bet to be heading to Music City to take on the Predators. But a pair of third period goals by Detroit -- including Pavel Datsyuk's game-tying goal with 46 seconds left -- changed everything.

The Hawks went on to win 3-2 in the shootout on Patrick Kane's tricked-out goal, but without a win in regulation, the Hawks' fate was already sealed -- they were heading west.

"What are you going to do? They played a good game," Kane said of the Wings. "Either way, we were going on the road anyway. I guess it doesn't really matter too much to us."

The Hawks went 1-2-1 against the Coyotes during the regular season.

"We said going into the game that there are no bargains out there," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville told reporters. "All four teams (we were) eligible to play we had losing records against. Wherever the chips fell, that was the chance."

As it turns out, it's Phoenix. With their win Saturday night, the Coyotes made a little history -- something that was on their minds heading into the game.

"It's an honor and a privilege to be in the playoffs, but our goal is to win the division, which we've never done here in Phoenix," defenseman Keith Yandle said before the season finale. "It's something that we have to embrace and get those two points."

The Hawks, who got goals Saturday from Viktor Stalberg and Andrew Shaw, wrapped up the regular season by going 6-1-3 in their final 10 games.

"We're excited with where we're at," Quenneville said. "We had an excellent finish to our season and have momentum going into the playoffs."

The exact dates and times of the first-round playoff matches will be unveiled at noon today on the NHL Network and NHL.com.

"It's going to be a battle come Wednesday or Thursday, no matter who we get," Patrick Sharp said.

"Hopefully we can do some special things," Kane said. "I think we can with this group ... and have a long postseason."

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