Taking a look at a challenging, Detroit-filled final eight games for the Chicago Blackhawks

In 2009, the Detroit Red Wings punted the young but talented Chicago Blackhawks out of the playoffs in an exciting playoff series. This time around, they might not need to wait until the postseason to spoil the fun for their historic rivals.

As Tracey Myers points out, the Blackhawks begin a must-win stretch run against their hated division foes tonight (at 7:30 pm ET on Versus). If that wasn’t enough, Chicago faces Detroit in a home-and-home series during their last two games of the 2010-11 season, a duo of contests that might end up determining their playoff fate.

That isn’t the only thing that’s challenging about Chicago’s final eight games. Let’s take a look at their final eight games, with some commentary.

Tonight: @ Detroit

Thoughts: The bright side is that they’ll face a lesser goalie in Joey MacDonald. The negative end, though, is that Johan Franzen will be back in action.

Tomorrow (March 29th): @ Boston

Thoughts: In the span of two days, Chicago will travel to two division leaders. That’s a tough combo, especially since the Bruins will beat up on them after the Red Wings will likely wear them down a bit with their puck possession style.

Friday, April 1st: @ Columbus

Thoughts: There’s good news and bad news with this one. On the bright side, they get a breather after Tuesday’s game against Boston and face a beatable team in the Blue Jackets. The negative is that it’s yet another road game.

Sunday, April 3rd: Home vs. Tampa Bay

Thoughts: The Lightning have been struggling lately and the Blackhawks get to play this game at home. This isn’t a cakewalk, but Chicago has a solid chance of winning this game.

Tuesday, April 5th: @ Montreal

Thoughts: With four of their next five games on the road – and four games against playoff teams in that period – it’s going to be a tough run for the Hawks. The Habs have been a bit shaky lately too, but getting two points from a game in Montreal is never a sure thing.

Wednesday, April 6th: Home vs. St. Louis

Thoughts: Another back-to-back at least partially damages the perks of getting this game at home, but perhaps the Blues will acknowledge tank mode in this one.

Friday, April 8th: @ Detroit

Thoughts: This is the first half of a home-and-home with the Red Wings …

Sunday, April 10th: Home vs. Detroit

Thoughts: … Which the Blackhawks hope won’t mean much for Detroit. An ideal scenario would be that the Red Wings already are firmly in their second or third seed, so maybe they decide to rest their veterans a bit. That might not be likely, though, since the team would surely prefer it if Chicago wasn’t a nuisance for them in the postseason.

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Ultimately, the Blackhawks’ fate is in their own hands. With the Calgary Flames hurting from a games remaining standpoint, it’s probably going to be a three-horse race between Chicago, the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars for the final two playoff spots. (I’m not saying the Flames are finished, just their odds are the slimmest.)

The Ducks and Stars play against each once and square off against Pacific Division opponents for the rest of the run, which might or might not be a good thing for the Blackhawks (depending on how many three-point games take place). The bottom line is that Chicago’s best course of action is to take the bull by the horns rather than hope that Anaheim or Dallas stumbles.

It won’t be easy, though, and it looks like Chicago’s road to the playoffs will go through Detroit. Part I of what could be a suspenseful, horror-tinged trilogy begins in about 30 minutes.

Video: This Kane-to-Panarin goal is all sorts of ridiculous

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When people were arguing against Artemi Panarin‘s Calder case, they often discounted his work because of Patrick Kane‘s brilliance (at least when they weren’t focusing on age questions).

It always felt a little unfair to Panarin.

Do we blame a great wide receiver playing with an adept quarterback? Sure, it’s an interesting discussion to have, but it seems fairly clear that there’s a symbiotic relationship between Panarin and Kane.

One could see that plainly in a 1-0 goal for the Chicago Blackhawks against the Pittsburgh Penguins that … admittedly was driven by Kane’s almost audacious creativity and skill.

But still, Panarin has 26 goals this season because he’s really good, too. This season has been a nice showcase for such thoughts, and a reminder that – like most great combinations – they make each other better.

(Seriously though, Kane was out of his mind there.)

‘Old Time Hockey’ video game takes a bit of an early beating from reviewers

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From the sound of things, “Old Time Hockey” is a video game with a lot of heart, but maybe not the skills to make it to the big time.

While “NHL 17” is pumped out by publishing giant EA Sports, this title is very much an independent labor of love by a company called V7 Entertainment. Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy provided a great interview with the developers here. It’s worth noting that the game reminds one of 8-bit titles in another way: lacking an NHL license, these teams are instead fictional. This isn’t necessarily a drawback as much as it provides the title with its own unique “flavor.”

It’s hard not to get behind a scrappy development, especially in an age where sports video game options are so scarce. Some leagues barely see any licensed games any longer (see: the MLB, which feels woefully misrepresented these days), and the arcade-style that “Blades of Steel” and other old-school games popularized is even tougher to come by.

Combine these factors with an aesthetic inspired by “Slap Shot” and “Old Time Hockey” seems like it could really scratch an itch … except, it sounds like the puck missed the net.

So far, reviews are pretty mixed for the title, which is currently on PC and Playstation 4 (with planned releases on Xbox One and Nintendo Switch).

While there are a few good reviews here and there, the general reception is of disappointment.

A Sporting News review states that “the promising premise falls apart quickly.” Game Informer slams a “slew-footed story mode.” PC Gamer notes that, with EA not releasing an NHL game on that platform since 2008, there was a need here … but it wasn’t met.

Does that mean there’s no fun to be had? Not necessarily, but it’s a bummer that the game might be off the mark, especially since V7 Entertainment seems to have its heart in the right place.

Then again, maybe those who want that “NHL 94” fix merely need to dig a little. As this Vice article points out, there’s still an active community playing the sort of game that scratches the itch that “Old Time Hockey” – perhaps – can’t quite reach.

WATCH LIVE: Blackhawks at Penguins – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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The latest edition of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivalry presents quite the treat: the Chicago Blackhawks at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Both teams are at 103 standings points and each squad already punched a ticket to the playoffs. Even so, they’re dealing with mini-slumps that they’d like to work out tonight.

For all we know, this could be a preview of what would be one extremely fun, high-profile 2017 Stanley Cup Final. Either way, it’s a showcase of two premiere franchises brimming with star power.

You can watch on NBCSN, online and via NBC Sports App. Click here for the livestream.

Yes, NHL will share protected, available player lists for expansion draft

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We can debate all day how much the NHL, Vegas Golden Knights and others involved really want to do this, but they’re making the right choice with the expansion draft nonetheless. The league will make protected and available players lists available at the same time they’re shared with teams, according to NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika.

(The NHL tweeted out as much, too.)

Could this lead to feelings being hurt or perhaps even certain sneaky deals being scuttled? Perhaps, but those are headaches that management should be expected to absorb.

The bottom line is that an expansion draft is a dream come true for armchair GMs, rumor enthusiasts, fantasy sports fans and … really, just about anyone interested in hockey. It would be a bewildering decision to try to keep all of this information locked down, even for a league that frequently garners a reputation for choosing comfort over entertainment value.

Cotsonika reports that such lists will probably be made available on June 18, though that isn’t set in stone. NHL.com’s Dan Rosen also backs this up as a possible date.

(If you’re the type to take off work if a trade deadline was exciting, you might want to start drumming up excuses/putting aside vacation time/practicing your best “I’m sick” voice just in case …)

Cap Friendly provides a handy timeline for the expansion draft process: