Playoffs Tonight: Wings, ‘Hawks division rivalry ends with Game 7

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The defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings will participate in the Western Conference finals. Tonight their opponent will be determined in a win or go home Game 7:

Chicago Blackhawks hosts Detroit Red Wings (8:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN/Live Extra)
Series tied at 3-3

The Red Wings pushed the Blackhawks to the brink, but haven’t been able to seal the deal. After taking a 3-1 series lead, Chicago won cleanly on Saturday and came back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period.

Still, the Red Wings don’t seem demoralized going into this contest. In fact, Detroit coach Mike Babcock seems rather upbeat.

“If I would’ve told Detroit and Michigan we would play in Chicago in Game 7, I think everybody would be excited about that,” coach Mike Babcock said, according to the Detroit News. “I love Game 7s. We’ve got a chance to push them out of the playoffs. It should be a lot of fun.”

He’s right, going into this series most people didn’t just expect Chicago to win, they expected them to do it cleanly. Instead for three consecutive games the Red Wings, and goaltender Jimmy Howard in particular, did a great job of neutralizing Chicago’s potent offense.

Lately though, it’s been another story. The Blackhawks top players have begun to thaw from their cold stretches and their depth players have come up big as well. Michael Frolik, Michal Handzus and Bryan Bickell were the heroes in Chicago’s come-from-behind victory on Monday.

“You can feel it: guys want to be on the ice, they’re comfortable out there,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville told CSN Chicago. “We’re excited about the opportunity. I like the way we played the last couple of games and we want to play our best game [tonight].”

With Detroit moving to the Eastern Conference next season, this Central division rivalry will end tonight. Both teams seemed pumped for what should be a thrilling close to this chapter of the game.