By Adam Harris–
Last weekend was a big one for the Chicago Blackhawks, as they split a home and home with their divisional rivals the Nashville Predators, and this weekend will be just as big but a little different.
The Blackhawks face the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday afternoon and the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday afternoon, both are offensive powerhouses.
“Some of their star players can really make you look silly sometimes, especially for Detroit.” captain Jonathan Toews said today after practice. “That’s the only difference between a team like that and a team like Nashville, where Nashville is a tough team to play and was good preparation for these next two games.”
The Flyers and Red Wings rank number one and two respectively in goals per game average in the NHL. Not to mention, the Flyers are leading the Eastern Conference in the standings and the Red Wings are second in the Western Conference.
“They will be tight games just like they were against Nashville and Nashville is a hard working team that doesn’t give you a lot of offense,” Toews said. “Obviously we need to be much smarter and aware of some of these two team’s top guns.”
The top guns Toews is talking about are Red Wings winger Henrik Zetterberg who ranks 7th in the NHL in points with 51 and Flyers’ winger Danny Briere who ranks 6th in goals scored with 24.
“We can’t go into games thinking that we are going to catch up late,” head coach Joel Quenneville said today. “All of the sudden the pace is going to be too fast if we are going to just be absorbing what is coming our way. We have to be ready to set the pace and dictate as much as we can. The first ten minutes in Detroit are important for us, but we cannot anticipate that we are going to catch up in the middle of the games.”
A fast start seems to be the key to this big weekend for the Blackhawks. They have used their time off this week well, with hard practices and team bonding. The team attended a charity poker tournament held by defenseman Brian Campbell on Tuesday night to benefit autism, and the players were buzzing all week about it in the locker room.
This has not deterred from the ice, however, as practices have been intense.
“I liked today’s pace,” Quenneville said. “I thought we had a good speed and temp to our practice. I thought Tuesday’s was all right too. We want one more hard day tomorrow to make sure we are ready because we have a great test this weekend.”
Puck drops Saturday in Detroit at 1pm and Sunday at 11:30am in Chicago. The Sunday game is the NHL Game of the Week and can be seen on NBC.