One thing is for certain, the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings will meet two more times before the 2011 season ends, and the Blackhawks are hoping there are few a more meetings to come.
But the Red Wings may have a chance to keep the reigning Stanley Cup champions out of the postseason altogether.
The bitter rivals begin a crucial home-and-home series Friday night in Detroit, with the Blackhawks still trying to solidify their playoff position.
Chicago (43-28-9) is in better shape than it would have been without Jonathan Toews’ overtime goal Wednesday, which gave the team a 4-3 win over St. Louis after back-to-back defeats.
Still, the Blackhawks may need three points from their final two games to secure a berth, depending on how many points Anaheim and Dallas can claim. Chicago is tied with the Ducks for the final two playoff spots, but the Stars are just two points behind.
The Central Division champion Red Wings (46-24-10) enter Friday in third place in the Western Conference, one point back of San Jose for the No. 2 seed after a 3-0 loss Wednesday at Carolina. If Chicago moves up to sixth or seventh in the crowded West, that may mean a first-round clash between the Original Six foes.
The Blackhawks likely can’t afford to consider such a scenario yet. They rallied from a 2-0 deficit against the Blues, then recovered after squandering a third-period lead.
“When it comes down to OT or late in the third period, we’re going to find a way to win,” Toews said. “You saw the motivation, the determination we had on the ice tonight.”
Patrick Sharp returned to the lineup Wednesday after missing seven games with a knee injury and earned an assist on Chicago’s first goal, a controversial Marian Hossa tally that held up after a lengthy video review.
Although Sharp missed the Blackhawks’ 3-2 win in Detroit on March 28, which Hossa ended with an overtime goal, he totaled two points in victories over the Red Wings on Dec. 17 and Jan. 22.
“He had a lot of jump in his game,” coach Joel Quenneville said Wednesday of Sharp. “He added a lot of spirit to our team, and energy as well.”
While Sharp’s return may help ignite the Blackhawks, the loss of Henrik Zetterberg may be a blow to Detroit.
The Wings’ leading scorer left Wednesday’s defeat midway through the first period with an apparent lower-body injury. Coach Mike Babcock said he doesn’t anticipate Zetterberg playing in either game against the Blackhawks.
“He’ll get checked out by our people, and we’ll go from there,” Babcock said.
That may not help an offense that put 42 shots on Carolina’s Cam Ward on Wednesday but was blanked for the first time since Feb. 5.
“A couple good point-blank saves on a few of us that turned the game and kept the game tight and in their favor,” veteran center Mike Modano said.
The Red Wings have lost their last four home games against Chicago and three straight meetings overall.
Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford is 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average against Detroit this season.
Copyright 2010 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. STATS LLC and The Associated Press contributed to this article. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.