CHICAGO – The Detroit Red Wings as a whole know they’re going to face a very, very desperate Chicago Blackhawks team in Game 5 tonight at the United Center.
“Your backs are against the wall, you can’t afford to lose a game,” forward Justin Abdelkader said Saturday after the Wings’ morning skate. “We know they’re going to come out with their best effort and they’re going to work hard. We have to match their intensity.”
The Wings can close out their best-of-seven Western Conference semifinal series with the Blackhawks with a win tonight.
From the looks of the Blackhawks’ morning skate, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane will be reunited, along with Patrick Sharp to form their top line.
“They had Toews, Hossa and Sharp in Games 2 and 3 for a little bit,” forward Daniel Cleary said. “They’re great players, you just try to compete with them, play as hard as you can on them.”
Kane has two of Chicago’s six goals in the series.
“I think Kane is one of the most talented players in the world,” Cleary said. “Johnny’s got such work ethic and determination, Sharp’s a great shooter, a smart guy. It’s a talented line. You’re looking at three All-Stars on a line. You play hard, you match their skating, their intensity, have good body positioning on them, take away their speed and you have a chance.”
Toews has yet to score this postseason.
“It’s their top two offensive players so we just have to play them hard and smart,” Abdelkader said. “They’re two highly skilled forwards. They’re probably going to try and mix and match all game. We’ll be ready for whatever they do.
“They’ve played separate a lot, but at the same time we’ll ready for it,” Abdelkader continued. “They’re going to try to move things and shuffle things around so we’ll be prepared for whatever they throw at us.”
Wings coach Mike Babcock wasn’t sure what line of his would matchup against Chicago’s new top line, but it’s a safe bet they’ll do everything possible to have Henrik Zetterberg on the ice.
Zetterberg has shadowed Toews the entire series.
“Well I think if you mention those two on the second line they have two pretty good players there too, so you kind of pick your poison there,” Zetterberg said. “They’re such a deep team. They can put guys together on the first line and still have great guys on the second line, so for us we just try to focus on playing god defense and not focus so much on who you’re playing against.”
Michal Handzus will center the second line between Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell.
“You know he’s good on faceoffs, he’s strong on his stick,” Zetterberg said of Handzus. “You have to try to move a lot, skate a lot and try to find open spots. He’s been around the league for many, many years. He’s a good player and if that’s the case it will be a little different look for our line, but we’ll handle that in our way.”
“If we do anything different, Hossa and other guys will burn us,” defenseman Kyle Quincey said. “It’s status quo for us. Obviously, they’re all great players and we have to respect them and keep their time and space to a minimum.”
Babcock made a similar move prior to Game 7 against the Anaheim Ducks in the last round, but this time it was to separate his top two offensive forwards, Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.
“We’re going to be ready and be prepared,” Babcock said. “We’ve got Datsyuk on one unit and Zetterberg on another and I assume Toews has to play against one of them and I assume Handzus has to play against another.”