Blackhawks host Flames in first playoff game since 2002

Author:
Publish date:

Calgary at Chicago, Western Conference quarterfinal, Game One, 8:30 p.m. EDT

CHICAGO (AP) -- A parking lot now sits where the "Madhouse on

Madison" once rested, the venerable Chicago Stadium and it's

earsplitting confines. It's where Mike Keenan once roamed behind

the Blackhawks' bench.

His stint as coach from 1988-92 produced 60 playoff games, 33

postseason victories and a trip to the Stanley Cup finals in

1992.

"We had a pretty good run there, 60 playoff games in four years.

You couldn't get a seat in the building and I think they've

brought that back to life," Keenan said this week.

A man who has seemingly toured the NHL filling vacancies, Keenan

comes back to Chicago for Thursday night's Game 1 of the

opening-round playoff series as coach of the Calgary Flames.

And hockey has also returned in Chicago. Two years ago the

United Center could be half-empty, but now after a complete

makeover by owner Rocky Wirtz and the infusion of young players,

the Blackhawks are a big draw again. And they're back in the

playoffs for the first time in seven years.

"There is standing room only," Keenan said. "It's fun for the

players on both teams to be involved in that kind of

atmosphere."

The Blackhawks swept the Flames in four meetings during the

regular season, winning by a combined 19-7 score. But the teams

haven't played since early February, perhaps making that

head-to-head a little less telling.

"Not to say we don't respect them. We respect their ability,

yes," Keenan said. "At the same time the teams have changed and

the circumstances have changed."

The Flames added center Olli Jokinen and defenseman Jordan

Leopold since the teams last met. And Calgary, which flamed out

down the stretch and lost a chance to win the Northwest Division

title by finishing 7-11, will be healthier with the return of

left wing Ren?? Bourqe and All-Star defenseman Dion Phaneuf from

injuries.

The less experienced Blackhawks, by contrast, closed with a

rush, going 6-0-1 in their final seven games of a turnaround

season that featured the scoring of Martin Havlat and

20-year-old captain Jonathan Toews and the solid goaltending of

veteran Nikolai Khabibulin. Khabibulin has a career 22-5-2

regular-season record against the Flames and also was in goal

when Tampa Bay beat Calgary to win the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff won 45 games this season and had

a 2.84 GAA. His matchup with Khabibulin will be a key in the

series, as will Chicago's ability to contain Flames star Jarome

Iginla, who had 89 points.

"He's one of those guys who is hard to defend in all situations

every second he's on the ice," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville

said Wednesday after practice.

Keeping Iginla in check could be an assignment that falls to

Sammy Pahlsson, one of the Blackhawks' late-season acquisitions,

who played on a Stanley Cup winner in Anaheim and has 64 games

of postseason experience.

Dealing with Chicago's speed will be a challenge for the Flames,

who will also need to turn up their power play if they hope to

steal one of the first two games Chicago. Over the final 10

games, Calgary was 0-for-43 on the power play.

Game 2 will be played Saturday night in Chicago before the

best-of-seven series switches to the Pengrowth Saddledome --

another noisy venue -- for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on

Wednesday.

Quenneville, who took over four games into the season after

Denis Savard was fired, has brought structure, experience and

tougher defense to the Hawks, who won 22 road games this season

to tie a franchise record.

Quenneville knows the Flames will test his young team with a

physical approach.

"We've got to expect them to come at us that way. We have to

respond in- kind," he said.

"At the same time, we have to be smart at how we approach it. We

want to stay out of the penalty box, but a the same time the

physical part of the game is something we don't mind as well. "

TOP HEADLINES

Matvei Michkov
Play

Top 9 Players to Watch at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup

The 2022 and 2023 NHL drafts are looking mighty strong at the top, and many of the best prospects will be competing in the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup over the next weekend. Here are the prospects you need to know.

Alex Ovechkin head

Top 10 Best Hockey Commercials of All Time

Hockey has a great history of fantastic commercials. Here's a look at 10 of the best.

Evander Kane

Evander Kane Accused of Gambling on His Own Games

In an Instagram post, Evander Kane's wife accused the San Jose Sharks forward of gambling on his own NHL games.