Blackhawks battling for playoff spot as they face downtrodden Red Wings

NHL
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The Detroit Red Wings had 24 victories at this stage of the season a year ago. A strong finish led to a 32-win total, though they were well out of the playoff picture.

This season has been much worse. They have notched just 15 wins with approximately a month remaining. They’re hoping to finish on a high note once again, beginning with a home game against Chicago on Friday. It won’t be easy, as the Blackhawks will be riding a four-game winning streak.

The Wings are in the midst of a four-game homestand, though it doesn’t feel that way. That’s because they haven’t played since Monday, when they dropped a 2-1 decision to Colorado.

Detroit has gone winless in its last six games and 10 of its last 11 outings. The Wings wasted another strong effort by goalie Jonathan Bernier against the Avalanche. He stopped 25 shots but the offense was once again anemic.

“From December on, he’s done a really good job. You don’t have an opportunity to win in this league if you don’t get that type of goaltending.” coach Jeff Blashill said. “If you look around the league, the teams that do well get that type of goaltending.”

At the start of the season, Bernier was in a timeshare with longtime No. 1 goaltender Jimmy Howard. Bernier emerged as the team’s top netminder in midseason with Howard enduring the worst year of his career.

“I feel good. To be honest, I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time,” Bernier told NHL.com. “All the effort I put in in the summer, it pays off in the season. I feel like they’ve done a good job managing me for practice and making sure I’m ready for games.”

Bernier has recorded all but two of the team’s wins. In February, he had a .911 save percentage, aided by the knowledge he’d be the starter most nights.

“When you don’t play a lot, sometimes you’re putting a little bit more pressure on yourself to win and show that you can be the guy,” Bernier said to NHL.com. “It’s definitely not maybe the right way to approach it, but I think once you know it’s your net, I just find like, for me, it’s easier to go out there and just do my job.”

Chicago won the first meeting this season between the Original Six members, 4-2, on Jan. 5 after trailing 2-0 through the first 35 minutes.

The Blackhawks will be playing the second end of a back-to-back. They held off Edmonton at home, 4-3, on Thursday. Alex DeBrincat led the way with two goals as they built a 3-0 lead, then staved off the Oilers’ late charge.

Patrick Kane scored the first goal of the game, reaching the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career. Chicago is now three games above .500 as it tries to rally for a playoff spot.

“It’s a good number,” he said. “Throughout the season, you start thinking about those numbers, whether it’s 20 or 30. Obviously, you want to get even more than that. I think we’ve got 15 games left here, so (let’s) finish strong. I think if I finish strong and do my part, we might have a good chance to get in.”

–Field Level Media

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