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Chicago Blackhawks take division

By Colleen Boyle

Yesterday’s victory against the Calgary Flames was an important win for the Chicago Blackhawks. Prior to puck drop, Detroit Red Wings fall to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-3 and allow the Blackhawks to clinch the Central division title. This accomplishment is the team’s first division title since 1992-1993 season; however, at the time, it was titled the Norris division. The Red Wings have held the division title for the past eight consecutive seasons. Sunday’s win against the Flames allowed the team to tie the Blackhawks’ single season franchise record of 49 wins.

Blackhawks have four remaining games before the first round of playoffs and could still potentially take the top spot in the Western conference; but since clinching the division title, the Blackhawks are guaranteed a top three spot in the conference and home ice advantage in playoffs.

San Jose currently holds the top spot in the Western Conference and is only two points ahead of the Blackhawks. San Jose has three remaining games, and the Blackhawks have one additional game to play giving them an available eight points while San Jose only has six points available to finish out the regular season.

The remaining regular season schedule includes games against the Dallas Stars (eliminated from the playoffs), St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and a final game against Central division rivals—the Detroit Red Wings. Eight NHL teams are currently eliminated from the 2010 playoffs including: Toronto, Edmonton, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Florida, Columbus, Dallas, and Minnesota.

The season began favoring goaltender Christobal Huet, but of recent, Antti Niemi has been the team's starting Goalie and has given solid performances including three shutouts since March. Coach Quenneville has remained silent about who will be the number one goaltender in net when the playoffs begin sometime next week and continues his method of announcing the starting goalie on game day.

Patrick Kane recently spoke with NHL.com about the goalie situation and explains, "Obviously it gets talked about a lot and sometimes it’s a little unfair. It’s tough to put all the pressure on one guy. If I have a bad game, it’s like, ‘Well, it’s OK that he had a bad game.’ If they have a bad game it’s just so magnified on one person. I think it’ll work itself out, too."

In other news, prospect Kyle Beach who was Chicago’s first pick in the 2008 entry draft has been reassigned to the Rockford Icehogs from the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he leads the league with 52 goals this season. Most likely, Beach will be making his first NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks in the following season and could be a major influence in the offensive talent.

The team struggled through the month of March with some sloppy defensive plays and injuries that have sidelined Brian Campbell and Kim Johnsson. Campbell is predicted to be out 7-8 weeks indicating he potentially returns at the beginning of May. Johnsson has been a day-to-day decision for the past month; while still skating with the team on a regular basis, Johnsson has not appeared in a game since March 13, 2010.

The Blackhawks are beginning to show more confidence on ice since the Olympic break and hope to keep that confidence all the way to the Stanley Cup finale.

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