Though the Chicago Blackhawks already secured their first Presidents' Trophy in 22 years, they expect to use the final two regular-season games as a chance to build more momentum heading into the playoffs.
The Blackhawks won't take it easy when they look to continue their home dominance over the Calgary Flames on Friday night.
Chicago (35-6-5) opened this shortened season by earning at least one point in an NHL-record 24 straight games, then remained consistent en route to earning the league's best record and Presidents' Trophy for the first time since 1990-91.
"To have the start to the season that we had and to keep playing consistently is an amazing thing for our team,' said captain Jonathan Toews, who had a goal in Wednesday's 4-1 win at Edmonton. "We've shown a lot of character, we've definitely learned from our mistakes the last few years, and we've grown. I think everyone has matured as players in this locker room.
"We have to use that experience and use that confidence from being the No. 1 team all year and carry it into the playoffs.'
Though the Blackhawks will have home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs, they understand there's plenty of work to be done. The 2008 Detroit Red Wings were the last Presidents' Trophy winner to raise the Stanley Cup. When Chicago recorded the most points in the NHL in 1991, it was upset in the first round by the Minnesota North Stars.
Coach Joel Quenneville and his players are aware of that history and expect to take the same businesslike approach they've had all season into Friday's contest and again Saturday at St. Louis, before shifting the focus to the playoffs.
"I congratulate the guys, they deserve what they got," said Quenneville, whose team is 17-3-3 at home and riding a seven-game point streak (5-0-2) at the United Center.
"Everybody had a hand in it, everybody contributed. It was a real, good team effort across the board. But I don't think we want to get too excited, we have some serious work to do still."
That work continues versus Calgary (19-24-4), which has been outscored 52-23 while dropping 12 straight regular season and playoff games at Chicago.
Toews has been held without a point in three straight games against the Flames, but teammate Patrick Kane has four goals and five assists in his last eight versus Calgary.
Chicago netminder Ray Emery earned victories in both 2013 meetings with the Flames, but is day to day after he apparently re-aggravated a lower-body injury Wednesday.
Corey Crawford, who stopped all 14 shots in relief, is 2-2-0 with a 3.26 goals-against average versus Calgary.
The Flames conclude their fourth straight season without a playoff appearance looking to avoid a third consecutive defeat. Finishing with a four-game trip, Calgary had won three in a row before losing 4-3 at Nashville on Tuesday and 4-1 to playoff-bound St. Louis on Thursday.
"There was a big difference in the two teams (Thursday)," defenseman Chris Butler told the Flames' official website. "You look at the way they played and the way we played and there's a reason why they are where they are in the standings and why we are where we are."
Sven Baertschi scored against the Blues to extend his point streak to seven games (three goals and six assists). The winger's three goals in 20 games this season match his total in five contests as a rookie in 2011-12.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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