DETROIT (AP) — Detroit needed to win each of its last four games of the regular season just to get into the NHL playoffs for the 22nd straight season.
After rallying from a 3-2 series deficit against Anaheim, the seventh-seeded Red Wings refused to be knocked out and credited that regular-season streak for getting them to the second round.
"Those last four games really helped our team," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "We almost had a series before the postseason started."
The Red Wings' reward isn't much of a prize.
The league's top-seeded team, the Chicago Blackhawks, will host Game 1 on Wednesday night to start a best-of-seven series in which they'll be heavily favored. During the regular season, Chicago beat Detroit in overtime once, twice in shootouts and added a 7-1 rout March 31 at Joe Louis Arena.
"They had our number the regular season," Zetterberg said. "It's a great team. They're stacked with forwards. They're stacked in the back line. And they have a good goalie. It's going to be a tough series for us, but it's going to be a fun one."
It's also might be the last time the two Original Six teams play each other in the postseason for a long time. After this year, the next time they would meet in the playoffs, it would be for the Stanley Cup.
The Western Conference rivals, who have split a dozen seven-game series, will be interconference foes next year because Detroit is headed to the Eastern Conference as part of the league's realignment.
The Red Wings might be able to play loose with nothing to lose because few outside of their dressing room will expect them to reach the conference finals for the first time since 2009. That year, Detroit eliminated Chicago in five games and was a win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions.
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