IF THE Chicago Blackhawks-Detroit Red Wings rivalry is about to undergo a transformation, the Blackhawks want to have the final say.
They got the first word. Johnny Oduya and Marcus Kruger scored in the third period, Corey Crawford made 20 saves and the Blackhawks beat the visiting Wings, 4-1, in the opener of their second-round Western Conference playoff series last night.
Detroit moves to the Eastern Conference next season.
"As happy as we are about going to the Eastern Conference, we are going to be giving up something that's pretty special," Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said. "It's like Michigan State no longer having Michigan on the schedule."
Chicago dominated the final two periods in its first game in the conference semifinals since it won the Stanley Cup in 2010. Marian Hossa scored the opening goal, and Patrick Sharp had an empty-netter and two assists to give him nine points in the playoffs.
"I thought it was our best game of the playoffs, no question," Sharp said.
Jimmy Howard finished with 38 stops in a terrific performance, but Detroit still lost to rival Chicago for the eighth straight time dating to last season.
The series resumes on Saturday afternoon at the United Center.
Kings center Jarret Stoll is likely to miss Game 2 of the series against the San Jose Sharks tonight after a hard, shoulder-to-shoulder hit from Raffi Torres in Tuesday's 2-0 win by the Kings.