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Hawks ready for Sharks after polishing off Vancouver

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VANCOUVER -- The Chicago Blackhawks will prepare for the Western Conference Final in Northern California this week with a bit of a swagger knowing they had the San Jose Sharks' number during the regular season.

But everyone who skates with the Indian head on his chest will also have one thought racing through the back of his mind all week long: For heaven's sake, look at what these Sharks just did to Detroit.

"I watched that series and that was inspiring hockey," Hawks center
Patrick Sharp told of San Jose's five-game romp over the Red Wings. "They played awesome from top to bottom. They were playing great hockey, as good as I've seen in a while."

Patrick Kane said after Chicago's series-clinching 5-1 win over Vancouver on Tuesday that "it's really surprising for (the Sharks) to be able to finish (the Wings) off that quick." Defenseman Duncan Keith gave the Sharks credit for what they did and added that he knows they're rolling right now -- and have been since Game 4 against Colorado when they were in as close to a must-win situation as you could be.

San Jose was down 2-1 to the eighth-seeded Avalanche after defenseman Dan Boyle scored an own goal 51 seconds into overtime of Game 3 in Denver. The Sharks are 7-1 since, 4-0 at home.

"We know they're a confident group right now," Keith told "They came back and played real strong against Colorado and obviously to beat a team like Detroit in five you're doing something right. They have a big, strong group of forwards that can skate as well as some of their defensemen. They were first in our conference for a reason."

But the Blackhawks were merely a short step behind the Sharks in the Western Conference, finishing with 112 points to San Jose's 113. The Hawks had one more win, 52-51, and you can say that it's because they won at the Shark Tank.

Chicago was actually 3-1-0 against the Sharks this season, a fact that might mean diddly right now but does at least hold some water in the Hawks' dressing room.

"It gives us confidence going in,"
Kris Versteeg told "That's a tough building to play in and they're a similar team to Vancouver where they have the two really big lines. But we have four really good lines, too. We have four lines that can play against any line and we have to be confident going in there knowing we can play with them."

And, as Versteeg noted, let's also not forget what the Blackhawks just accomplished.

They won three straight road games to beat the third-seeded Vancouver Canucks and their gold medal-winning goalie in the Western Conference Semifinal. For as dangerous as they are, the Red Wings were the fifth seed with an unproven playoff goalie.

Vancouver was a better team and the Blackhawks made them look silly at times during the series. They won Game 6 Tuesday night in a rout.

"You have to give (the Sharks) a lot of respect for doing what they did," Versteeg said, "but you have to give us a lot of respect for doing what we did as well."

You have to believe the Sharks will, especially after how the regular-season series against Chicago went.

"We can draw from our experiences in the regular season," Sharp said. "Those were big games and I remember them well, they were almost playoff atmosphere-type games. But you can also throw all that stuff out going into this series."

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