Hockey players tend to give credit where credit is due, even after they've been slammed face-first into the boards or cross-checked in the back or speared in the nether regions. Or in the case of the Chicago's Patrick Kane, even after you've had your mouthguard yanked from your teeth and tossed to the ice — and maybe even spat on? — by an angry Mule, which is what happened the last time the Blackhawks and Red Wings met in the playoffs and Johan Franzen finally grew tired of Kane's yapping.

And yet, to hear Kane talk now, that's just the kind of indignity every championship wannabe must endure. Because all those years of chasing the Red Wings is what turned the Blackhawks into, well …

"That's really the team that we have kind of — I don't want to say grown to be," Kane admitted late last week, "but it's almost like they've groomed us to be the Red Wings."

Now the task is to beat the Red Wings, beginning with Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals tonight at the United Center. And that's something this Chicago team and its coach have yet to do, even as they've done just about everything else.

The Blackhawks did, in fact, win the Stanley Cup in 2010, a year after getting schooled by the Red Wings as Detroit advanced to its second straight Cup Finals. And though Chicago has been bounced in the first round of the playoffs the past two years, Joel Quenneville's team is the betting favorite to win it all this spring after starting the lockout-shortened regular season with an NHL-record 24-game unbeaten streak and then cruising to the Presidents' Trophy.

Now they're here, facing a familiar opponent. Only this time the roles are reversed.

"For a lot of years, the Wings beat up on us," said forward Patrick Sharp, who arrived in Chicago in 2005 during a 10-year span when the Blackhawks made one playoff appearance. "And it wasn't fun playing that team."

The Red Wings, meanwhile, are quietly reveling in their underdog status.

"By no means are we probably the most talented Red Wings team," said goaltender Jimmy Howard, who took over as the Red Wings starter in 2010. "But every single guy in here works hard. And in the end, that goes a long way."