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Roenick talks of Babcock-Chelios rift
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/22/2009 12:01 AM

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Leave it to Jeremy Roenick to stir the pot in a series he has nothing to do with.

Roenick, appearing Thursday on "Monsters in the Morning" with Mike North and Dan Jiggets, claimed there's a deep rift between Chris Chelios, his former teammate with the Blackhawks, and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock that is keeping the 47-year-old defenseman off the ice.

Roenick even went so far as to suggest Babcock has something against American-born players.

"The coach just doesn't like him for some ungodly reason," Roenick said. "I think he's got a grudge against American players, but he does not like Cheli at all."

The Red Wings have four other Americans on their roster in Brian Rafalski, Brett Lebda, Ty Conklin and Justin Abdelkader.

Chelios has appeared in only four of Detroit's 13 playoff games.

"I don't know if it's a hatred, because hate is a strong word, but there is some underlying issue there that I don't understand," Roenick said. "You know Babcock is the coach. You have to respect him for his decisions and who he plays. Sometimes it's just the verbal stuff that goes back and forth from what I understand. Cheli will never complain. He is the ultimate professional. He will do whatever the team needs.

"If you'd know some of the things that Babcock says to Chris Chelios, it would make your stomach turn," Roenick said. "Just total disrespect for him, not even just one of the best Americans, but one of the best defensemen to ever play the game.

"The way he is talked to is just unacceptable. I wish I could elaborate, but that's not proper. It's just disrespectful."

Vote of confidence: Hawks coach Joel Quenneville gave a vote of confidence to goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin on Thursday. Khabibulin has a save percentage of just .899 for the playoffs, but it is slightly better at .912 for the first two games against the Red Wings.

"Khabby's been fine. He's been good for us," Quenneville said. "They're a team that puts a lot of pucks in there and when they do have chances sometimes they're the highest of quality.

"In Game 1 he had a great second period and kept us in the game. The last game they had as many chances or more than they had the first game. You're always going to be tested and challenged. That's why goaltending is very important and he gives us a chance."

Khabibulin has not spoken to reporters the entire series.

Keith sits out: Duncan Keith did not practice again Thursday along with teammates Nikolai Khabibulin, Sammy Pahlsson and Matt Walker.

Keith sounded like he was battling the flu when he talked with the media after Tuesday's Game 2 loss. His minutes are down in the series to the point where he played less than 22 in Game 2.

"Dunc plays a lot of minutes and he's not a big guy and it's a long season," Joel Quenneville said. "So we want to make sure we keep his energy as best we can and keep him ready."

Bring earplugs: The Red Wings say they will be ready for the noise tonight in the United Center.

"I think it's great," coach Mike Babcock said. "You want to quiet it. When we went to Columbus this year in the playoffs in the first round, I thought their crowd was awesome. I really did.

"You know, we've been in a number of buildings. We were in Edmonton one year, in Pittsburgh - there's been some fantastic buildings. The crowd's not going to play any minutes, but there's going to be some energy in the building. I think you can build on it as a visitor, too."

Tip-ins: Detroit center Pavel Datsyuk didn't practice Thursday because of the puck he took off his ankle in Game 2, although Mike Babcock expects him to play. ... The Hawks announced that their second fan convention set for July 17-19 at the Chicago Hilton and Towers is a sellout.