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Posted On Tuesday, 05.14.2013 / 4:54 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Teams to take advantage of extra days off

Neither team plans to stick around long after the first and third games of a Western Conference Semifinal series between the Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.

The series starts Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and the Red Wings plan to fly back to Detroit prior to Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in the same arena.

Two days off between games combined with a short flight was too good for the Red Wings to pass up -- regardless how much coach Mike Babcock talked up the great places to eat in Chicago following Detroit's upset of the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday night.

"It's a little different," Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told reporters following a Tuesday practice in Detroit. "I wasn't expecting all of this time off, but we'll definitely use it to our advantage of not really hanging out in Chicago and coming back here. The comfortability is a lot more."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.14.2013 / 4:27 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Red Wings series blog

Stalberg could find himself watching start of series

CHICAGO -- Viktor Stalberg has practiced outside of the top four lines, in a white jersey, for each of the three practices the Chicago Blackhawks have held since winning their Western Conference Quarterfinal series last week.

That's usually a designation for a player who is injured -- meaning it's a non-contact jersey -- or for those who aren't being considered for the active lineup. The Blackhawks open their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and Stalberg isn’t injured.

So that can mean only one thing: He’s in coach Joel Quenneville's doghouse for some reason, likely based on his play in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. The only way to get out is to wait for another chance to impress, after finishing the first series with one assist.

"Stay ready," Quenneville said Tuesday when asked what Stalberg can do to get himself back on his usual spot at right wing of the third line. "Nobody said he's out of the lineup (for Game 1), but … make decisions tough on us."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.09.2013 / 3:27 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Harding will start Game 5 with Wild's season on line

CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild had three goalies on the ice for their morning skate Thursday, but Josh Harding will start against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center in Game 5 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).

Harding, who left Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday after one period with a lower-body injury, told Wild coach Mike Yeo following the skate he's healthy enough to start the elimination game. The Wild trail the best-of-7 series 3-1.

"[I was looking] to see him, obviously, go out there and make saves and more importantly for him to come to us and say he's ready," Yeo said. "We don't know how he feels, but you have to trust him. He says that he's good to go and there was absolutely no doubt about it. That's what we were looking for."

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Posted On Thursday, 05.09.2013 / 3:22 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Bolland, Emery again out for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The groin injury Dave Bolland is dealing with right now probably doesn't hurt the Chicago Blackhawks center as much as the fact he's not playing.

Bolland, along with goalie Ray Emery (lower-body injury), will miss Game 5 of the team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. CBC, RDS2, NBCSN). The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and with a win would advance to the conference semifinals.

Bolland and Emery have been scratched for the previous four games of the series.

"It eats [at you] a lot," Bolland said. "It's pretty painful, actually. It's not fun hanging out in the training room and the workout room while the guys are on the ice playing. You want to stay out of there as much as you can. It's never fun."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 4:40 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Blackhawks' top line staying confident

CHICAGO -- Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa worked well together all season as the top-line combination for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Through four games of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, however, all they've produced is one goal and one assist -- each credited to Hossa and coming without assistance from Toews or Saad.

The Wild, who trail 3-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 5 on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS2, NBCSN), are getting good results by playing their top defense pairing against the Blackhawks' top line.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 4:27 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Blackhawks hoping to cure power-play woes

CHICAGO -- It started fine, hit a lull, picked up at the end of the regular season and now the power play is back to troubling for the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Chicago is up 3-1 in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, with a chance to close it in Game 5 Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS2, NBCSN), but getting better results with the man-advantage is on the Blackhawks' list of things to do.

Chicago has scored on one of its first 11 power plays in the series (9.1 percent) after finishing 19th in the regular season (16.7 percent).

"It's definitely something we've talked a lot about," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said Wednesday. "The units have switched a lot throughout the season, but whoever's out there, you've just got to take pride in being out there and making something happen."

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.08.2013 / 2:55 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Bolland, Emery still 'doubtful' for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -– Leading 3-1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks stayed off the ice Wednesday, including injured goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland.

Emery and Bolland have missed the first four games of the series each with a lower-body injury, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the pair is doubtful to play in Game 5 on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS2, NBCSN).

"Nobody skated [Wednesday], but they’re both fine," Quenneville said. "[They’re both] doubtful for [Thursday]."

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Posted On Saturday, 05.04.2013 / 5:48 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Teams expect Xcel Energy Center to be rocking

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs haven't taken place in St. Paul, Minn., since 2008 and the atmosphere inside Xcel Energy Center on Sunday afternoon is expected to be exciting.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will square off in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) and the visiting team ought to be a good judge of the playoff atmosphere inside the building.

The Blackhawks are known for having a loud, intimidating crowd at United Center -- starting with the loud cheers during the national anthem -- but they're anticipating the Wild's arena to be like the team's nickname.

"I think it's going to be loud," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said Saturday. "The fans there and the way they play the music … they get that building rocking pretty good. It's the first time they've played in the playoffs for a while, so we expect it's going to be a lot of energy in that building and a fast-paced game. We're going to need to be ready right away."
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Posted On Saturday, 05.04.2013 / 4:56 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Blackhawks show they can neutralize Wild forecheck

CHICAGO -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo said on Friday night it was time to go back to the drawing board for Sunday's Game 3 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series his team trails 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks.

After the Blackhawks won Game 2 by a 5-2 score on Friday night at United Center, Yeo said one area that will need to be tweaked again is a forechecking scheme that proved ineffective against the Blackhawks' swift-skating, puck-moving defensemen.

The Wild worked on creating havoc with the forecheck in a practice between the first two games, but the Blackhawks weren't fazed much at all by it -- dominating puck possession and breaking out of their own zone with a head of steam regularly.

"Part of our strength is our defensemen's ability to get pucks out of our zone and our forwards have done a good job of coming back all year supporting, so that makes it a lot easier on the defense when our forwards get back in position to help out," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Minnesota's got a lot of good skaters and they're fast, so it's not easy. They get in, on the forecheck, really quick. Guys like Zach Parise are fast getting in there, so we have to be ready."


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Posted On Friday, 05.03.2013 / 2:47 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Wild series blog

Wild confident Harding can stay sharp

CHICAGO – The Minnesota Wild hope to even their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night at United Center (9:30 pm E.T., NBCSN, CBC, CSN-CH, FS-N) but won't have starting goalie Niklas Backstrom or defenseman Clayton Stoner.

Backstrom will miss his second straight game after incurring a lower-body injury in warmups prior to Game 1 on Tuesday, and Stoner is out with an unspecified injury that happened early in the first period of the series opener on a big hit by Chicago's Andrew Shaw.

Josh Harding, who played well when pressed into service at the last second because of Backstom's injury, will get the start again. Justin Falk will enter Minnesota’s lineup in place of Stoner. Before Tuesday's games, Harding hadn't made an NHL start since Jan. 30, when he played at home against the Blackhawks and got pulled in the first period after allowing two goals on four shots.

After making 35 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 on Tuesday, Harding is looking to have another strong performance Friday night.

"I'd sure like to hope so," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "For him, there are a lot of positives to take out of the game, and I think as much as anything else, it's the confidence of going out and playing well in a game like that. For a guy who's missed a lot of hockey, he's played good hockey and it's just kind of a statement to himself that, 'I'm getting my game [back].'"

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