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Stanley Cup Final
Posted On Thursday, 04.23.2015 / 3:34 PM

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

Blackhawks expect up-tempo game from Predators

NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks have played their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators at a torrid pace, and they don't expect it to get any slower in Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

Despite playing more than three full overtime periods in the first four games, winning Game 1 in double overtime and Game 4 in triple overtime, Chicago expects Nashville to push the pedal to the floor again with the Blackhawks leading the best-of-7 series 3-1.

"This team, in their home building, this might be the best starting team in the League," forward Kris Versteeg said after the Blackhawks optional morning skate Thursday. "They always find a way to come out blazing and somehow scoring a goal here or there and create energy. We're going to have to find ways to take the crowd out of it, especially early on, and weather a storm that's going to come."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.22.2015 / 7:07 PM

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

Blackhawks motivated to end series in Game 5

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are a little sore after winning Game 4 in triple overtime, but they boarded their flight to Tennessee on Wednesday knowing they're one win from advancing to the Western Conference Second Round.

The Blackhawks are ahead 3-1 in their best-of-7 first-round series against the Nashville Predators and get the first of three chances to eliminate their Central Division rival in Game 5 at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

Chicago knows how to close out a series as well as any team in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Since the 2008-09 season, when coach Joel Quenneville took over, the Blackhawks are 11-3 when they can clinch a series. Two of those three losses came in overtime of a Game 7, including against the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Final.

"As you go along in a series, deeper in a round, each game becomes that much tougher [and] that much more meaningful," Quenneville said. "You have to get better each game. You can't think how you played the last game is going to be good enough to be successful [in] the next one. That has to be our message."


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Posted On Tuesday, 04.21.2015 / 2:52 PM

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

Blackhawks fourth line looks for repeat performance

CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawk are likely to use the same lineup in Game 4 against the Nashville Predators at United Center on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA3, FS-TN, CSN-CH) as they used to win Game 3 for a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series.

If so, forward Antoine Vermette will center the third line and forward Andrew Shaw will again move to right wing on the fourth line. Along with left wing Andrew Desjardins and center Marcus Kruger, the reconfigured fourth line was one of the Blackhawks’ most effective in Game 3.

Desjardins and Shaw aggressively forechecked, and their work forced some key turnovers in the Nashville end of the rink. Kruger, who looks to hop on turnovers, chipped in as well.

“You’ve got to take what’s given,” said Desjardins, who was scratched in the first two games of the series. “If that means chipping it in and going after it and creating turnovers, I think that’s the right play. When you’re on an odd-man rush, three-on-two, you’re going to try and do something with it off the rush, but besides that you’re trying to keep it simple and keep the puck going north. I think that leads to some success, especially with Shaw and [Kruger]. We’re all pretty good forecheckers, so I think that’s key.”

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Posted On Monday, 04.20.2015 / 6:03 PM

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

Blackhawks' Carcillo could get cleared for Game 4

CHICAGO -- Injured Chicago Blackhawks forward Daniel Carcillo might get cleared medically to play in Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series at United Center on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 3, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

Carcillo has been out with an upper-body injury. He missed the final nine games of the regular season and the first three games of the best-of-7 series against the Nashville Predators.

After skating Sunday and Monday, Carcillo said he's close to being ready to return.

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Posted On Sunday, 04.19.2015 / 1:56 PM

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

Vermette to play for Blackhawks against Predators

CHICAGO – Forward Antoine Vermette will be in the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center on Sunday against the Nashville Predators for Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

Vermette, who was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes two days before the NHL Trade Deadline, was a healthy scratch in the first two games at Bridgestone Arena. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville didn't say who is coming out of the lineup to make room for Vermette.

"He's worked hard here," said Quenneville, who met with reporters Sunday before the game. "I think he's practiced well and I think he's disappointed, obviously, [he didn't] get to start [in Nashville]. If you could prepare to get a chance to get in there, things change quickly in our business and we expect him to come in and play a strong game for us, and be excited about the chance to play."

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Posted On Friday, 04.17.2015 / 3:23 PM

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

Blackhawks know they need to be better in Game 2

NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks have a 1-0 lead in a best-of-7 series against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round, but left a lot of room for improvement heading into Game 2 at Bridgestone Arena on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, CSN-CH, SPSO).

They're looking for a better start in front of goalie Corey Crawford, who was pulled after giving up three goals in the first period of Game 1, and they're hoping not to spend as much time in the penalty box.

Each team was whistled for six penalties in Game 1, and the Blackhawks know that's not a winning formula long-term.

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.14.2015 / 6:09 PM

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

Blackhawks likely to scratch Vermette for Game 1

CHICAGO – It was a struggle for Chicago Blackhawks center Antoine Vermette to find the right words after practice Tuesday.

The 32-year-old, acquired Feb. 28 in a trade with the Arizona Coyotes, is likely to be a healthy scratch to start the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday at Bridgestone Arena (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA3, CSN-CH, FS-TN).

Vermette, who centered Arizona's top line, was considered by some analysts to be the top forward available prior to the March 2 NHL Trade Deadline. Now he's stuck outside the Blackhawks' top four lines to begin the postseason.

"Obviously I want to play, I want to help the team to win [and be] successful," said Vermette, who didn't score a goal, and had three assists and a minus-2 rating in 19 games after the trade. "Certainly the last thing I want to do is make it about myself and be a distraction."

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Posted On Tuesday, 04.07.2015 / 3:18 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Wild at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks won't have center Brad Richards and the Minnesota Wild might have left wing Jason Zucker for the first time since early February when the teams play at United Center on Tuesday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CSN-CH).

Richards didn't participate in the morning skate and coach Joel Quenneville said he will sit the Blackhawks' remaining three games with an upper-body injury. Rookie forward Kyle Baun, recently signed as a college free agent, will make his NHL debut and could play right wing on the second line with Antoine Vermette and left wing Brandon Saad.

Vermette will shift back to center of the second line after a five-game stint on the right wing of the same line, which Richards centered.

"[Baun has] a lot of enthusiasm to his game and we like the way he moves out there," Quenneville said. "What he does bring is some quickness and he's one of those hard players that you look forward to seeing. He's got a lot of enthusiasm and I'm sure he can't wait to get out there tonight."

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Posted On Sunday, 04.05.2015 / 1:56 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blues at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The only way things could get any tighter in the Central Division is if the Chicago Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues in overtime or a shootout at United Center on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Should that scenario play out, the top three teams in the division – the Blackhawks, Blues and Nashville Predators – each would have 104 points with three games remaining in the regular season. The final week will determine a lot in the Central heading into the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It’s amazing how this has played out the last part of the season here, where there hasn’t been any separation, hasn’t been any clarity,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the morning skate. “Usually some of these races are for playoff spots or positioning, but it says a lot about our division, knowing that teams are all tied at the top. At the end of the day, we could have 90 points across the board [in the division], which is pretty unusual.”

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Posted On Thursday, 04.02.2015 / 2:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Canucks at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- A week ago, the Chicago Blackhawks got a scare after two losses in a row to the Philadelphia Flyers and Columbus Blue Jackets dropped them out of third place in the Central Division.

They were passed by the Minnesota Wild by a point and concern was brewing that Chicago might fall out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot altogether. Back-to-back wins at the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday, and at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, eased those fears, but the Blackhawks know they can’t let up just yet.

They’re on the verge of clinching a playoff spot with a win against the Vancouver Canucks at United Center on Thursday (8:30 p.m. ET; SNP, CSN-CH), but they’re not assuming anything is a given.

"I think this game is the same meaning as the last couple of games," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's very important for both teams. There's still a lot to be sorted out and you want to move ahead. There's a lot of [teams] around us, as well, so I don't think anything's been decided."

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Quote of the Day

You know what? We've played in some pretty special buildings along this playoff run so far. You start in Detroit, you go to Montreal, you come here … I think it's the first team to beat three Original Six teams to get to the Final if I'm not mistaken. That says how tough the road has been. Those are tough places to win.

— Lightning forward Steven Stamkos after Game 7 win vs. Rangers on Friday in New York