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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Frolik getting chance to contribute with Shaw out

CHICAGO -- Chemistry is as mysterious in hockey as it is in the laboratory.

But Chicago's Dave Bolland sees the right ingredients in the line he'll center with Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik in Thursday's fourth game of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix.

That's understandable. Frolik, subbing for the suspended Andrew Shaw, scored one of Chicago's two goals in the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3.

"Bicksie and Fro, we played together last year. This year we had some time together," Bolland said. "We all know what Fro's all about. He's fast, he's got a great shot, a little bit of that Martin Havlat in him, that speed going down the wing. Coming out of our own end, if I throw him the puck, I'm sure it's getting out of our zone."

On the outside, it appears Frolik's speed makes up for Shaw's grit. But Bolland believes Frolik can handle the tough stuff as well.

"He gets in the corner, gets dirty," Bolland said of Frolik, three inches taller and 18 pounds heavier than Shaw. "We use them the same way, but they're different players."

What Frolik wasn't during the season was productive. He scored only five goals and 15 points, and was a minus-10 in 63 games, the reason he was a healthy scratch in 17 of the last 33 regular-season games, and the first two games of the series. The last 10 regular-season scratches came after Shaw was recalled for good from Rockford.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:28 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hawks ready to channel anger

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs can be an exercise in anger management. The Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Phoenix and Chicago is becoming a graduate course in the subject.

Players and coaches on both sides tried to rein in their emotions Wednesday, less than a day after the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Coyotes' Raffi Torres hit Hossa's chin with his shoulder early in Game 3 at the United Center.

Phoenix went on to win 3-2 on an overtime goal from Mikkel Boedker. Game 4 is Thursday.

Hossa, who was released from the hospital Tuesday night, will miss at least Game 4. Torres has been suspended indefinitely pending an in-person hearing at the League office on Friday.

A night after tempers ran high in the Blackhawks' locker room, they were a bit more measured on Wednesday. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews ruled out retaliation against a random Coyote.

"Getting into that garbage isn't going to win the series for us," Toews said.

Said defenseman Duncan Keith, "We've got to play hockey and play the right way."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who has to revamp a lineup that now is without Hossa and the suspended Andrew Shaw, wants his players to channel their emotions properly.

"I think retaliation in the best form is trying to win the hockey game," Quenneville said. "I think we want to channel a little positiveness to looking forward to the game and doing something about it."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Nearing unchartered territory for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- One more overtime game, and the Phoenix Coyotes go into uncharted territory. They've never played four overtime games in a playoff year, much less a playoff series, and that goes back to their identity as the original Winnipeg Jets.

Now they've played three in a row, winning twice, in the first three games of their series with Chicago.

Only once before did the Coyotes engage in overtime three times in a series. They lost two of three overtime games in a seven-game set with St. Louis in 1999, the Blues winning Game 7 in regulation. The franchise's only back-to-back overtime games before this series came in games 6 and 7 of the 1993 series against Vancouver. Teemu Selanne won Game 6 for the Jets, but the Canucks won Game 7.

This is more old hat for the Blackhawks. They played four overtime games, winning the first two and losing the last two, against Colorado in the second round of the 1996 playoffs.

The Hawks have even played three overtime games in a row before, doing so against the Minnesota North Stars in the second round of the 1985 playoffs. Including the last two games of last year's first round series with Vancouver, they've played five straight overtime games, a team record.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Overtime a study in contrasts for two sides

CHICAGO -- The two schools of thought on how to play overtime were on display again in Game 3 of the Phoenix-Chicago Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Blackhawks were skating, trying to force the issue. The Coyotes played it tight, waiting for a break.

The Coyotes' method worked for the second time in three sudden-death sessions. Mikkel Boedker's shot, and Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford's admitted misplay, gave Game 3, and a 2-1 series lead, to the Coyotes.

That's how overtime has to be played, Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said.

"In overtime, you're trying not to make mistakes," Yandle said. "One shot and it can be over. So you play tight defensively and cash in when you get the chance."

Getting those changes, whether in overtime or regulation, will be harder to find as the series progresses. Cement in the legs became common in the minutes jest before Boedker scored.

"The first couple of games, there's a lot of adrenaline," said Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who played for the Hawks for two seasons. "As a series progresses, it starts taking its toll on players. And in overtime, you try to end it on every shift. That takes a toll."

Aucoin sees a long series.

"We're two different teams, but we're matched well," he said.

What he didn't have to mention was the hex the Coyotes have on the Hawks in the United Center. Phoenix is 3-0 on West Madison St. this season, winning both games in the regular season.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:56 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Smith skates, game-time decision for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith took part in the Coyotes' light morning skate Tuesday, but there was no word from him or coach Dave Tippett on whether Smith or Jason LaBarbara would be in goal when Phoenix faced the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

"It's a game-time decision," Tippett said, extending that to center Martin Hanzal as well.

Smith's status went from his self-proclaimed "100 percent" to questionable when he was held out of the Coyotes' practice on Monday. 

Tippett, displeased with a string of questions about Smith, finally said, "We don't have to tell everybody why a player practices or not."

Smith, hit behind the net in a shoulder-to-chin check by Chicago's Andrew Shaw in Game 2, was not made available for comment. Shaw was suspended for three games on Tuesday afternoon.

If LaBarbara plays, the Coyotes will hardly miss a beat. His 3-9-3 regular season record is deceiving, with his 2.54 goals-against average more indicative of his play. In his only appearance against Chicago this season, he stopped 30 of 35 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Hawks on Oct. 18.

"I know LaBarbera's played well against the Hawks a few times in his career," Chicago center Patrick Sharp said. "I don't think it changes it too much, to be honest with you."

Hanzal (lower body) participated in the two-on-two drills, but left wing Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is out, Tippett said. He was in workout clothes and didn't take part in the skate.

Shaw, who will be eligible to return for a potential Game 6 of the series, is expected to be replaced by Michael Frolik at right wing on the Hawks' third line.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

For Blackhawks, local hotel is home away from home

CHICAGO -- Playoff rituals come in all shapes and sizes. One for the Chicago Blackhawks is staying on the road even while at home.

Rather than go home after Tuesday’s morning skate, they checked into a hotel, all part of the "One Goal" atmosphere in the locker room.

For Patrick Kane, that means he doesn't have to cook a pre-game meal.

"We've had success on the road, so you try to keep it that way," Kane said of the plan. "It's fine with a lot of players. If we're going home, we're taking a nap anyway and waking up and going to the rink. There's a nice pre-game meal, so that's a perk, I guess."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes look forward to raucous atmosphere at UC

CHICAGO -- Road teams have the advantage so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But a game hasn't been played in the United Center yet.

The building is loud, to be sure. But is it intimidating?

Phoenix forward Raffi Torres wouldn't go that far.

"It's a building where the fans know the game," Torres said. "It's pretty loud. They won a championship here. They're excited, as they should be. They've got a lot of fun players and keys to a winning team over there."

The capacity is just over 22,000, more than old Chicago Stadium held. That building was louder because there was cubic feet to fill with noise, but it's still ear-splitting when "The Star-Spangled Banner" is belted out.

"It's exciting," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said of the atmosphere. "Obviously, Chicago's got a great history, and it's fun to play in this building. The energy is awesome. The anthem is the biggest change (from other arenas). It's good for both teams."

The Hawks were 27-8-6 at home in the regular season, but Phoenix was 2-0 at the United Center, including 4-1 and 4-3 wins a week apart just after Thanksgiving.        
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 1:58 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

CHICAGO -- With Martin Hanzal and Mike Smith listed as a game-time decisions for Phoenix, here’s how the lineups project for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Chicago and Phoenix on Tuesday at the United Center:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Kyle Chipchura

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Justin Pogge is expected to dress and back up LaBarbera if Smith is unable to play.
 
BLACKHAWKS
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw or Martin Frolik
Brandon Bollig - Marcis Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sami Lepisto

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:13 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Toews working through effects of long absence

CHICAGO - Jonathan Toews showed he had lost none of his touch when the Chicago Blackhawks center scored the first goal of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix on Thursday night. A flick of the wrist from a deep angle and goalie Mike Smith was fishing the puck out of the back of his net just 4:04 into Game 1.

But Toews, while mentally recovered from a concussion that caused him to miss the last 22 games of the regular season, is still feeling a bit creaky from the two-month layoff. Skating prior to returning brought his legs back, but not everything.

"For the most part, it's timing and speed; it's energy," Toews said Monday. "It's all those things, and it'll keep coming. I felt a did a few things better in the second game, whether it was faceoffs or chipping pucks out, options on the power play. Little things I improved on."

Toews played nearly 20 minutes (of nearly 70) in Game 1, and more than 17 minutes in Game 2, which also went halfway into the first overtime.

He's taking his usual role on the power play, was a combined plus-4 in the first two games, and appears to have not missed a beat. But he's a tough judge.

"I feel my game is slowly going to come together," Toews said. "It definitely wasn't all there the first two games, but I feel it'll keep improving."

Toews must be feeling well. He even half-cracked a smile when asked what the answer to keeping the momentum after scoring the game's first goal would entail.

"Probably trying to score the next one would be a solution to that," quipped Toews.

A funny line from Captain Serious in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Go figure.


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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Bollig: First time for everything

CHICAGO -- A first NHL goal is a lifelong memory for any hockey player. It's that much sweeter when that first goal comes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Check Brandon Bollig's blood-sugar level, then, for he scored goal No. 1 of his career in Game 2 of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix.

"That it came in the playoffs and it tied the game up is an amazing feeling," Bollig said of scoring the Hawks' second goal in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win in Glendale, Ariz. "It was great to see the activity on my phone from people happy for me."

Bollig, an undrafted free agent signed by the Hawks two years ago, played 18 regular-season games and collected neither a goal nor an assist. Considered an enforcer, he plays that role well, but knows
he'll have to show more, or the next young kid who comes along will take his spot.

"Obviously what got me here was that physical side, that enforcer-type role, but yeah, I think what's going to make me stick is bringing more to the game than just that," he said. "That's what I'm trying to
prove."

Timely goals in playoff games will do that. For Bollig, just breathing before Game 1 was a triumph.

"Being a part of (the playoffs), I almost had to have the doc check my heart rate, it was so high," Bollig said. "It's definitely fun to be a part of games like that. You get a lot more amped up."

Whatever happens next, he'll have both the memory and evidence of it. The puck he got past Mike Smith will be mounted on a plaque for him.
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Quote of the Day

A piece of scar tissue breaks off, pinches the nerve, and every time you move your leg it's almost like having a root canal in your stomach and groin.

— Detroit Red Wings center Stephen Weiss on his sports hernia surgery