The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.
The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-2.
After missing three games while suspended for an illegal hit in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will return for Game 6 at United Center (3 p.m. ET, CBC, NBC, RDS). Seabrook is one of the best passing defenders on the Blackhawks, particularly on exits from the defensive zone with direct, accurate stretch passes.
He's also got a big shot from the point and isn't afraid to join the rush from time to time. Seabrook scored a goal and had an assist in each of the first two games against the Blues.
"If they get to dictate, they're going to win," Hitchcock said. "If we get to dictate, we're going to win."
Hitchcock said the way the Blues can dictate is if they make the Blackhawks "stop and play." That means the Blues have to limit Chicago's chances off the rush, which Hitchcock said is the biggest factor for his team if it's going to force the Western Conference First Round series to return to St. Louis for Game 7 on Tuesday.
Since 2009, Chicago is 10-2 in games in which it can close out a series.
He said he learned something the past couple of years that seems to pay dividends for the defending NHL champions during tough stretches of the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Less practice between games, Quenneville noticed, is actually a good thing.
CHICAGO -- Forward Ben Smith started this season seeking an everyday role for the Chicago Blackhawks. He wound up with a couple of important ones for the NHL's defending champions in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blackhawks have a potential series-clinching game Sunday, and Smith's versatility has come in handy for coach Joel Quennveille.
With Chicago leading 3-2, Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
When the Blues won Games 1 and 2 of the Western Conference First Round series, the fine line was getting a big goal late then winning in overtime.
In Games 3, 4 and 5, all victories by the Blackhawks, that fine line seems to come from the same pen, but in different variances.
The Blackhawks, who lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 heading into Game 6 on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS), had goalie Corey Crawford steal a win to get the defending Stanley Cup champions on the board in Game 3. In Game 4, it was a clutch tying goal late before an overtime winner. Friday in St. Louis, it came down to a fortuitous bounce.
Those are the small details that separate the two teams, who wound up the regular season four points apart in the Central Division standings.
"It’s tight out there, it really is," Blues left wing Steve Ott said. "Both teams are extremely even in the sense of power plays, penalty killing, stuff that's been going on. It's who's going to continue to stick to that structure the best.
"I know from being in that dressing room, the character we have in this room is by far the most I've ever been part of."
ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis Blues captain David Backes returned to the lineup Friday at Scottrade Center after missing the past two games of the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks with an upper-body injury.
ST. LOUIS -- Chicago Blackhawks forwards Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa have had Grade A scoring chances off crisp in-zone cycles, odd-man rushes and breakaways in the Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues.
It hasn't amounted to anything on the score sheet yet.
"For a goal-scorer, if the puck doesn't go in, it can get frustrating," Hossa said.
Game 5 Friday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW) offers the duo another chance to make a positive impact, so they're brushing aside any of their lingering frustration and focusing on the opportunity to make amends.
The best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series is tied 2-2.
"I'll take all the chances I can get; it means I'm creating something and doing something good out there," Sharp said. "Sooner or later they're going to start going in."
ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock sure knows how to keep the media and fans guessing.
The St. Louis Blues coach continues to hold his ground when asked about captain David Backes (upper body, foot), who has missed the past two games in the Western Conference First Round series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"No … like I said in Chicago, there's lots of rinks here in St. Louis too," Hitchcock said when asked if Backes was ruled out for Game 5 on Friday at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW). "You never know. [He] might just jump on the ice and be there. If he's skating in the warm-up, then you can all press send on your tweets and away you go."
HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- Despite losing two straight and seeing the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks even their Western Conference First Round series, the St. Louis Blues won't lack confidence heading into Game 5 on Friday.
Each team is unbeaten in its home arena so far in the best-of-7 Stanley Cup Playoff series, and St. Louis will look to continue that trend in Game 5 at Scottrade Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW).
"Nobody's panicking ... we're not in a bad spot," Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said Thursday. "It's tied, and we still have home ice. We have a good opportunity here. I don't think anyone's worried where we're at or anything like that. We're not.
"We knew going [to Chicago] that it was going to be tough. It's not the easiest place to play. We still have home ice; we had a couple of close games [in Games 3 and 4]. It has not been one-sided games or anything like that. You just keep going. It's a three-game series now, and that's the way you approach it."
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Yeah, I guess so. That empty-netter was pretty lucky, but I'll take it.