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Sharks vs. Blackhawks blog

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Sharks vs. Blackhawks blog
An inside look at the Sharks-Blackhawks third-round playoff series.
Sharks donning rally caps
05.23.10 / 3:15PM ET

Prior to the game several Sharks were seen in the hallway outside of their dressing room wearing rally caps. They couldn't have picked a better time to break them out considering they're down 3-0 in the Western Conference Final with Game 4 going on at United Center right now.

To the right is a cell phone picture, taken by Craig Custance of the Sporting News, of Devin Setoguchi wearing his rally cap.

-- Dan Rosen

Quenneville: From Hawks fan to coach
05.22.2010 / 6:45 PM ET

It slipped out of Hawks coach Joel Quenneville's mouth so quickly that it almost went unnoticed during his news conference on Saturday afternoon at the UnitedCenter.

While talking about Hawks legends Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and boyhood favorite Bobby Hull, Quenneville mentioned that he was a Blackhawks fan while growing up in Windsor, Ont. Windsor is located directly across the DetroitRiver from Detroit, where the Red Wings have made plenty of fans through the years across the AmbassadorBridge.

Not Quenneville, apparently.

"I was one of the oddballs in the city," he said. "Everybody was either a Canadiens fan or a Red Wings fan or (Maple) Leaf fan. I was probably the only Blackhawks fan. I guess I had to be representative of the street hockey. Chicago got some representation."

--Brian Hedger

Sharks hoping odd playoffs stay that way

In a lot of ways, the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs have been a little strange.

Road teams have a better overall record than home teams. Just the third team in NHL history battled back from a 3-0 deficit when Philadelphia shocked the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. In this series between the Hawks and Sharks, San Jose is outshooting Chicago 29-2 overall on the power play - with both of Chicago's shots on goal hitting the back of the net.

That's weird, right?

"I don't know all those stats like (reporters) know them," San Jose forward Ryan Clowe said. "I know the series is a lot tighter than 3-0. It easily could be us up a game or two, but I also know that's how the playoffs work sometimes."

Sharks defenseman Douglas Murray just hopes his team's luck begins to change with Game 4 and they continue adding to the unpredictable nature of this postseason.

"Let's keep it strange," he said. "We'll win in seven."

--Brian Hedger

Olympics helped Toews grow in captain role

He looks like a kid who should be sending out resumes into a bad job market after college, but at age 22, Hawks center Jonathan Toews is the captain of a team that's one win away from playing for the Stanley Cup.

Better yet, he plays for an Original Six team in a hockey-crazy town that hasn't had the Cup since 1961. Toews appears undaunted by the task, and said he learned a lot about leading a team just by watching some of his star teammates this past winter on Team Canada at the Olympics in Vancouver.

"It's never been something that I've directly spoken to anybody about," he said. "But I think you kind of get a sense, when you're on a team like Team Canada … I can't remember how many captains were in that room, but you definitely get a sense of what kind of leader a guy like Sidney (Crosby) is or Jarome Iginla. You don't really have to talk to them directly to find that out."

--Brian Hedger

Road game

Hawks forward Kris Versteeg was asked on Friday night whether the Hawks plan to stay in a hotel again before Sunday's Game 4 at the UnitedCenter -- like they did before winning Game 3 in overtime.

"I hope so," he said. "The Peninsula's got a pretty darn good bed. For 400 bucks a night, I would hope it does."

--Brian Hedger

Quenneville thought Hossa had it, too
05.22.2010 / 6:00 PM ET

Roughly 11 minutes into the second period Friday night, Marian Hossa had the slump-buster on this stick from inside the slot area. But, as has been the case with Hossa's puck luck in these playoffs, Sharks captain Rob Blake dove back into the net to cover up for the out-of-position Evgeni Nabokov and robbed Hossa of what looked like a sure goal.

Thanks to a 3-0 lead in the series, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville couldn't help but smile at Hossa's misfortune.

"Yeah, Blakey made a nice toe save on him, and he hit the post in the game prior to that," Quenneville said. "I think when you're that close, you're that close, eventually you're going to get one. Hopefully it's a breakout."

Hossa might have only two goals in the playoffs, but he was dynamite in Game 3 in every other area but the scoresheet. That's the way he has been in the playoffs, so Quenneville is not going to bicker about his lack of offense.

"Certainly, I think his overall game is solid as you could ever want in a forward, in a player," the coach said. "But, right now he's a little snakebitten around the net. I thought that (his chance in Game 3) was in, too (smiling)."

-- Dan Rosen

McLellan's lines surprise everyone
05.22.2010 / 5:15 PM ET

Sharks coach Todd McLellan hinted during the morning before Game 3 that he might shake up his top-three lines, so when Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley were dealing with more new partners than a newly merged law firm, it shouldn't have been a surprise to anyone.

But it was a surprise, even for the players in the Sharks locker room.

"It kept our guys on their toes," McLellan said. "They had no idea who they were playing with before the game, right up to after the warmup. I went in and told them this is what was going to happen. I think that alerted them that this wasn't normal, this wasn't the same. Even throughout the periods or throughout the play in each of the periods, we juggled and alternated."

As much as McLellan shuffled the deck, it was still only Marleau that came up aces. He had two goals in Game 2 and two more goals in Game 3 despite playing with a slew of different players.

-- Dave Lozo

Burish and Sharp, Chicago's odd couple
05.21.2010 / 1:55 PM ET

You know the Chicago Blackhawks are loose when Adam Burish is telling the media that he'll be sure to have his hotel roommate, Patrick Sharp, make his lunch this afternoon and do anything else he tells him to do.

Since the Blackhawks are staying in a hotel to wind-down in the lead-up to Game 3 tonight, Burish has another chance to pull the strings on Sharp, the guy he calls "my little puppet."

"He does what I tell him to do," Burish joked. "We are going to the hotel this afternoon and usually he serves me my lunch. This is an important game tonight so I don't want him to get too tired, so I'll just have him make me a little salad with ranch dressing and a few cucumbers. It's what he does every trip we've been on so why change it up now."

On the flip side, Sharp said that during the Hawks recent road trip to Vancouver and San Jose, Burish was folding his laundry and putting it away neatly. Burish denies that ever took place.

"I don't touch a thing of his," Burish said. "He serves me room service when it comes. I run the remote control."

Sharp, sitting across the expansive Blackhawks' dressing room at United Center, said he didn't even know what to say about his roommate's demands for lunch. However, as long as Burish keeps talking, Sharp says he has a few tricks up his sleeve to get back at him.

"Now that he's running his mouth about that I have to find something to do," Sharp told "Every time he gets up to go to the bathroom or to the door, he always comes back and finds an empty water bottle or a telephone or a lamp stuck in his bed. Maybe I'll leave him a few more surprises today."

-- Dan Rosen

Hawks at home holing up in hotel
05.20.2010 / 5:47 PM ET

After going 3-3 in their first six home playoff games, the Blackhawks are shaking things up a little before Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against San Jose at the United Center on Friday night.

After their morning skate, the Hawks will retreat to a hotel for the rest of the day to simulate the togetherness they credit for much of their road success. Veteran Hawks center John Madden likes the idea.

"I've done it my whole career," he said. "In New Jersey we'd actually spend the night before there and the whole next day. I think it's a good thing. The guys were up for it and we wanted it, so we're doing it tomorrow for the afternoon. It's more time spent together talking about the same goals."

Hawks captain Jonathan Toews agreed.

"We just think it's a good thing as a team," he said. "We're going to do little things like that just to make sure we're keeping our focus and focusing our energy where it needs to be, and that's on ourselves and the task at hand. That way other things can't come into play."

--Brian Hedger

Sopel still absorbing pain, just not as much
05.20.2010 / 5:47 PM ET

The cut on Brent Sopel's cheek is healing, with the remnants of the scar still there as a constant reminder of the brutality he's faced in the Hawks 14 postseason games thus far.

Against Nashville in the Western Conference quarterfinals, Sopel took a number of slap shots to the mid-section and legs -- including some fired by defenseman Shea Weber, who has one of the hardest shots in the League. Against Vancouver and San Jose in the next two rounds, he hasn't taken quite as much abuse from the puck, but is still walking around with wounds that won't fully heal until the off-season.

"I'm still taking shots and doing whatever I can," Sopel said. "At this point in time, it's a battle. It's a war out there. Nobody's going to heal now. It's all about doing whatever it takes to win. You just want to win your final game."

Sopel especially dreams of hoisting the Stanley Cup after a 13-year playing career that has taken a toll on his battered body.

"I've been around for a long time and played a lot of games in my day and never had that chance to win it," Sopel said. "There's no question I'm motivated to get it done."

--Brian Hedger

Sharp attacks Hawks hype carefully
05.20.2010 / 5:47 PM ET

While some of his teammates talked about turning off their cell phones, TVs and radios to avoid the buzz in Chicago about a possible Stanley Cup run, Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said he's still tuning in for a few tidbits here and there.

Sharp even has his own weekly radio segment called "Sharp Attack" on WTMX-FM (101.9)'s "Eric & Kathy Show" weekday mornings.

"I'm in between," Sharp said, when told of his teammates not paying attention to any TV or radio shows. "I listen to a little bit of it, but I take it for what it's worth. I know that just because someone in the media picks us to win or tells us how good we're playing, it doesn't affect how we are playing."

Still, even he sees a fine line to walk.

"It's up to us to do the job," Sharp said. "You start reading your press clippings and thinking that you're better than you are, that's when you run into trouble."

--Brian Hedger

Sharks poised to turn the other fin
05.20.2010 / 5:46 PM ET

The level of dislike between the Sharks and Hawks seemed to rise noticeably in Game 2, especially toward the end of the game - culminating with a scrum of players taking whacks at each other and tussling before officials broke it up.

The Hawks have become known for their ability to needle opponents with verbal jabs and hard hits, especially the fourth line of Adam Burish, John Madden and Ben Eager. Still, the Sharks don't plan on necessarily giving it right back.

"We don't mind giving a little tongue-lashing either, but most of the time you try to shy away from that," Sharks forward Ryan Clowe said. "Sometimes you can get thrown off your game. They've got some guys who really like to do that. That's a strength of theirs, and we've really got to watch it."

Clowe said sometimes it's better to fight back by not speaking and just skating away.

"Sometimes the worst thing you can do is turn away when they're talking to you," Clowe said. "You spend all that energy talking, and the guy just turns his shoulder - so, we try to do that. If you score a goal or finish a hit, then you can start talking."

--Brian Hedger

San Jose doesn't want to change a thing, except for results
05.20.2010 / 5:46 PM ET

Despite dropping the first two games at home, the Sharks are still confident in their overall strategy against the Hawks -- who've now won five times in six games against San Jose, including all four meetings in San Jose.

They still aim to play an offensive style, control the puck and put intense pressure on Chicago goalie Antti Niemi to keep coming up with big saves.

"I don't think we've played upward of the caliber that we had in the first two rounds," veteran Sharks defenseman Rob Blake said after Thursday's practice at the United Center. "As far as changing anything, I don't think we need to do too much there. The game plan has been in place all season. Our execution needs to be much better."

--Brian Hedger

Sharks find no comfort in Hawks home struggles
05.20.2010 / 5:45 PM ET

Much of the focus on the Blackhawks has been about their mediocre 3-3 home record in the playoffs as opposed to their sterling 7-1 mark on the road -- including wins in the first two games of this series in San Jose.

The Sharks weren't biting, though, when asked whether Chicago's home struggles are a boost to San Jose's confidence before Game 3.

"It means absolutely nothing, to be honest with you," defenseman Dan Boyle said. "It's another round, another series. It really doesn't matter what their home record is. We're aware of it. It really doesn't matter."

--Brian Hedger

San Jose looking to work smarter
05.20.2010 / 5:45 PM ET

Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle said his comments after the Game 2 loss about needing to work harder weren't exactly what he meant to convey.

After Thursday's practice, Boyle said the effort was fine in the first two games except for one thing that needs to change in Game 3.

"There's a difference between working hard and working smart," Boyle said. "I think that's the difference in the first two games. We're working hard. Definitely I don't think that's the problem. But working smart is a different thing. It's one thing to work, but if you're not getting it accomplished, you're just wasting time."

--Brian Hedger

Hawks a big draw among Chicago sports fans
05.19.2010 / 7:27 PM ET

Patrick Kane was asked about the Hawks drawing better TV ratings than the Cubs, White Sox and the NBA Playoffs combined among Chicago viewers for Game 1 against the Sharks. The young star seemed impressed but not all that surprised.

"As far as in Chicago?" he said. "Yeah, I mean, it's exciting. I think the town is really behind our team. You could see that over the last couple years as far as how many sellouts we've had, the support you get around town, how even recognizable you are around town here. I guess that's always a pretty cool stat. You like hearing those stats."

Not just for selfish reasons, either. Kane hopes to be part of a wave of young stars who help raise hockey's place among the sports culture in the United States. He said it was a similar feeling playing for Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

"It was fun to see when I was playing in the Olympics, U.S. versus Canada (for the gold medal), there was a big (ratings) number," Kane said. "You hear those different things and it makes it exciting for you, knowing you're trying to help grow the game. This helps a lot."

--Brian Hedger

Call him "The Statue"
05.19.2010 / 7:25 PM ET

Dustin Byfuglien is cementing his reputation as a postseason pest and virtually unmovable force in front of opposing goalies ever since he was shifted from the blue line to the front line against Vancouver in the Western Conference Semifinals.

When Byfuglien parks his massive 6-foot-4, 257-pound frame in front of the net, there's very little opposing defenders can do but try to lift his stick. Hawks center Dave Bolland seems to get a kick out of watching the net battles with Byfuglien.

Once the big guy gets set, defenders would probably have an easier time moving the Michael Jordan statue outside the main entrance to the UnitedCenter.

"When he's in front of that net, I don't think anybody can move that guy," Bolland said Wednesday at an airport news conference in Chicago. "You see some guys on the Sharks were trying to get in there, and Buff just stood his ground, just placed his feet there."

--Brian Hedger

Sharks looking forward to road
05.19.2010 / 2:40 PM ET

After two tough losses at HP Pavilion, the Sharks don't mind a trip to the Midwest.

"I think it’s good for everyone to get together, we all go to dinners together, really focus and dig our heels in," said Scott Nichol. "We know what we have to do. We’ll be OK.”

Something else the Sharks don't mind -- a little adversity. They were down 2-1 in their first-round series against the Avs before finding their game and storming back to win the series.

"I think we’re better that way," Nichol said. "Coming into the playoffs and Colorado beat us, everyone -- the media and stuff -- was thinking, 'Oh boy, here we go again.' And we proved them wrong. Nobody has confidence in us other than the guys in our room, we know we can get it done. And that’s a good thing, we’re a pretty dangerous animal when we got our backs against the wall and that’s the way we’re approaching it.”

-- Dave Lozo

Blackhawks' net presence
05.19.2010 / 2:30 PM ET

It's getting to be the same old story when it comes to how the Blackhawks get their goals. Someone goes to the net, they can't be moved, and somehow the puck finds its way past the goaltender.

In Game 3, it wasn't just Dustin Byfuglien getting the job done with a deflection goal. Jonathan Toews and Troy Brouwer also tipped shots from in tight, leaving Sharks coach Todd McLellan to explain what his team needs to do differently against Byfuglien with Game 3 on Friday.

"He was a factor in his goal, certainly," McLellan said. "The Toews goal on the power play, he wasn't as big a factor as Toews getting a stick on the puck off the side. There's no doubt that he's big and strong there. We have a plan, we didn't execute the plan. So we'll continue with that and maybe try to enhance it somehow."

-- Dave Lozo

Toews, Kane, Byfuglien can't be stopped
05.19.2010 / 3:21 AM ET

Since Dustin Byfuglien moved up to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane for Game 2 of the Blackhawks' second-round series against the Canucks, the unit has had amazing chemistry that's resulted in tons of offensive production.

Byfuglien played Game 1 of that series on defense, but Joel Quenneville decided to use him as a net presence and it's been paying off since. In seven games, Byfuglien has 6 goals and 2 assists. Kane has 2 goals and 8 assists and Toews has 5 goals and 9 assists.

"Buff seems to be a playoff performer," said Kane. "It's exciting for us to play with him when he's getting a lot of pucks back. Usually with myself and Toews, played with each other for a while, so we have some chemistry."

Toews now leads the League with 23 points after his goal and assist in Game 2 against the Sharks. Is this the best Toews has ever played in his career?

"I don't think I've ever seen him this good.  Even in practice," Kane said with a laugh. "No, but sometimes as an offensive player, you're just feeling it.  I think this is the biggest time of year.  I think you sw in the Olympics how well he played.  Seems like the guy is a big-time player.  He's fun to play with.  Things are clicking for him, for our line, pretty much our whole team. "

-- Dave Lozo

Hawks ready to go home
05.18.2010 / 4:19 PM ET

They've been on the road since May 10 when they flew out to Vancouver, so, yeah, the Blackhawks think it's about time that they get to sleep in their own beds and eat something other than hotel food.

"Actually, we talked about it today and we think we've been home for a day and a half in the last 15 days," Hawks winger Troy Brouwer told, "so we're ready to get back."

Since leaving for Vancouver on May 4 for Game 3 of that series, the Blackhawks have spent exactly two nights at home (May 8-9). They've been in San Jose ever since May 12, when they flew here the morning after they knocked out the Canucks in Vancouver.

Now, of course, they have had success on these trips. They've won six straight road games dating back to April 22 at Nashville, but still, they can't wait to board that flight bound for Chicago tomorrow morning.

"It's been a long time on the road and it'll be nice to get into Chicago," Duncan Keith said, "but hopefully after a win."

-- Dan Rosen

Niemi chirps Kane
05.17.2010 / 7:54 PM ET

The usually quiet Antti Niemi was apparently in a jovial mood Monday because with some prodding from Kris Versteeg the Blackhawks goalie tried to get a few licks on Patrick Kane.

It all goes back to Washington center Nicklas Backstrom, the fourth overall pick in the 2006 Entry Draft, signing a 10-year, $67 million contract extension on Monday.

Kane, the first overall pick in the 2007 Entry Draft, signed a five-year, $31.5 million contract extension in December that kicks in starting next season. That means Backstrom, at an annual salary of $6.7 million, makes more than Kane's annual salary of $6.3 million.

Niemi, with the help of Versteeg, took notice.

"Because Backstrom just signed that big 10-year deal, I think it was Versteeg that told him to say something to me," Kane said of Niemi. "He goes, 'Hey Kaner,' and everyone looks at him like, 'What's he going to say.' He says, 'How do you feel about Backstrom making more than you?' It was really funny."

You have to think there's more to the story that Kane isn't telling, but then again, knowing Niemi and the way he talks, his rip probably ended right there. Niemi is not long on words, at least in English, but he doesn't have to be as long as he stops the puck like he did on Sunday.

The Sharks today talked about trying to beat him high in Game 2, but Kane says good luck on that.

"To be honest with you, he's one of the hardest goaltenders to score on in practice as far as shooting high," Kane said. "Sometimes I can't even figure him out in practice."

-- Dan Rosen

The Hawks have a lead, now what?
05.17.2010 / 7:46 PM ET

Every team wants to take a 1-0 lead in a series, but Chicago has become quite good coming from behind. Until Sunday's 2-1 win, they had to do it in four straight series' dating back to the second round last season against Vancouver.

So, one question heading into Tuesday's Game 2 is how they handle playing with the lead?

"We always seem to feel comfortable coming from behind and being down in a series, especially early," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We'll learn how to handle this lead and find ways to motivate ourselves to keep finding that next level."

Joel Quenneville said the Hawks best way to handle the lead is to make sure they have a really good start in Game 2.

"We feel they start better than anybody, so let's make sure the first handful of shifts each that there's a purpose behind them, there's intelligence and there's some pace," Quenneville said. "We've got to react like we shouldn't be satisfied, we haven't accomplished anything, and feel like we have to win."

The prospect of going up 2-0 before the series shifts to United Center is definitely intriguing to these Hawks, who don't know what a 2-0 lead in a series feels like.

"It'd be good and fun," Dustin Byfuglien said.

Hey, can't argue with the big guy there.

-- Dan Rosen

Sharks talk beating Niemi
05.17.2010 / 7:32 PM ET

One day after his performance in Game 1 against the Sharks, Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi remained a hot topic among both teams Monday. A game-changing 44 saves tends to do that.

For the Sharks, it was all about solving him with Game 2 set for Tuesday. It wasn't as if their 45 shots in Game 1 were all from the outside. Many of them were quality chances, so what needs to change in the next meeting?

"We just need to, with second chances, get them upstairs," said Joe Thornton. "He takes away the bottom of the net pretty good. I think when we do get second chances, throw them upstairs on him."

Niemi is well-known for his strong play along the ice. The 6-foot-2 has long, quick legs that take away almost everything low. But Dany Heatley wasn't ready to give Niemi the same kind of praise he's been getting from everyone else.

"Yeah, I had some pretty good chances," Heatley said. "I would have liked to put them in different spots, but he made some saves. I thought at times we made him look pretty good. We just have to make better shots when we get those chances."

-- Dave Lozo

Hawks go power-less, but it doesn't matter
05.16.2010 / 8:32 PM ET

It's pretty rare when a team goes without a single power-play chance and still wins the game. The Blackhawks proved it can be done this afternoon in Game 1, and they did it despite a 5-0 disparity in penalties.

"You're always going to feel that you could have had a few calls go your way, but it wasn't the case," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "It is what it is. We get a little ticked off on the bench. It's natural to react that way when you think you could have drawn a penalty but you didn't get the call. That's the way it is and we still found a way to win the game. We didn't make excuses about something like that."

It's obvious the Hawks believed they could have had one or two power play chances, but they were not complaining about the disparity. The Sharks simply felt they played a well-disciplined game, and they did.

Perhaps, though, Chicago caught its break in the final minute when it was Kris Versteeg that was sent off for tripping Devin Setoguchi. Several in the media felt it should have been Dave Bolland, one of the Hawks' top penalty killers, who got sent to the box.

Bolland instead was left out to kill most of the 6-on-4 with John Madden, Brent Sopel and Niklas Hjalmarsson.

"It's one of those situations where it was a couple, three guys' sticks in the same play," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said about why it was Versteeg and not Bolland. "I don't know at the end of the day. We still have Toews and Hossa, pretty good penalty killers right there. I'm not complaining."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan said he didn't have time to complain to the refs that they might have caught the wrong guy on the trip.

"What we couldn't do was lose our marbles on the bench and start yelling and screaming at the referee. We had to have some poise and set up a 6‑4 situation," McLellan said. "Irregardless of who was out there … we had to beat a good team. We weren't going to stand up and yell and scream. We were going to get our group organized. If they erred, they erred. We have to move on. Can't do anything about it."

The Hawks had the same feeling about not getting a power play for the whole game.

So be it.

-- Dan Rosen

Sharks, Blackhawks lineup for Game 1
05.16.2010 / 3:12 PM ET

Not a lot has changed for the Sharks and Blackhawks as they get the Western Conference Finals under way.

The Blackhawks will be using the same lineup they used to eliminated the Vancouver Canucks in Game 6 of the second round. The Sharks, who used seven defensemen in the deciding Game 5 against the Red Wings last round, will employ the same strategy Sunday afternoon.

The Blackhawks lines and pairings:



The Sharks lines and pairings are:



-- Dave Lozo

Thornton on Bruins' collapse
05.15.2010 / 8:12 PM ET

You can't really blame Sharks center Joe Thornton if he doesn't exactly empathize with the city of Boston after it suffered through watching the Bruins blow a 3-0 series lead and a 3-0 lead in Game 7 against the Flyers. After all, when fans wanted a scapegoat for the Bruins' failures before the lockout, when Thornton wore the gold and black, it was usually going to be Jumbo Joe.

So you couldn't help but laugh -- if you're not from Boston -- when he was asked what he thought about the Bruins' historic collapse.

"Well, I turned it on about halfway in the first.  It was 3-0," Thornton said. "Halfway in the second, I turned it back on, 3-3.  I was like, 'Wow, poor guys.'

"But who cares," he said with a smile. "Right? Who cares?"

-- Dave Lozo

Thornton: 'Cup or bust'
05.15.2010 / 8:12 PM ET

The expectations haven't changed for the Sharks in recent years. But what has changed is the results.

After six years of failing to reach the Western Conference Finals, the Sharks are back. They're the No. 1 seed, and Thornton wasn't shy about what he expects from his team.

"Well, ever since I've been here, it's Cup or bust," Thornton said. "We realize the expectations out here are probably higher than any city in the Western Conference. We set our sights high in the preseason to get in the playoffs and then do some damage.

"I think we're finally at that point where we're feeling good. We're feeling comfortable with our team, how we play. But you got to win the Cup or you bust.

-- Dave Lozo

Blackhawks have experience
05.15.2010 / 8:12 PM ET

When the Blackhawks reached the Western Conference Finals last season, they exceeded a lot people's expecatations. They ran into Detroit Red Wings, though, and were ousted in five games.

One year later, they still have less overall experience than they're opponents, but they have more players who have taken part in a conference final.

According to Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, the team can't afford to be as sloppy as it was last year and expect to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

"The number one thing is you look at the way we played, won those games, won those first two series in the playoffs against Calgary and then Vancouver," Toews said of 2009. "It just seemed like no matter how many mistakes we made, we still found ways to win games.  Especially against Vancouver, we gave up a lot of leads.  I think we were down, if I can remember correctly, 2-1 in that series.  We somehow just kept coming back. 

"Against a team like Detroit or San Jose, that's not going to fly. You got to correct a lot of those little things."

Toews thinks that's all different this time around.

"But I think this year we're much more mature, much more solid as far as the way we play and win games," he said. "We understand what it's going to take to win this time of year. I think we got that extra push I think that it's going to take to get through this series this year."

-- Dave Lozo

The Buff factor
05.15.2010 / 8:12 PM ET

One player doesn't win a series by himself, but the contributions from Blackhawks forward Dustin Byfuglien was a factor almost as huge as the man himself in beating the Canucks.

The 6-foot-4, 257-pound forward will find the going a little tougher against the Sharks, who have much more physical defenseman in Rob Blake and Kent Huskins. But that doesn't mean he won't be a factor in this series.

"We'll see how it all plays out," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "It's tough to forecast how the position is going to work itself handout."

Sharks coach Todd McLellan feels his team is better equipped to handle Byfuglien than the Canucks were, and a lot of the credit goes to the Detroit Red Wings.

"I believe we can find a way to handle it," McLellan said. "We're not going to eliminate it. He's a very big man, he's a very good player. You have to give him that.

"Part of it is your goaltender putting up with it and looking through it. In my opinion, I don't think there's anybody better in the league than (Tomas) Holmstrom is in Detroit. (Johan) Franzen and (Dan) Cleary, (Todd) Bertuzzi, we just faced a team full of players that were happy to go and stand in the blue paint, drive the goalie bananas.  We found a way to fight through it."

-- Dave Lozo
Quote of the Day

It's a big milestone for me and I'm happy to help my team with lots of good teammates. It's fun.

— Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk, who on Wednesday became the ninth Russian-born player, and ninth Red Wings player, to score 300 NHL goals
World Cup of Hockey 2016