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Stanley Cup Final
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Blackhawks feel they're handling Ducks' physical play

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Anaheim Ducks are as dedicated to preaching the merits of physical play as they are to finishing checks against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, a best-of-7 series that is tied 2-2.

Win or lose, the Ducks have mentioned after each of the first four games that they're wearing down the Blackhawks physically and they believe it will pay off in a long series.

"No human can withstand that many hits," Anaheim center Ryan Kesler said. "We’re going to keep banging out there and going after them."

Chicago lacks quality depth among its defensemen and is the smaller team, but the Blackhawks haven't crumbled yet heading into Game 5 at Honda Center on Monday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

In fact, the Blackhawks are starting to think the Ducks might be doing as much damage to themselves by delivering a lot of hits.

"I think it's both ways," said Chicago forward Bryan Bickell, its biggest lineup regular at 6-foot-4, 223 pounds. "They are wearing us down, but they're getting tired from wearing us down. So, it's a three-game series now."

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Blackhawks managing to overcome poor stretches

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- It's a stat that is both impressive and frustrating for the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Following their 5-4, Game 4, double-overtime victory against the Anaheim Ducks in the Western Conference Final on Saturday, the Blackhawks have allowed at least three goals in a period six times in their 14 postseason games.

Remarkably, they've won four of those games. They've scored three goals in one period five times, including twice in the same period they allowed three. The latest happened during a wild third period at United Center on Saturday, when the Ducks scored three straight goals in 37 seconds to take a 4-3 lead.

The Blackhawks were again forced to respond, which they did with a power-play goal by right wing Patrick Kane that eventually forced overtime.

"I mean, it's not the recipe for success, but when we get ourselves in those situations, we have a lot of great leadership and experience to kind of get ourselves through those situations," Kane said. "I think that's probably what we count on most, and no matter what happens in the hockey game, we never feel like we're out of it."

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Sobotka will decide soon on return to Blues: report

Sunday, 05.24.2015 / 12:00 PM / News

NHL.com

The St. Louis Blues expect to know in the next week whether forward Vladimir Sobotka will return from the Kontinental Hockey League for the 2015-16 season, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

A restricted free agent when he left the Blues in the summer of 2014 to sign a three-year contract with Avangard Omsk of the KHL, Sobotka has an out clause following each season allowing him to return to the NHL.

Sobotka has two weeks from the end of the IIHF World Championship to let Omsk know of his decision. The World Championship ended May 17, giving Sobotka until the end of the month.

"If he decides to come back to the NHL, we'll welcome him back with open arms," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong told the Post-Dispatch. "And if not, we'll address it a year from now. He knows he's going to come back through St. Louis."

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Noel: Blackhawks' urgency paid off in series tie

Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight on the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Claude Noel to break down the action. Noel will be checking in throughout the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Noel was coach for the Winnipeg Jets from 2011-14 and interim coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2009-10. He also coached many years in the minor leagues, including the American Hockey League. In addition, Noel, a former forward, had 138 points in 353 regular-season games in the AHL and played seven games in the NHL with Washington Capitals in 1979-80.

The Chicago Blackhawks had a performance of perseverance and a will to get the job done in a 5-4 double overtime victory against the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday at United Center.

That's what Claude Noel took away from the win that evened the best-of-7 series 2-2. Game 5 is at Honda Center on Monday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

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Ducks score 2nd-fastest three goals in playoff history

Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The top line of the Chicago Blackhawks dominated the early part of the third period Saturday and scored twice to give them a two-goal lead at 7:38.

But by the time Jonathan Toews, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa returned to the ice for another shift, the Blackhawks were losing.

Chicago managed to survive and win Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, 5-4 in double overtime, but not before the Anaheim Ducks produced a stunning flurry of goals.

The Ducks scored three times in 37 seconds, the second-fastest three goals in Stanley Cup Playoffs history, to take a 4-3 lead.

"I've come to realize that our team's capable of a lot of things, especially at times when it looks like things are pretty dark and we might be out of it, were a group that believes, no matter what, in here," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "I'm really proud of our guys for fighting and battling back. Down a couple of goals, it would be easy to pack it in, but we didn't feel sorry for ourselves, we kept working at it and certainly gave it our all. So it's unfortunate to lose, but I thought we did a lot of really good things."

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Dodging Ducks' combo, Blackhawks fought back

Shawn Roarke - Director, Editorial

CHICAGO -- As the Western Conference Final evolves into a heavyweight brawl featuring two behemoths with completely different styles, the Chicago Blackhawks are showing they have the granite chin necessary to absorb the haymakers of their hungry opponent.

The Blackhawks were on the mat again Saturday in Game 4, trailing by a goal in the third period, their bleary eyes focused squarely on the potential of a win-or-go-home scenario if the Anaheim Ducks could get through the final 10:41 of regulation with a lead crafted on 37-second fusillade of punches filled with malicious intent.

Instead, Patrick Kane responded with a stinging jab less than four minutes later to tie it. In the second overtime, Antoine Vermette, scratched in Game 3, countered Anaheim's brutality with a roundhouse of his own, holding onto the puck in the slot long enough until goalie Frederik Andersen committed and was not in position to snag his wrist shot.

The goal gave Chicago an improbable 5-4 victory and had the crowd cheering for the home team's toughness and resiliency. It also evened the best-of-7 series 2-2.

"My group finds ways," coach Joel Quenneville said with a tinge of amazement creeping into his tired voice. "It was one of those stretches where our guys find ways instead of looking for the out. It's an amazing group. Tonight is a good illustration of it."

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Stanley Cup Playoffs notebook: Saturday, May 23

Sunday, 05.24.2015 / 2:16 AM / 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs

NHL Public Relations

VERMETTE SCORES IN SECOND OVERTIME TO EVEN SERIES AT 2-2

After the teams scored three goals each in the third period, Antoine Vermette scored at 5:37 of double-overtime to even Chicago's Western Conference Final series with Anaheim at two games apiece.

* The Blackhawks improved to 4-0 in overtime games during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, all of which have required at least two overtime periods. In addition to Game 4, the others included April 15 at Nashville (4-3 2OT W in Game 1 of first round), April 21 vs. Nashville (3-2 3OT W in Game 4 of first round) and May 19 at Anaheim (3-2 3OT W in Game 2 of WCF).

* According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Blackhawks became the first team in NHL history to win four games in a single postseason that required at least two overtime periods.

* Vermette recorded his second career game-winning goal in the playoffs (also April 25, 2006 at Tampa Bay w/ Ottawa) and first in overtime. He has 11-10—21 in 69 postseason games, including 2-1—3 this year (11 GP).

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After scratch, Vermette happy to help Blackhawks

Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent

CHICAGO -- Antoine Vermette hadn't had much fun with the Chicago Blackhawks until the second overtime of Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at United Center on Saturday.

After being a healthy scratch Thursday in a Game 3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Vermette scored the game-winning goal 5:37 into double overtime for a 5-4 win that evened the best-of-7 series at 2-2.

Game 5 is at Honda Center on Monday (9 p.m.; NBCSN; CBC; TVA Sports).

Left wing Patrick Sharp sent a pass from behind the Ducks net to Vermette, whose shot from the slot was blocked by Ducks forward Rickard Rakell. Vermette pounced on the loose puck and sent it into the net past goalie Frederik Andersen.

Vermette slid to the corner, pumped his fists and celebrated his second goal of the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, also his second since coming to Chicago prior to the NHL Trade Deadline. He didn't score in 19 regular-season games with the Blackhawks after leaving the Arizona Coyotes.

"I think overall on that shift, we talk about our speed, and I think we are effective when we move our feet," Vermette said. "I think that was an illustration of that. We get the puck going in their end a little bit. We stuck with it. ... Lucky enough we got it back and put it in."

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Babcock will attract free agents to Toronto: Franson

Saturday, 05.23.2015 / 9:15 PM / News

NHL.com

Defenseman Cody Franson, who played almost four seasons for the Toronto Maple Leafs before being traded in March, said Saturday that free agents, like himself, will find the team more attractive now that it's coached by Mike Babcock.

"I definitely think it makes [Toronto] more interesting," Franson told TSN 1050 Radio. "... Definitely, with Mr. Babcock going there, it's an exciting time for people in that organization and I think it makes it more intriguing to free agents for sure."

Franson will be a free agent July 1 after finishing the season with the Nashville Predators. He said he would like the chance to return to Toronto.

"One hundred percent; I've always said that I loved it in Toronto," the 27-year-old said. "... I'm hopeful that Toronto's in the mix come July 1 and my phone will definitely be on and hoping that they're one of the teams that calls."

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Rangers power play finds its rhythm against Lightning

Saturday, 05.23.2015 / 12:59 PM / Rangers vs Lightning - 2015 Eastern Conference Final

Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

TAMPA -- Keith Yandle said the New York Rangers are scoring goals on the power play because they're keeping it simple. Dan Boyle said the only difference is the puck is going into the net now, when earlier in the Stanley Cup Playoffs it wasn't.

With all due respect, the Rangers defensemen are being too vague and far too humble in describing a power play that has needed five shots to score four goals in the past two games and has connected twice in each of the past three games in the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

The Rangers were 6-for-38 on the power play in the first two rounds; they're 6-for-15 against the Lightning, including 2-for-4 in a 5-1 win in Game 4 on Friday at Amalie Arena, and 6-for-13 in the past three games.

The best-of-7 series is tied at 2-2 with Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"We're making plays," said right wing Martin St. Louis, who broke out of his 18-game scoring drought with a power-play goal in Game 4. "Special teams are always big at this time of the year and it's nice to get our power play rolling."

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Quote of the Day

For our team, as a group, we've never been this far before, and so it's just more lessons learned, and sometimes you have to go to the school of hard knocks to find out what works and what doesn't. We've got a young group. They've played some unreal hockey here to get us this far, and we showed if we're not going to play the proper way, a really, really good hockey team is going to beat you, and that's what they did. It's a lesson learned.

— Lightning coach Jon Cooper after Rangers win in Game 6 forced a Game 7 that will be played at Madison Square Garden on Friday