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Blackhawks bank on experience in Game 7 against Blues

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO-- The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot more Game 7 experience than the St. Louis Blues, which has helped them win the Stanley Cup three times in the past six seasons.

That knowledge is the reason the Blackhawks haven't been concerned before heading to St. Louis for Game 7 of the Western Conference First Round series at Scottrade Center on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, CSN-CH).

Chicago, which trailed the best-of-7 series 3-1 before two straight wins, has 19 players on their roster with Game 7 experience, including eight who have played in all four Game 7s since Joel Quenneville took over as coach in 2008-09.

"I don't think you ever learn how to play in a Game 7," said defenseman Brent Seabrook, whose Game 7 overtime goal won a 2013 second-round series against the Detroit Red Wings. "I think when you play in more of them, when you get the opportunity to play in more of them, you get ... comfortable is not the right word, but you get not as nervous, I guess."

This isn't just another game to the defending Stanley Cup champions, but it's certainly not their first Game 7 experience. They're 2-2 in this scenario under Quenneville, and this is the third time since 2013 the Blackhawks have come back from a 3-1 deficit to force a seventh game.

That second-round series against the Red Wings in 2013 was the first, and was followed in the 2014 Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings. Chicago lost the seventh game in that series in overtime at United Center. The Blackhawks' core group played their first Game 7 in 2011, again losing in overtime after overcoming a 3-0 deficit against the Vancouver Canucks.

"I think you have to have mental toughness," said defenseman Duncan Keith, who has three goals and an assist in the series against the Blues. "I mean, I don't think we really analyze things too much or try to measure certain things. We're just out there playing and we know that when we're down 3-1 [in a series], we're in a situation where we've got nothing to lose."

St. Louis, which has eight players with Game 7 experience, has been eliminated in the first round in each of the past three seasons.

"I don't know about that," said Seabrook, when asked if the Blues are under more pressure. "We're not too worried about them. We're worried about ourselves. They're a great team. They've shown it in this series. We've got to be at our best. We've got to come out and be ready to roll."

The Blackhawks had no problem in the second period of Game 6 on Saturday, when they outshot the Blues 19-9 and scored three straight goals to overcome a 3-1 deficit. They scored two more in the third for five unanswered goals in a 6-3 win.

If the Blackhawks are going to keep their title defense alive, they must win a third game in St. Louis since losing Game 1 there 1-0 in overtime. Their confidence that it can be done comes not only from an extensive playoff history of successful comebacks, but also from within this series.

"We put ourselves in an awful spot a little while ago," Quenneville said. "[Now] we put ourselves exactly where we want to be. We've got momentum. We've got to be excited about this challenge. Have fun with it, [and] play the way we did the last couple of games. We keep getting better and that's what we're looking for."

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