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Blackhawks' experience tells them Game 4 is pivotal

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have enough experience in tough spots during the Stanley Cup Playoffs to know they'd better win Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at United Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports).

If they don't, they'll be down 3-1 in the best-of-7 series and face elimination in Game 5 at Honda Center on Monday, where the Anaheim Ducks have lost once in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"This game coming up is huge," Blackhawks forward Brandon Saad said Friday, a day after the Ducks' 2-1 victory in Game 3 put them up 2-1 in the series. "It's pretty much a must-win for us, especially going back to Anaheim where they have a lot of success. We play well at home. We let one slip away [in Game 3], so we’ve got a big one coming up."

Chicago came back from 3-1 down in 2013 to eliminate the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Second Round, but the Blackhawks remember how difficult it was to pull off. They also had home-ice advantage in that best-of-7 series, which put Game 7 in Chicago.

A game after losing home-ice advantage in this series with a triple-overtime defeat in Game 2, the Ducks took it right back with their Game 3 win. The Ducks' only loss at home in these playoffs was Game 2 against the Blackhawks.

"We've done it in the past before," Saad said. "It's never a situation you want to be in, especially with a team like Anaheim, the caliber they have on that team. They're a deep team. They're deadly. We don't want to get in a position where we have to fight and crawl out of a hole. We want to even it up and score on home ice here."

Last season, the Blackhawks came back from 3-1 down in the conference final to force Game 7 with the Los Angeles Kings, but they lost in overtime. Prior to defeating Detroit in 2013, Chicago came back from 3-0 down in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks in 2011 to force Game 7 in Vancouver, but lost in overtime.

The Blackhawks also trailed the Boston Bruins 2-1 in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final before a six-game series victory.

There's no panic this time, but there is urgency.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel with this group," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think getting off to strong starts is [something] we always talk about. A lot of times that puts you in the right spot going forward. We've done a good job in that area. The leadership, preparation-wise, [and] focus [are] always in the right place. It's led by our guys that have been around and know how to win. I think that's the message going into games that's most important, because as you play in the game, you know, that takes over."

The Ducks have outplayed the Blackhawks for the most part during the first three games, but the Blackhawks know there's plenty of hockey left.

"We've got to play like a desperate team," Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw said. "Work, compete [and] throw everything at them. I think we're excited for the next one. [We're] going to go out there and give it everything we've got; be the team with our back up against the wall. That's always the most dangerous team to play against."

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