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Blackhawks hoping home ice provides advantage

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- United Center is starting to feel comfortable to the St. Louis Blues, but the Chicago Blackhawks aim to change that in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports 2).

If Chicago can't, the Blues will eliminate the defending champions from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Blackhawks trail 3-2 in the best-of-7 series after winning Game 5 4-3 in double overtime at Scottrade Center on Thursday, and must win on home ice to stay alive.

It won't be easy. St. Louis won twice at United Center in the regular season and won Games 3 and 4 of this series here.

"Sometimes you look at playing at home and you feel you have the advantage," said Blackhawks right wing Patrick Kane, whose goal at 3:07 the second overtime of Game 5 was his first of the series. "You feel like, I don't want to say it's a guaranteed win, but you're in a good position to win a game. I don't think that's the thought process we can have [Saturday]. We have to almost play like we're on the road."

Chicago has won two of its three road games in the series, so that's probably a good approach. The Blues mix skill, size and strength with a straight-ahead approach. It works for them home and away.

Overcoming that combination could be tricky for the Blackhawks. They want to be better than they were in the first two games at United Center but don't want to get caught trying to do too much individually.

Kane said the Blackhawks know the right way to play because they've done it in the past.

"Play a simpler game," he said. "Try not to put on a show and make sure that, yeah, we're taking advantage of the crowd and taking advantage of home ice but not giving them any momentum, especially to start the game."

Chicago is 12-4 in elimination games under coach Joel Quenneville, who is in his eighth season with the Blackhawks. That includes a 6-1 record in road elimination games since 2011, and they're 44-14 under Quenneville in Games 4-7 of a series.

The Blackhawks will need a better effort than in Games 3 and 4 and more discipline. The teams combined for 26 penalties in Game 4, and Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended for Game 5 after using a homophobic slur from the penalty box.

Shaw, who has two goals and four points, will return in Game 6. Having him back on the forecheck and playing in front of the net should help Chicago play a simpler style.

"I just think overall we have to play better here at home," Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "The last two games we had here, we weren't too happy with the way we played. We just have to dig a little bit deeper and we have another level that we have to reach if we want to go past this round, and we want to have a big comeback."

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