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Hawks looking to continue back-to-back dominance

by Brian Hedger / Chicago Blackhawks

CHICAGO - Any way you slice it, the Chicago Blackhawks' regular-season record is impressive.

They went 18-3-3 in home games and 18-4-2 in road games. They went 19-3-5 in one-goal games, 26-2-1 when scoring first and 10-4-4 when the opposition scored the game-opening goal.

That's not to mention the 10-1-1 record in the second game of back-to-back contests, which seems pertinent with the Blackhawks holding a 1-0 series lead against the Los Angeles Kings prior to hosting Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Sunday night at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) - the second of back-to-back games here this weekend.

The Kings went 5-2-1 in the second game of their back-to-backs, but Chicago played in more and did better overall - right down to the lone regulation loss coming on the road against the St. Louis Blues on the last day of the season, when Chicago rested most of its starting lineup.

"[I've] never played back-to-back in the playoffs," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said Sunday morning. "During this year, too, especially with the compressed schedule, a lot of games, maybe this year [more] than any year, we're more prepared for that type of mentality coming into the second game, two games in a row there."

Chicago's depth throughout the lineup is another reason they've succeeded in this particular test of physical and mental stamina.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville made it a point to watch his players' minutes in games this season, gave them more off days between games than he normally would in a full 82-game schedule and generally tried to save some gas in the tank for situations just like this one.

Now, it's not as much a matter of their legs being tired but keeping their focus sharp. In the conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings, Chicago won the first game at home by a 4-1 score and then lost the second game three days later by an identical score.

That loss might have sparked Detroit's three-game winning streak to put them up 3-1 in that series and force the Blackhawks to counter by stringing three wins of their own together to end it in overtime of Game 7 at home.

They don't want to get into that situation again, especially against the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings.

"Back-to-back games, we want to make sure we don't take anything for granted," Quenneville said. "We want to make sure we get off to a strong start and utilize everybody early in the game and set a faster pace than we did [Saturday]."

His players sound like they've gotten the message this time. They know the Kings - who've won 14 straight games at Staples Center, including seven straight in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs - just need to win one game in Chicago to steal home-ice advantage.

"We got to know that having these first two games at home is an advantage," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said Sunday. "We have to use that. I think we played pretty good [on Saturday]. We did some good things as a team [Saturday], but we have to build off of it. We want to keep control of the series. These home games are huge. We didn't really do that in the last series. We kind of put ourselves in a tough spot. That's something we can learn from."

Author: Brian Hedger | Correspondent

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