Forget about it.
That's the mentality the Chicago Blackhawks are touting as they enter Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday night with their backs against the wall and their season on the line. It won't be easy coming off Sunday's 6-1 home loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals, but the Blackhawks know they need to stay away from the rough stuff and focus on the task at hand in Game 5.
"I think our game deteriorated as the score deteriorated as far as getting a little bit more undisciplined," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday afternoon. "We've got to be smart about how we play against them. I think getting even is trying to win the hockey game. I think that's our focus and our mindset. A lot was mentioned about retribution and stuff in the last game, but that really wasn't a part of it. At the same time, being smart and staying out of the penalty box is part of it."
The Blackhawks couldn't stay out of the box on Sunday -- they handed the Red Wings eight power plays. Detroit cashed in on three of them en route to the easy victory.
Things will have to be awfully different Wednesday night if Chicago is to extend its season.
"As the game went along, I think it kind of got out of hand," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews
said. "I think when the score was 4-1 or 5-1, we wanted to be a little bit more physical and try and get them off their game. We took too many penalties in that regard. We've got to have a better focus going into the next one. I think if we do that then we'll stay on track a little bit better."
Who will be between the pipes for Chicago remains to be seen. Nikolai Khabibulin (lower-body injury) did not practice on Tuesday but did make the trip. If he can't play, Cristobal Huet -- who allowed five goals on 26 shots in Game 4 -- will get the call.
Martin Havlat, who was on the wrong end of a big hit from Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall on Friday night, also did not practice but is in Motown. The Blackhawks hope to clarify his status on Wednesday morning.
"Throughout the whole year, different players have been stepping up, and that's the best thing about our team," Chicago forward Patrick Kane
said. "We have pretty good depth. Someone else will just have to step in and fill that role. Obviously, the task will be tough, but we can’t worry about that. I mean, they're missing guys like (Pavel) Datsyuk and Nick Lidstrom and they're finding ways to win games. We've got to do the same."
Sunday marked Huet's first start since April 11, when he made 21 saves in a 4-2 win at Detroit. Khabibulin took over from there, blanking the Wings the following day in Chicago's final game of the regular season. Kane, though, is confident that Huet can get the job done -- should he get the call -- in Game 5.
"He takes some heat that he really doesn't deserve," Kane said. "Some of the goals were not his fault at all. He hasn’t played in a while, too. It was nice for him to get in there and get some shots and kind of feel the puck a little bit in the third period. We feel very confident in front of him. We have two No. 1 goalies. Obviously, he's going to have to be good for us to win."
Truth be told, everyone will. Despite the fact that his team's season is on the line, Quenneville is encouraged by the Hawks' attitude on Tuesday morning.
"Our young guys, all year long, have responded to all kinds of different challenges," Quenneville said. "They welcome whatever is facing them. I thought their approach today was really healthy. They've got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. I've got to commend them on how they approached today.
"I don't think anybody is giving us a chance to overcome the challenge we've got. But we look at the small picture. We need to play a great game from start to finish, and we haven't played our best yet in this series. We've had some good stretches. We have to play real solid, really strong and really smart from start to finish and try to get a little momentum off a win."
Contact Brian Compton at: email@example.com.
Author: Brian Compton | NHL.com Staff Writer