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Blackhawks experienced at closing out playoff series

by Corey Masisak /

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Minnesota Wild face a daunting challenge, trailing a best-of-7 series 3-0. It might be even tougher considering the opponent.

The Chicago Blackhawks have a lot of Stanley Cup Playoffs success since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane arrived at the beginning of the 2007-08 season. Chicago is one victory from reaching the Western Conference Final for a fifth time in seven seasons.

A big part of the Blackhawks' ability to consistently advance deep in the postseason is their performances in games when they can advance. Chicago is 13-4 with Toews and Kane in playoff games after they have accumulated three wins in a series.

Two of those four losses are in Game 7s, and those were in overtime. When Chicago has a chance to end a series before it reaches seven games, the Blackhawks are 12-2.

"I think it is experience," Chicago forward Bryan Bickell said. "We've been in this situation a lot the last five or six years. It's about execution and knowing what we need to do. There is a preparation of knowing what to expect from past situations in this kinds of games. We are just excited."

NHL teams are 13-19 in Game 4, 5 or 6 when they can eliminate an opponent since the start of the 2014 playoffs, including 6-6 in the first round this year.

Winning Game 4, 5 or 6 when a team has three victories is not easy. The cliché is "the fourth one is always the toughest" because teams are desperate to avoid their season ending.

That has not been the case for the Blackhawks. They have been clinical finishing off teams, though the Nashville Predators did squeeze an extra game out of them during the Western Conference First Round.

The Wild will try to do the same Thursday in Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

"[The Wild] had an amazing run when they made the trade for the goalie there, went on an amazing run to get to the playoffs," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We know what they're capable of doing and they have a structured team game as well. Every game has been tight, close. We expect the same tonight and we want to make sure we even raise our level of play."

Winning 16 Stanley Cup Playoff games is a physical and emotional grind. Avoiding extra mileage on bodies and minds can be a huge advantage. What the Los Angeles Kings did last season, surviving three seven-game series to reach the Stanley Cup Final, was an outlier.

"It's nice to get rest, but I don't think we're looking at that though," Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook said. "I think we're looking at a very good Minnesota team playing at home that we have to be prepared for and be ready for, so we'll take everything as it comes in stride."

Here are the projected lineups:


Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Bryan Bickell - Brad Richards - Patrick Kane

Patrick Sharp - Antoine Vermette - Teuvo Teravainen

Andrew Desjardins - Marcus Kruger - Andrew Shaw

Duncan Keith - Michal Rozsival

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Kimmo Timonen - Brent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

Scratched: Joakim Nordstrom, Daniel Carcillo, David Rundblad, Kyle Cumiskey, Michael Paliotta, Antti Raanta

Injured: Kris Versteeg (lower body)


Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Thomas Vanek - Kyle Brodziak - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Nate Prosser - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Ryan Carter, Sean Bergenheim, Christian Folin, Jordan Leopold, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Chris Stewart (upper body), Justin Fontaine (lower body), Keith Ballard (concussion)

Status report: Versteeg skated again with his teammates Thursday but the Blackhawks aren't expected to make any lineup changes. "You just wait and hopefully get back in," Versteeg said. "There's nothing you can do. I think if you're happy about sitting out, you shouldn't be playing the game. So, I'm not happy that I'm not playing, but I'm also excited for the challenge to get back in whenever I do."

Who's hot: Kane has scored in four straight games, dating to Game 6 of the first round. He has outscored the Wild 3-1 in the past two games.

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