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Blackhawks experts in closing out series

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks don't always show a killer instinct early in a Stanley Cup Playoffs series, but the defending Stanley Cup champions sure know how to capitalize when given a chance to clinch.

Since 2009 the Blackhawks are 11-2 in series close-out games in their favor with a chance to up that mark Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild.

They're also looking to go 14-0 since 2009 in Game 5 and Game 6 of series that were tied 2-2, after winning 2-1 in Game 5 against the Wild on Sunday at United Center. Chicago now leads a best-of-7 series 3-2 against Minnesota in the Western Conference Second Round, with a chance to close it out in Game 6 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center (9 p.m., CNBC, TSN, RDS2).

"I don't know [why]," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said, when asked to give a reason for the domination of series-clinching contests. "It's something I wasn't really aware of, but we have a lot of characters in the room [who] are good in important games, [who] step up and play their best hockey in games like that. A lot of good leaders and other guys have been around [and] have experience. I think that's key in situations like this."

Having a core group of players who have hoisted the Cup two times in a four-year span doesn't hurt either.

"A lot of nerves come in," Oduya said. "Either it's overtime or late in the periods in key situations. [Experience is] something that's needed."

Forward Bryan Bickell agrees.

"I think the experience that everyone's had, the situations that people have been in before can relate to what kind of situation we're in now," he said. "To do exactly whatever it takes to [clinch] this series is one of the hardest things in any series, to clinch it. But I feel we have the confidence and the poise and the relaxation that we don't get ahead of ourselves and just play shift-by-shift."

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