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Blackhawks hoping for extended stay out west

by Dan Rosen /
CHICAGO -- Go ahead and call them optimists.

The Chicago Blackhawks players, coaches and team personnel arrived for Monday's charter flight wheeling full bags onto the runway. They were prepared for more than just an overnight trip to Vancouver for Game 6 Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

If the Blackhawks close out the Canucks at GM Place, they'll stay west, where they'll begin preparations for the Western Conference Finals, which is scheduled to open this weekend in San Jose.

A return trip to Chicago only will be necessary if disaster strikes in Vancouver.

"We don't want to come back here. We'd like to stay out there."
-- Blackhawks' Andrew Ladd

"We don't want to come back here," Andrew Ladd said from inside the charter facility near O'Hare International Airport. "We'd like to stay out there."

To make that happen, the Hawks have to be better across the board than they were in their 4-1 loss Sunday at United Center. Included among the items that need to be addressed are their passing and puck possession, because those feed the proverbial beast and make the Blackhawks one of the League's most dangerous teams.

Both were way off Sunday and that's why the Hawks couldn't generate any kind of net presence the way they did in Games 3 and 4, when they stood right in front of Roberto Luongo and put 12 pucks past him.

Luongo gave up 16 rebound goals in the Canucks' first 10 playoff games, but he saw every puck sent his way Sunday and gave up very few second chances.

"It was a long pass that we couldn't complete and we couldn't complete the short ones," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think they had a lot of sticks in the way (Sunday) night so I think our first pass was stagnating most of the game."

When the Hawks did get in the zone, they were too pretty.

"We didn't shoot enough," Quenneville said. "We were looking for maybe a better play, and I think we need more pucks and more traffic. If we just simplify those things in the offensive zone and get more direct plays at the net, it will reinforce what we want to do."

Patrick Kane, who had just one shot in 22:40 of ice time, agreed that the Canucks deserve some credit for forcing the Blackhawks to play a choppy game. Kane said the Canucks foiled the Hawks by turning down their aggression.

"I wouldn't say they didn't forecheck, but they kind of fake forechecked you, where they pretended they were coming and then kind of sat back a bit," Kane said. "When they do that the biggest thing is to get pucks behind their (defensemen) and try to cycle them down low. It seems like their defense is a little depleted right now with (Sami) Salo going down, so you want to work them as best as you can down there and try to get them tired."

Chicago never made that adjustment in Game 5. The Hawks seemed determined to score a wow goal instead of a dirty goal -- a strategy for disaster in the playoffs.

Kane thinks his team can make the adjustment for Game 6, and it helps that the Hawks are on the road in a building where they have had some success. In the past two postseasons Chicago is 4-1 at GM Place. It was 1-1-0 there during the regular season.

"Especially going on the road here it's probably better to keep it simple," Kane said. "Instead of making that extra pass we need to get that extra shot on net and maybe crash, especially on Luongo. The biggest thing is to get shots and traffic on him. We know that recipe. If he sees the puck he's going to stop it."

Kane also knows he has to get going again, too. His numbers in the postseason are solid (6 goals, 7 assists). He has 2 goals and 4 assists against the Canucks, but was held off the score sheet Sunday for only the second time in 11 playoff games.

"(Sunday) night it was a weird game where you had the puck a lot but nothing is really coming when you do have time with the puck," Kane said. "When I do get the puck I just have to make better plays and try to get shots on the net."

Kane said shooting whenever possible sometimes can be overlooked, but it's hard to do on a consistent and effective basis when your passing and puck possession is off.

"Our puck-moving game was almost non-existent," Quenneville said. "In the other games we were moving the puck better, but our support on the puck wasn't very good and our patience with the puck wasn't very good. Certainly they were a factor."

But can the Canucks do the same thing at home, where they have struggled this postseason? Judging by the weight of their luggage, the Blackhawks clearly have their doubts.

"You pack as if you expect to win," Kris Versteeg said, "and that's what we expect to do."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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