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Blackhawks look to finish Wild in Game 5

by Brian Hedger


(Chicago leads best-of-7 series, 3-1)


Big story: The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t get the series sweep they were looking for against the Minnesota Wild after winning the first two games of this Western Conference Quarterfinals series at United Center. They did, however, leave St. Paul with the minimum they came looking for: a split of those two games at Xcel Energy Center and a 3-1 series lead with a chance to end it Thursday night back home in Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET).

Chicago won Game 4 3-0 Tuesday night to give the Blackhawks their first chance to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since they won the Cup in 2010.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota threw 68 pucks in the general direction of the Chicago net during Tuesday night’s game, but 25 got through for Corey Crawford to save. The Blackhawks also blocked 26 and 17 others missed the net. They also limited shooting lanes, especially on six Wild power plays, and Minnesota went scoreless in those man-advantage situations. The Wild are 0-for-15 in the series on the power play and the only team that hasn’t scored a power-play goal in the playoffs, something that needs to change if they’re going to avoid elimination.

"If you would have told me before the game we'd have attempted 68 shots, I would have said sign me up," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "That was definitely a winnable game. We were doing a lot of good things. We had a great start defensively, we gave them very little in the game, but execution-wise … [the] power play was the lead example of that."

Blackhawks: There's plenty of good news to go around the Chicago locker room, starting with the play of goalie Corey Crawford, who picked up the second postseason shutout of his career Tuesday. The Blackhawks also have forward Patrick Sharp back scoring goals, and they’re getting great work from their penalty-killing units.

Despite needing one win to polish off their first playoff series win since 2010, the Blackhawks feel there's another level they can reach.

"We’ll learn from Game 3 in this series," captain Jonathan Toews said. "We had the chance to really take control of the series… and we didn’t do that at all. So, this is a chance to kind of redeem ourselves for the way we played in Game 3. Everyone is saying we haven't played our best game yet in this series, so we’ve got to get as close to that as we can."

Who's hot: Wild defensemen Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin continue to play a lot of minutes and shut down the Blackhawks' top line. … Sharp has four goals after scoring six in 28 regular-season games. Forward Bryan Bickell scored his third goal of the series in Game 4 on Tuesday night.

Injury report: Wild goaltender Nicklas Backstrom (lower body) was scratched for Game 4 but put on his gear and sat on the bench after Josh Harding left Game 4 with his lower-body injury prior to the second period. Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner (unspecified injury) and forward Zenon Konopka (foot) are out. Harding and forward Mike Rupp (knee) will make the trip with unknown statuses. Forward Dany Heatley (left shoulder) is out the remainder of the season. … Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery (lower body) and center Bolland (lower body) are doubtful for Game 5 and didn't skate Wednesday.

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