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Blackhawks must halt Wild's home streak to advance

by Brian Hedger


(Chicago leads best-of-7 series 3-2)


Big story: Each team is perfect on home ice in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, meaning the Chicago Blackhawks have quite a challenge ahead to close out the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center in Game 6 of a Western Conference Second Round series.

Since 2009, the Blackhawks are 11-2 in games with an opportunity to clinch a series. Chicago is also 13-0 over that same span in the fifth and sixth games of series that were tied 2-2.

"I don't think we ever think further than the next game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Monday. "[Game 7] is not even in the back of our mind. We're going to Minnesota excited about the challenge and the opportunity that's in front of us. That's our focus and concentrating on winning that game. That's what it's all about."

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago will be without forward Andrew Shaw (lower-body injury) for a fifth straight game, but forward Bryan Bickell played well in Game 5 and filled the void in front of the net on the top power-play unit. Bickell's goal on the man advantage in the second period helped spark a dormant Blackhawks offense in a gritty 2-1 victory.

The Blackhawks will try to find a way to take the effort from the final 40 minutes of Game 5 and bring it to Minnesota. It might be cliché to say the last game is always the hardest to win, but defenseman Johnny Oduya said it's true.

"Yeah, guaranteed," he said. "You play opposition that they have to give everything they have. You're backed into a corner. I said that last year a couple of times. You don't want to have a hockey player backed into a corner. That's when they're at their best. With that said, I think we have the experience and the knowledge of that [so] we need to really be at our best to win the game."

Wild: Minnesota now has playoff experience to draw from, unlike last season. The Wild came back from the same scenario against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference First Round, winning the final two games to advance and clinching Game 7 in overtime at Pepsi Center in Denver.

Minnesota is again in that same situation, but holds a 5-0 record on home ice in the playoffs and has outscored the opposition by a 16-5 margin at Xcel Energy Center.

"This is just the challenge," coach Mike Yeo said Monday. "It is what it is. That's playoffs. That's what makes it great. I said this last time. It's the 'hard' that makes it great. You're gonna have days where you're ticked off and feel [terrible], but then you battle through it, you persevere and you push through it, and you find a way to respond to the challenge in front of you, and there's no better feeling than that."

Who's hot: Chicago forward Patrick Sharp has points in back-to-back games and has one goal with four assists in the series. … Minnesota center Erik Haula scored the lone goal for the Wild in Game 5 and has points in four of his past five games (two goals, two assists).

Injury report: The Blackhawks' Shaw (lower body) is supposed to start skating soon, but will miss his fifth straight game. … Wild defenseman Keith Ballard returns, while goalie Darcy Kuemper (upper body) will serve as backup to Ilya Bryzgalov. Forward Matt Moulson (upper body) remains out, along with forward Jason Zucker (quad) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery).

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