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Blackhawks preach patience against suffocating Wild

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks know they have to stay patient against the Minnesota Wild during their Western Conference Second Round series, but actually doing it might be tougher than it sounds.

Heading into Game 1 of the best-of-7 series at United Center on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports 2), the Blackhawks know what happens against the Wild when they play too carefree. They lost their last two regular-season games against Minnesota by a combined score of 5-1 and couldn't beat the Wild at their own suffocating game.

How important is patience this time around?

"Probably the most important word we'll use on a regular basis [in this series]," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Patience in games is going to be important, but you still need pace to that and you have to play the right way. You can't get frustrated either by not scoring, not generating a whole lot, knowing that's what you try to do to them as well. But [the Wild are] very effective in the way they play and I think the history we have with them, that's an important word."

It's a delicate balancing act for any team, but especially one with as many high-skill players as the Blackhawks. Their top three lines have players who can make skill plays, but against the Wild they'll have to be smart about when to create opportunities.

Minnesota's style clogs the middle of the ice and effectively slows down the game, and that's exactly what the Wild want. They lull teams to sleep with seemingly mundane hockey and then strike quickly off turnovers with odd-man rushes.

They added size and grit prior to the NHL Trade Deadline by acquiring forward Chris Stewart, and have defensemen who are opportunistic after turnovers. It's a frustrating style to play against for the Blackhawks, who like to use stretch passes from their defensive zone to create instant offense for their wealth of talented forwards.

"They want you to get frustrated," Blackhawks center Marcus Kruger said. "They're doing a good job to make sure you are [frustrated], but we've played them in the past and we know what to expect."

The Blackhawks also know there's a difference between the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It's easier for Chicago to be lulled into somebody else's game during the regular season, but the Blackhawks have memories of winning the Stanley Cup in 2010 and 2013 to keep them focused.

"The way we like to play the game at times is up and down the ice, but [Quenneville] has also kind of implemented a system here, where we can be patient as well," left wing Patrick Sharp said after Chicago's morning skate Friday. "We can protect the net. We can limit chances defensively. And this time of year, it's pretty easy to be patient because of what's on the line. Every shift's important."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Jason Zucker - Mikko Koivu - Chris Stewart

Thomas Vanek - Charlie Coyle - Nino Niederreiter

Matt Cooke - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Jared Spurgeon

Jordan Leopold - Matt Dumba

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Ryan Carter, Erik Haula, Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin, Nate Prosser, Sean Bergenheim, Niklas Backstrom

Injured: Keith Ballard (concussion)

BLACKHAWKS

Brandon SaadJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa

Bryan BickellBrad RichardsPatrick Kane

Patrick SharpAntoine VermetteTeuvo Teravainen

Andrew DesjardinsMarcus KrugerAndrew Shaw

Duncan KeithMichal Rozsival

Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson

Kimmo TimonenBrent Seabrook

Corey Crawford

Scott Darling

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

Injured: Kris Versteeg (lower body)

Status report: Teravainen hasn't played since Game 2 of the first round. He re-enters the lineup on what appears to be a third skill line with Vermette and Sharp, which Quenneville hopes will boost scoring. "I think we have a pretty good combination there," Teravainen said. "We have some speed. We can shoot the puck … really smart guys. If we play together, it's going to be good."

Who's hot: Bickell combined for seven goals and three assists against the Wild in two playoff series the past two seasons, including four goals and two assists in a six-game second-round series last year.

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