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Blackhawks, Red Wings struggling on power play

by Corey Masisak

DETROIT -- The second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs has had one stark contrast from the opening series for the Detroit Red Wings.

When the seventh-seeded Red Wings knocked off the second-seeded Anaheim Ducks in seven games in the Western Conference Quarterfinals, power-play goals were plentiful for each side. Through three games of the Western Conference Semifinals, led by Detroit 2-1, the Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks have combined for one extra-man goal -- and that one from Chicago's Marian Hossa came 9:03 into the series.

Since Hossa scored, the Red Wings and Blackhawks have combined to kill off 20 consecutive chances with the man-advantage.

"It has been [different]," Detroit captain Henrik Zetterberg said. "I think both teams have had their chances to score some goals, but they haven't really been able to do that. Some part is the goaltending. They've been playing really well on both teams. It is going to come down to special teams eventually. We have to bear down when we get the chance and the same thing, we have to have a good [penalty kill] if you want to win games."

The lack of power-play goals has dueling consequences. The Blackhawks and Red Wings can be happy with their work on the penalty kill, knowing they are shutting down some world-class talents.

The flip side is the teams are concerned about their troubles scoring on the power play heading into Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).

"We went through every single scoring chance we got on the power play in the series here this morning," Detroit coach Mike Babcock said Wednesday. "We talked about and we talked a lot about our power play, had individual power-play meetings. We wanted to run through it and let the guys see what is going on."

Hossa said, "We need the power play to get some goals, that's for sure, to help [get] this series in our advantage. I felt like the first power play [in Game 3] we were moving the puck well, we were finding ways to get a couple good shots, then on other few it was tough to get in, but when we did get in we had some good looks. We have to find a way to put the puck in the net."

The Blackhawks have been dominant on the penalty kill for the duration of the 2012-13 season. Chicago finished the regular season third in the League at 87.2 percent, and the Blackhawks have killed all 29 opposing power plays in this postseason.

Detroit's power play was 15th in the regular season, but the Red Wings did score six times with the man-advantage against the Ducks. That number in the current context is a little misleading, though, because four came in the first two games, so Detroit has two power-play goals in its past eight games.

"It's obviously something that we need to work on," Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Sure, we've had some good looks, but we haven't scored yet. That's what it's all about. We have to find a way there to get the job done. [The Blackhawks] do a pretty good job of getting into the lanes. They oftentimes have a layer of guys just trying to block shots. That's something that we have to work on."

Chicago finished the regular season 19th in the League in power-play proficiency. The Blackhawks dominated games at even strength and on the penalty kill, but the work with the man-advantage has been the closest thing the team has to a weakness.

This is true especially recently because coach Joel Quenneville had punted the idea of finding balance on the two power-play units and loaded up the top group with five of the best players in the NHL: Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith.

The star-studded unit hasn't been getting the job done in the past two games, though, so Quenneville went back to the balanced approach for practice Wednesday at United Center.

"Sure, we've had some good looks, but we haven't scored yet. That's what it's all about. We have to find a way there to get the job done. [The Blackhawks] do a pretty good job of getting into the lanes. They oftentimes have a layer of guys just trying to block shots. That's something that we have to work on."
-- Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall

"Well, [Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard] has been clicking, I'm sure that helps," Kronwall said. "But I think we've been doing some good things, too, to disrupt their breakout a little bit, to make it hard on them to enter the zone with puck possession. That's something that we want to keep working on and just getting better every game.

"They have so much talent and so much firepower really up front, and even on the back end there with Keith on the blue line and [Brent] Seabrook, it doesn't matter who, [Nick] Leddy, the list goes on. So we have to keep doing a good job of being in the lanes and making sure that they stay to the outside."

To this point in the series, the teams have played to pretty much a stalemate on special teams. The work at even strength -- Chicago dominated Game 1, Detroit did so in Game 2 and the Red Wings took better advantage of their spurts in a more even Game 3 -- have been crucial, but as Zetterberg said, eventually someone is going to start scoring some power-play goals.

There is too much world-class talent on the ice, regardless who has the power play, for it not too happen.

"A lot of opportunities," Sharp said. "Seems like there were a few more penalties called last game and we'd like to get some more chances, more shots on net, create some more ... I've got faith in not only our whole group but the guys that are on the power play, that we'll find a way to get it done."

Zetterberg said, "[Chicago's penalty-kill streak] shows that they are doing something right over there. It is a challenge for us to get that first one. Hopefully it will come [in Game 4]."


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