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Blackhawks relying on experience, leadership

Down 2-0 in series, Chicago turns to veterans for calming presence entering Game 3 against Predators

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / NHL.com Director of Editorial

NASHVILLE -- The time for anger has passed. The time for action has arrived.

That was the message coming from the Chicago Blackhawks dressing room Monday morning, hours before a pivotal Game 3 against the Nashville Predators in the Western Conference First Round series at Bridgestone Arena (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

The Predators lead the best-of-7 series 2-0. They won the opening game 1-0 in an evenly contested game. They won Game 2 on Saturday, the 5-0 score reflective of the quality of opposition the Blackhawks offered.

 

[RELATED: Complete Blackhawks vs. Predators series coverage]

 

After the game, Chicago's leaders took blame for the hole they faced.

Monday, those same players took the lead in moving forward, getting the Blackhawks right for what they view as a must-win game.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville expected nothing less.

When he looks around his room, he sees several players who have won the Stanley Cup three times. He sees Jonathan Toews, his captain, behaving the same as if the series were 2-0 in Chicago's favor. He sees in Patrick Kane, his scoring superstar, a player capable of changing a series with one snap of his wrists. Defenseman Duncan Keith remains a rock, unperturbed in logging upward of 30 minutes a night.

Those three players are the cornerstones of the leadership group, but they are bolstered by others: defenseman Brent Seabrook, forward Marian Hossa and goalie Corey Crawford included.

"Our group, when there's been a bigger challenge, has met it head on," Quenneville said Monday. "Finding a way is probably the greatest trait across the board, particularly with the guys who have won it before, and those guys leading the charge is always our best message."

This time, perhaps more than in any season since the first Stanley Cup during their current stretch in 2010, the Blackhawks are leaning more on younger players.

Those players are watching what the veterans did in the aftermath of Game 2. They watched how they worked during the morning skate. They will watch them when they take their first shifts of Game 3. And they will learn.

Video: The guys provide thoughts on Nashville-Chicago Game 2

"It's a great advantage to have when you have so many guys that have so much experience under their belts and have been in a lot of playoff series," said defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, 25, who has played 13 career Stanley Cup Playoff games. "They have a lot of great knowledge."

That knowledge brings perspective.

Toews, who has 126 games of NHL playoff experience, knows that the Blackhawks can't look too far ahead.

"We're not where we want to be or where we would have said we'd have wanted to be at the start of the series," Toews said. "But I think everyone learns to deal with it, and I think the young guys, too, are just maybe getting their feet under them and understanding that now we can be loose, we can go out there and play the way we know we can play and try to put the pressure on them in their building."

Kane, who has played in 125 NHL playoff games, knows that if the Blackhawks do the right things on Monday, the narrative will change on Tuesday.

"We win one game and we are right back in the series, it's 2-1," Kane said. "I know there is some anger and some frustration and maybe a little bit of embarrassment too. At same time, we have this game tonight, worry about this game and not worry about what happened or maybe could happen. Play with the right formula, play the way the coaches want us to play and I feel like we could be successful."

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