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Blackhawks seek answer for top Predators line

Chicago faces elimination in Game 4 on Thursday

by Brian Hedger / NHL.com Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks are down 3-0 in their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators and sound just like they did on the brink of elimination multiple times before.

After losing Game 3 3-2 in overtime Monday, the Blackhawks vowed to narrow their focus and try to extend the best-of-7 series with a Game 4 win at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

It may take more than focus or determination. The Blackhawks need an answer for the Predators' top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson, and they need it fast.

 

[RELATED: Complete Blackhawks vs. Predators series coverage]

 

"That line, they've got quick sticks and they've got some quickness and they've had a [good] group the whole last part of the year," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Tuesday. "We've got to try and shut it down."

That wouldn't solve all the issues the Blackhawks are having against the Predators, but it would be a big help.

Forsberg has four points (two goals, two assists) and helped put Game 3 into overtime by scoring twice in the third period. Johansen has five points (one goal, four assists), including at least one point in each game. Arvidsson two points (one goal, one assist) and is making life difficult for Blackhawks defensemen with his speed, skill and tenacity.

"Anytime you're playing against good players, you want to make them defend," said Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who's been on the ice for four of the Predators' nine goals. "Part of that is having the puck, and we haven't really had the puck a whole lot against that line in particular."

Video: Predators down Blackhawks in OT, take 3-0 series lead

Forsberg (60.4 percent), Johansen (61.8 percent) and Arvidsson (62 percent) each has a 5-on-5 shot-attempts percentage of at least 60 percent. They're also defending well by doing exactly what Keith said the Blackhawks must do: Keeping the puck away from the opponent.

"They're a really fast line, so we have to help our [defensemen] more and check them, even before when they start forechecking," Blackhawks forward Richard Panik said "We have to slow them down."

Forsberg (20:21), Johansen (20:10), and Arvidsson (19:36) are not playng more in the series than expected, but their productivity might make it seem that way.

"There's a million different things you can say about how to defend any team's top line, let alone this team's top line," Keith said. "They've got a lot of confidence right now. They've all scored goals in this series, so just taking that one step and having a good game the next game and trying to get the job done … get the momentum on our side. That's the plan."

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