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Coyotes-Blackhawks turning into battle of attrition

by Tim Cronin /

CHICAGO -- A series with three overtimes in as many games, two suspensions and more animosity than was expected between Phoenix and Chicago, teams that see each other only four times in the regular season, continues Thursday night.

And nobody knows what to expect when the Coyotes try to build on a 2-1 series lead against the Blackhawks in Game 4 at the United Center (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN, RDS2).

Except overtime, perhaps.

Deadlocks at the 60-minute mark, and the physicality that has increased from the opening puck drop, has been the common theme in the series.


Boedker OT goal lifts PHX to series edge

By Jerry Brown - Correspondent
Mikkel Boedker threaded a low shot between the legs of goaltender Corey Crawford 13:15 into overtime Tuesday night, lifting the Phoenix Coyotes to a 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at United Center. READ MORE ›

Phoenix will miss Raffi Torres, suspended indefinitely Wednesday for his shoulder to the chin of Chicago's Marian Hossa in the first period of Game 3. Torres will be in New York for a hearing on Friday, which means the suspension could be more than five games. Hossa, resting at home following his release from Northwestern Memorial Hospital late Tuesday night, may not play the rest of the series.

"One thing our group is focused on is what we have to do," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "We have to focus on improving and what we have to do to win the fourth game of the series.

"We're going to play to win. We're not going to play dirty. But to win in the playoffs, you have to play hard."

If it's a battle of attrition, Phoenix could have the upper hand because of superior depth. Mikkel Boedker was the best example from Game 3, scoring the game-winner in overtime and setting up Rostislav Klesla's goal. Boedker subbed for left wing Lauri Korpikoski (upper body).

"Our depth throughout the organization is better than it's been," Tippett said. "Young Boedker comes in and does a great job. Whoever gets the opportunity is going to have to step up."

While Torres' physical play will be missing, so might be the skills of Martin Hanzal, Phoenix' Game 1 hero. The center is still considered day-to-day after receiving treatment Wednesday.

The Blackhawks aren't bereft in the depth department, and have benefited from it already. Michael Frolik scored the Hawks' second goal in Game 3 while subbing for Andrew Shaw, whose hit on goaltender Mike Smith in Game 2 brought him a three-game suspension.

Now the Hawks have to replace Hossa, and that job might be put in the hands of 19-year-old rookie Brandon Saad. Chicago coach Joel Quenneville all but inked the rookie winger, a second-round pick in last year's draft, into the Game 4 lineup.

"There's a good chance he can play tomorrow," Quenneville said. "Looking at him today, there's a remarkable difference from training camp and the start of the season. He's filled out. He has assets. The puck seems to follow him around."

Saad played two games with the Hawks at the start of the season before he was returned to Saginaw of the OHL, where he scored 76 points in 44 games. He picked up eight goals and nine assists in 12 playoff games before Saginaw was eliminated.

The Hawks have played five straight overtime games when the sixth and seventh games of last year's first-round series with Vancouver are considered. They're 2-3 in those contests. And next?

"We knew this series wouldn't be a walk in the park," Chicago center Dave Bolland said. "We've got a long way to go."

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