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Deadlocked Wild, Blackhawks return to Chicago

by Shawn Roarke


(Best-of-7 series tied 2-2)


Big story: It's now the Chicago Blackhawks' turn to try to hold serve in a Western Conference Second Round series dominated by the home team. Chicago easily handled the Minnesota Wild in winning the first two games at home, but Minnesota responded with two going-away wins of its own at Xcel Energy Center, including a series-tying 4-2 victory in Game 4.

Chicago has yet to lose at United Center in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota is 1-5 on the road this postseason.

"It's exciting to be back at home and playing in front of our crowd and let's take advantage of some home cooking here," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We should be excited about playing the right way. We talk about being hard to play against; we haven't seen that level that's been necessary and we're going to need that Sunday night."

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota has doubled the win total from its playoff series against Chicago last year. The Wild believe their defensive tenacity has hurt the Blackhawks' confidence. More importantly, the Wild's offense has flourished.

"We're always making them come through five guys," forward Zach Parise said. "That gets frustrating. We're working hard. We're making it tough. We're just playing a good defensive game and that is in turn letting us have the puck more and play more offense."

Forward Matt Moulson was scratched from Game 4 with an unspecified injury and did not make the trip for Game 5. He was replaced by Matt Cooke, who was returning from a seven-game suspension. Defenseman Keith Ballard was injured on a hit by Chicago's Brandon Bollig's in Game 4 and also did not make the trip; his spot in the lineup could be taken by Nate Prosser.

Blackhawks: Chicago was dispirited as its two-game lead in the series evaporated. The Blackhawks haven't liked what they have generated offensively, managing two goals and 39 shots in 120 minutes at Minnesota. They also were not happy about allowing a struggling Minnesota team to score eight goals in the past two games, including five in the third period.

But the veteran Blackhawks insist all that is in the past. They are concerned only with winning two of the next three games.

"It's playoff hockey; you need to have a short memory and stay even-keeled," said center Michal Handzus, who had one of Chicago's two goals in Game 4. "Obviously we know we have to be better. Just forget about it, learn from it, take from it what we need to for the next game."

Chicago will play its fourth straight game without forward Andrew Shaw, who remains out with a lower-body injury. It will also be without Bollig, who was suspended for two games Saturday by the NHL Department of Player Safety for his hit on Ballard in the second period Friday. Bollig received a minor penalty for boarding; Ballard did not return to the game.

Who's hot: Chicago forward Marian Hossa has eight points in this series, including an assist on each of its goals in Game 4. Defenseman Brent Seabrook has six points in his past five games. … Parise has three points in his past two games and four points in this series; he leads the Wild and ranks second in the NHL with 14 points. Wild forward Jason Pominville had a goal Friday and has three points in his past two games.

Injury report: Shaw (lower body) has yet to start skating after sustaining an injury in Game 1 of this series. … In addition to Moulson and Ballard, the Wild are without forward Jason Zucker (quad) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness), Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) and Darcy Kuemper (upper body).

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