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Expect more physical play from Hawks and Flames

by Brett Ballantini
CHICAGO -- The back-and-forth that surrounded the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-2 series-opening victory over the Calgary Flames promises to spill over into Game 2 on Saturday night.

"We know they're going to keep playing with an edge and with aggression," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said following his team’s Saturday morning skate, hours before the puck dropped for the second game of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Flames.

Quenneville said he recognizes that Flames coach Mike Keenan will have his Flames playing desperate hockey because of the odds against his team winning if they go down 2-0 in the series.

"[Calgary] played a very strong game against us, disciplined with regard to what they aim to accomplish on the ice, and we came away with the win," Quenneville said. "If that was to happen again [tonight], it would be a real spirit-breaker."

Martin Havlat's winning goal 12 seconds into overtime gave the Hawks a win in the opener and generated a lot of controversy -- the Flames claimed that Hawks forward Andrew Ladd interfered with goalie Miikka Kiprusoff on the play. But the Blackhawks appeared to realize that such posturing is all part of playoff hockey.

"We've gone over it," said Havlat, still sporting a small cut from Calgary's Michael Cammalleri's forearm shiver following a third-period face-off on Thursday. "For every [call] that might have been missed on their end, we got away with one. It evens out."

"You let yourself get caught up in that, and you’re playing [Calgary’s] game," said forward Patrick Sharp, who had some routine knee soreness but was confident that he'd be 100 percent for Game 2. "We're an aggressive team, too, and we showed so in how we finished up in regulation and overtime.”

The Hawks are in the playoffs for the first time since 2002. But Quenneville anticipated that any of the first-time jitters that contributed to some tense grips on sticks in the early going on Thursday will be long gone for Game 2.

"Given the circumstances, the expectations, the excitement of an entire city, we were a composed group that played better and better and the game went on," he said. "We’ll be full speed right off tonight."
Keenan said wants his club to step up the attack, particularly inside the blue line.

"We played a terrific game and gave a good effort [in Game 1], but once the Blackhawks turned it on late, we seemed to play back on our heels," Keenan said. "That’s not going to happen tonight.

As expected, Keenan was blunt in his game-planning and morning skate directives, several Flames acknowledged with a laugh.

"Miikka [Kiprusoff] is one of the strongest goalies in the entire League," Flames captain Jarome Iginla said of Calgary’s netminder. "Chicago knows that they can’t beat him without crowding the crease and crashing the net."

"We played a terrific game and gave a good effort [in Game 1], but once the Blackhawks turned it on late, we seemed to play back on our heels.  That’s not going to happen tonight." -- Flames coach Mike Keenan
Defenseman Adrian Aucoin acknowledged his club’s mission with sober precision: "Bump them off-net, onto their [behinds]."

Calgary's defense should be bolstered by the return of defenseman Cory Sarich, who's missed all of April with an ankle injury. The Keenan Dome of Silence was in full operation early Saturday with regard to the Flames' injury report, but Sarich smiled in response to questions regarding his availability and his coach did address a possible comeback for his plus-12 veteran, albeit in clipped form.

"We need a 60-minute effort, aggressive to the net, staunch in our zone," Keenan said. "Sarich has been day-to-day for some time now. He knows we need him, and that this is a must-win for us."

With or without Sarich, Keenan expects a full-out effort Saturday. When asked whether that effort will come with a number of Flames trying to make life miserable for Chicago goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, Keenan could only grin before replying, "You’d think so, wouldn’t you?"

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