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Experienced Blackhawks might turn to rookie goalie

by Brian Hedger

NASHVILLE -- Much has been written about the Chicago Blackhawks having a lot of Stanley Cup Playoff experience, and now they'll depend on it.

Rather than focusing on a 6-2 loss to the Nashville Predators at Bridgestone Arena on Friday, the Blackhawks will head home satisfied with splitting the first two games of their Western Conference First Round series.

Chicago was outplayed for most of Game 2, was outshot by a total of 89-68 in the two games and might have a goalie controversy on its hands.

Still, the Blackhawks know they've been in worse spots.

"You come on the road [and] you're going in looking for a split," coach Joel Quenneville said. "You win the first one and you get a little greedy, and today it didn't happen. So, we'll go back and get excited about playing at home. It's one game, and we should be angry and find some positive out of the game, knowing that we've got to be better across the board."

After talking about getting off to a better start than Game 1 and pledging to play better in front of goalie Corey Crawford, the Blackhawks did neither. Kris Versteeg took a penalty 1:31 into the game, the Predators scored on the ensuing power play -- Colin Wilson's third goal of the series -- and everything Chicago had planned was nixed.

Once again, the Blackhawks had to fight from behind and chase the lead. The same thing happened in Game 1. In the series opener, they didn't panic and used their wealth of playoff experience to climb back from a 3-0 deficit and win 4-3 in double overtime.

The Blackhawks will dip into that experience once more heading into Game 3 at United Center on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

It was only a year ago when Chicago trailed the St. Louis Blues 2-0 before winning that first-round series in six games. The Blackhawks then battled back from a 3-1 deficit against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final before losing in overtime of Game 7.

Veteran center Brad Richards was playing for the New York Rangers then, but he took notice.

"This team last year was down 2-0 and 3-1 in series, and won one and took the other one to seven [games]," Richards said. "So, 1-1 going home against a good hockey team … we'll work off of that."

They might have to work with a goalie other than Corey Crawford, who has allowed nine goals on 47 shots in the first two games. After giving up three goals and getting pulled after the first period in Game 1, Crawford let in all six against Nashville in Game 2, including three in a 2:19 span in the third period

Asked afterward if there's a chance backup goalie Scott Darling might get the start in Game 3, Quenneville didn't commit to either goalie.

Darling, a 26-year-old rookie, relieved Crawford in the first game and saved all 42 shots he faced.

"We'll see. We'll see," Quenneville said. "Talk about it as we go along here tonight and tomorrow, and we'll go with who gives us our best chance."

Not all of the goals can be blamed on Crawford. The Blackhawks, who vowed to play better in front of him than they did in Game 1, again put him in some tough spots with loose play Friday. They coughed up the puck too much in the third, creating some odd-man rushes for the Predators that turned into insurance goals.

The puck-possession statistics in the first two games favor Chicago, which has a 52.6 shot attempts percentage (SAT%) despite being outshot by 21. Part of the problem is chasing the lead; the Blackhawks' only lead in the two games was after defenseman Duncan Keith scored 7:49 into the second overtime of Game 1.

"We'll look at it and try to figure that out," Richards said. "Definitely they were a desperate team, and when you're chasing the game, it's a lot harder to get shots when everybody's clogging up in front of the net and blocking shots. We've got to get a lead. We haven't had a lead yet in the series. Get a lead and make them open up and chase us."

Meanwhile, it's time to lean on that experience factor.

"Experience helps a lot to stay calm and not try to do too much, just work our systems," forward Bryan Bickell said. "They've worked all year, to where we got to where we are now. So, believe in those, and if we do the right things, we'll find the back of the net."

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