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Hawks need to take control early in Game 4

by Mike G. Morreale /
CHICAGO -- For the second time in these Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Chicago Blackhawks are trailing in a series.

Not that it's the end of the world, but coach Joel Quenneville realizes his team must buckle down in order to square this best-of-7 Western Conference Semifinal with the Vancouver Canucks in Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, VERSUS, CBC, RDS).

"It's a huge game for us and we have to take advantage of playing at home," Quenneville said after Wednesday's skate. "We've got to take advantage of getting ourselves into the game right from the get-go and use the enthusiasm of the building. You can't keep digging yourself a hole in the first period and expect to keep yourselves in games. We have to initiate more than receiving and that's what we hope to do on Thursday."

There were quite a few no-shows during Wednesday's optional practice, including Sammy Pahlsson, Duncan Keith, Matt Walker, Andrew Ladd, Martin Havlat, Cam Barker and Dustin Byfuglien.

All seven players, according to Quenneville, are expected to play Thursday.

"We've evaluated the players and their approach to the meetings and being out on the ice and we still feel energized and good about what we can achieve here," Quenneville said. "I think they realize we have to be much better than we were (Tuesday) and bring a better team effort across the board. We can get ourselves right back into it."

That was the general consensus throughout the Blackhawks dressing room Wednesday.

"I think we tried to do too much (on Tuesday)," Blackhawks forward Adam Burish said. "We can't force plays against these guys; they played a heck of a road game. They played it simple. We compared them to the Minnesota Wild because they just played defense, they sat back and waited for us to make mistakes and we played right into their game by trying to make pretty plays and we turned the puck over in their zone. We just need to keep it simple."

The Blackhawks were guilty of seven turnovers in Game 3. They had a combined seven turnovers in the first two games of the series.

"We're a young team and want to play strong in front of our fans and we need to find a way to keep it 5-on-5 for as long as possible," Patrick Sharp said. "We feel good about the way we've come back, but the first period will be key for us (on Thursday). I thought they responded well after Game 2 and made it tough on our forwards. We need to come out with a greater energy level and more intensity and be willing to dig in the tough areas on the ice. A strong first period is a key for us."

The Canucks have outscored the Blackhawks in the opening period of this series, 4-0. On top of that, the Hawks have allowed their opponent to take an early lead in five of their nine playoff games this postseason.

"The starts are critical; you can't expect to come back from 2-0 and 3-0 every night," Quenneville said. "That's not the recipe for success. It makes no difference whether you're an older team or a younger team, you still need to come out with energy from the opening faceoff."

Contact Mike Morreale at
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