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Hawks try to tie series with win in Nashville

by John Kreiser


(Nashville leads best-of-7 series 2-1)

Big story
-- The third-best offense during the regular season has gone cold, and the Blackhawks are going to have to do more with the puck to avoid a disappointing finish to their best season in years. The pesky Preds have limited Chicago to just four goals in the first three games of the series and outshot them for the first time in a 4-1 victory in Game 3. Nashville more than matched the physical play of the bigger Hawks and dominated play for lengthy stretches for the first time in the series.

Team scope:

-- There's no question which team has more offensive talent, but Hawks coach Joel Quenneville feels his team may be too busy trying to make the perfect play that it's passing up the simple stuff -- driving to the net for tips and rebounds, the ugly goals that win playoff games.

"We've had offense all year long," he said Wednesday, "and trying to be cute about it ain't going to be able to get it done."

What really bothered Quenneville was watching his team get outworked by the home side.

"Last night, certainly, when we don't work the way we have to -- especially against the way they're competing -- it makes you look bad," he said. "You've got to give them credit. They're forcing the play. But we want to get the puck in their end a little bit more. We want more time in their end. We want more puck possession."

-- Pekka Rinne was Nashville's best player in Games 1 and 2, then turned in a solid 26-save performance in Game 3. Despite all that, Nashville coach Barry Trotz said he's seen his second-year goaltender play better.

"I've seen Pekks play better," Trotz said Wednesday. "I've seen him go for long stretches where he's absolutely dominant. I have seen him play better."

As for Rinne, "I feel good about myself," he said. "I think guys feel pretty good about themselves. I don't want to go far ahead. I just want to keep playing well and do my job, give everything I have every night. That's all I can do. But yeah, I feel confident. I feel good."

Who's hot -- Rinne has allowed just four goals in three games; Chicago goaltender Antti Niemi has surrendered only six. The Hawks' penalty-killers have been flawless, killing off all five Nashville power plays on Tuesday to improve to 12-for-12 in the series.

Injury report -- Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, out since mid-March with a broken collarbone, might be ready to go in Game 4. … Nashville forward Patric Hornqvist, out with an upper-body injury, skated at Wednesday's optional practice and Trotz said he'll be a game-time decision.

Stat pack -- A victory in Game 4 would give the Predators three wins in a playoff series for the first time in franchise history. Nashville is 2-2 all time in Game 4, but 2-0 on home ice.

Puck drop
-- Nashville has never won a playoff series, but they've got a great chance to pull off an upset if they can hold serve at home. Chicago unquestionably has more talent, but the Hawks will have to ratchet up their intensity a few notches to put more heat on Rinne and his merry band of checkers and defenders -- all of whom have slowed Chicago's attack to a crawl in the first three games.

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