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Michal Kempny could get his chance for Blackhawks in Game 4

Defenseman may replace struggling Johnny Oduya against Predators, who hold 3-0 series lead

by Brian Hedger / Correspondent

NASHVILLE -- The Chicago Blackhawks have changed their forwards and may soon tinker with the defense pairs in their Western Conference First Round series against the Nashville Predators.

The Blackhawks, who are down 3-0 in the best-of-7 series, had a different look during a spirited practice Wednesday. Johnny Oduya, acquired in a trade with the Dallas Stars on Feb. 28, was replaced by defenseman Michal Kempny, who skated with Brent Seabrook on the second pair.

Game 4 is at Bridgestone Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET: NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-TN, CSN-CH).

"Our defense as a group, I think across the board, we can look at all aspects of our game that we need to be better, but it's an option," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Kempny, who was scratched for the first three games of the series. "We've had a number of guys getting a chance to play here down at the end of the [regular season], and in some of the playoff games here as well. We know from watching it that the guys that have come in and the guys that are playing, we still know there's another level to get to, no matter if you're in or not getting in, or you're going to get in."

Kempny played in four of the Blackhawks' final 17 regular-season games, scratched often largely because of Oduya's arrival. Oduya initially was placed on the second pair, where he played during the Blackhawks' 2013 and 2015 Stanley Cup championship runs. He had a goal and assist in 15 games after the trade.

An ankle injury caused two lengthy injury absences with the Stars, and Oduya's speed appears to be affected; he didn't have a point in the first three games of the series and was minus-3.

Quenneville is hoping Kempny's fresher legs and offensive ability will spark more puck possession for the Blackhawks. Kempny, 26, signed with Chicago as a free agent after playing the 2015-16 season with Omsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. He had eight points (two goals, six assists) in 50 games for the Blackhawks.

"I think he is having a great season for it being his first season over here," Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said. "I think him and [Seabrook] were playing well when they were playing together during the regular season. I'm sure he's really excited to be in the lineup if he is going to be in the lineup [Thursday]."

Other than the potential defense switch, the Blackhawks are expected to use the same lineup as Game 3, which was a 3-2 overtime loss.

Chicago is trailing 3-0 in a series for the second time since beginning its string of nine straight appearances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 2009. The other time was in 2011 in the first round against the Vancouver Canucks. The Blackhawks lost that series in Game 7 in Vancouver in overtime.

"I thought we had good pace out there today," Quenneville said. "You know, we've come back from all different scenarios and some awful spots. This might be the worst spot we've ever been in. We really let one slip away [in Game 3]. It was a brutal loss the other day. Now, it's up to us. So far, we've got ourselves to blame being down 0-3. I think that's up to us to repair."

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