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Sharks hope to solve Niemi, even series with Hawks

by Dave Lozo /

(Blackhawks lead best-of-seven series 1-0)

Big story --
It was the Antti Niemi show in Game 1. His career-best 44 saves were the difference as Blackhawks won their first Game 1 of this postseason, 2-1 against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday afternoon. The Sharks' top line of Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau were on the ice for both Blackhawks goals at even strength and are a combined minus-16 in the playoffs. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville used all four of his lines against the Sharks' top line during Game 1.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks -- Chicago was 0-4 in its last four Game 1s before beating the Sharks on Sunday. The Blackhawks find themselves in a rare position heading into Game 2 as the team going for the throat and a 2-0 series lead. Can they take their experience of being down 1-0 in a series so often lately and use that to their advantage?

"It's a different situation than we've been in most of the time," forward Patrick Sharp said. "I don't think it changes much. It's not going to make the series any easier being up 1-0. If anything, it will just get more difficult as we go on. It's a great opportunity to try to take both games in their building and that's what we'll try to do."

The NHL's best road team in the regular season will be looking for its seventh consecutive victory away from United Center when they take the ice at HP Pavilion for Game 2.

"The one thing we've done over the course of these playoffs, we play a more patient game, with energy, more purpose," Quenneville said of what the team does differently on the road. "I think maybe trying to make one extra play or pretty play at home might be the recipe for disaster, not being as successful."

Sharks -- There might have been a time in the not-so-distant past when the Sharks would have panicked after dropping a series opener at home. But thanks to showing they can rally back in that situation after losing Game 1 to the Avs in the first round this year, there's no fear at all in the San Jose locker room.

"You always want to win Game 1 at home," Heatley said. "I thought we played well enough to win, but we didn't. We come back (Tuesday) with the same type of effort and we'll kick it up a notch."

Up is the key word there, as the Sharks all talked Monday about solving Niemi by getting more shots up and not letting him make easy saves on low shots.

"We just need to, with second chances, get them upstairs," Thornton said. "He takes away the bottom of the net pretty good. I think when we do get second chances, throw them upstairs on him."

Who's hot --
With his power-play assist in Game 1, Marleau has points in his last five games (2 goals, 3 assists). … Patrick Kane has yet to cool off at all during the postseason. He has points in 11 of his 13 postseason games and 1 goal and 6 assists in his last five games.

Injury report --
Both teams remain injury-free heading into Game 2.

Stat pack --
The Sharks' second line of Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and Devin Setoguchi combined for 17 shots in the game but did not manage a single goal. … San Jose lost two straight home games just twice this season. They lost four straight between Dec. 3-11 and two straight from the end between Feb. 2 and March 2 with the Olympic break sandwiched in the middle.

Puck drop -- "For the most part we played pretty well. We made a few defensive mistakes. But again, to get 45 shots against a team like that, keep them at two goals. It could have gone either way." -- Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle

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