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Teams expect Xcel Energy Center to be rocking

by Brian Hedger

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs haven't taken place in St. Paul, Minn., since 2008 and the atmosphere inside Xcel Energy Center on Sunday afternoon is expected to be exciting.

The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will square off in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) and the visiting team ought to be a good judge of the playoff atmosphere inside the building.

The Blackhawks are known for having a loud, intimidating crowd at United Center -- starting with the loud cheers during the national anthem -- but they're anticipating the Wild's arena to be like the team's nickname.

"I think it's going to be loud," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said Saturday. "The fans there and the way they play the music … they get that building rocking pretty good. It's the first time they've played in the playoffs for a while, so we expect it's going to be a lot of energy in that building and a fast-paced game. We're going to need to be ready right away."

Minnesota center Kyle Brodziak said the Wild are eager to feel the noise too.

"It's going to be buzzing for sure," he said. "Even though [Wild fans] have had a couple tough years, the team hasn't been great the last few years for them to cheer about, but through that they stuck with us and I'm sure they're excited now that we're finally back in."

Right wing Patrick Kane said the Blackhawks can call upon their experience in previous playoffs, when they've played big games in tough arenas.

"They love their hockey up there and I'm sure they're excited to see the Wild in the playoff mix," Kane said. "I'm sure the building will be rocking. It's something we'll have to get used to. We've been in some hostile environments before, such as Nashville and Vancouver in the past and even Philly, but I'm sure we'll be ready for the challenge."

They might also want to take in the surroundings. The Blackhawks and Wild will be in the same division in the Western Conference starting next season with the League's realignment plan, which might mean the old Chicago-Minnesota rivalry of the Norris Division days could be rekindled quickly -- starting with this playoff series.

"Things always heat up through playoff series and all of a sudden animosity grows the rivalry, the hatred, the bitterness [and] the competitiveness," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Then you start seeing guys a little more and their tendencies and their strengths, and you start to work on their areas where they're not as effective. Especially now that they are going to be in our division, that's definitely setting the table for bringing back the tradition that was in the place in the old [Norris Division] days."

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