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Wild aim to get back in series against Blackhawks

by Dan Myers


(Chicago leads best-of-7 series 2-0)


Big story: The Chicago Blackhawks will look to take a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference Second Round series against the Minnesota Wild with a win Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center. But they will have to overcome a bit of history to do it: The Blackhawks haven't won a first road game in a Stanley Cup Playoff series since May 16, 2010, when they beat the San Jose Sharks in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Since then, Chicago is 0-8 in series road openers, including a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Wild last year.

Minnesota is 1-5 on the road in the playoffs in 2014, but has won all three games in St. Paul and will look to regain its footing in the series with another strong performance on home ice.

"We definitely haven't shown what we're capable of. We haven't been on our game," Wild forward Charlie Coyle said. "We haven't had that grittiness that we brought last series. I think being at home right now is good for us and usually brings out the best in us, being here and playing here."

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago has owned almost every aspect of this series, beginning in Game 1, when it scored two power-play goals and an empty-netter in a 5-2 win. In Game 2, the power play was ineffective, but the Blackhawks rode their superior scoring depth to the victory; third-line forward Bryan Bickell had a goal and two assists in a 4-1 win.

Coach Joel Quenneville knows what to expect as Chicago comes to Minnesota this week. The Colorado Avalanche entered St. Paul with a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference First Round series two weeks ago and were thoroughly outplayed in two games at Xcel Energy Center. Those two games turned the tide in the series, which the Wild won in seven games. Sending a message early in Game 3 could go a long way toward keeping this series short for the Blackhawks. Allow Minnesota to gain confidence on home ice, and a short series could turn into a long one quickly.

"They're very stingy in their own building. So we've got to make sure we quiet the crowd as best we can early and try to weather that storm and play the right way and be ready to play a tight game, whether it's low shots, low scoring chances," Quenneville said. "If you try to manufacture in a game like that, you're going to be playing in your own end and defending against some high quality stuff."

Wild: Whether it's the emotional letdown of the Game 7 win in Denver last Wednesday, the short turnaround between that series and this one, or the fact the Wild have been on the road for nearly a week, Minnesota appeared tired through two games at United Center.

"I feel last game, it looked like maybe a lack of energy caused some things tactically where we weren't sharp enough," coach Mike Yeo said. "Puck support, in particular for me, and just sort of the spacing between our players, whether it's in our checking game or whether it's when we have the puck. Again, a little more jump, a little more in our step and the difference between three feet is big."

Minnesota needs more from its top-six forwards if it hopes to get back into the series. The Wild's three goals have been scored by fourth-line forwards Kyle Brodziak and Cody McCormick and defensive-minded defenseman Clayton Stoner. Late in Game 2, forward Matt Moulson was relegated to the third line. Jason Pominville has one goal (an empty-netter in Game 6 against Colorado) in nine playoff games.

Who's hot: Bickell has five points (three goals) through two games for Chicago. He had four points in the Blackhawks' five-game series win against the Wild last year. … Minnesota forward Erik Haula had an assist in each game.

Injury report: Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw (lower body) has been ruled out for Game 3. With two days between Games 3 and 4, Shaw might be able to play in Game 4. … Minnesota forward Jason Zucker (quad) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) are out.

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