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Wild hope to defend home ice, cut Blackhawks' lead

by Brian Hedger


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


Big story: The Minnesota Wild can't feel good about the situation heading into Game 3 of this Western Conference Quarterfinals series. After staying with the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks in the series opener and dropping a 2-1 game late in overtime, the Wild were only in Game 2 briefly in the second period, when Devin Setoguchi's goal late in the middle period made it 2-1 Chicago heading into the third. The Blackhawks then potted three goals in the final period to win 5-2 and take a 2-0 lead as the series shifts to Xcel Energy Center for the next two games.

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: The first two games of this series have been a clinic on why the Blackhawks might be the deepest team in the League. They've gotten scoring from all four lines, all six of their defensemen are shredding Minnesota's forecheck while playing sound defensively, and goalie Corey Crawford has been solid-to-great. After starting slow in Game 1, trailing 1-0 to start the second, Chicago has dominated puck possession in almost all of the next five periods plus overtime in the opener. Patrick Sharp matched a career playoff high with eight shots in Game 2 and scored on two of them for his first goals of the postseason. Michael Frolik also scored twice in Friday's game and third-line forward Bryan Bickell has a goal in each of the first two games.

"There's a lot of options on our lines offensively when everybody is productive," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Everybody gets their turn, and if we get some consistency scoring at that [second] line [with Sharp and Patrick Kane], that will be a little boost."

Wild: The Wild couldn't match the pace at which the Blackhawks played in Game 2 and couldn't get an effective forecheck going against Chicago's talented defensemen and the forwards who come back to help move the puck up the ice. In short, it's gut-check time for the Wild, who will have a loud home crowd backing their effort the next two games. Goalie Niklas Backstrom (lower body) and forward Jason Pominville (upper body) missed both of the first two games and remain questionable for Sunday's game. If Backstrom can't go, Josh Harding will get his third straight playoff start subbing for him. He's been sharp overall, but his defense needs to improve in front of him from its Game 2 performance.

"You have to push this one aside very quickly," coach Mike Yeo said. "We don't have a very long turnover until we get to face them again. Obviously going home, we should be excited about that, but we also can't sit here and just assume that we'll be better because of that, too."

Who's hot: Kane doesn't have a goal yet, but he's dished out three assists in the first two games and all were primary helpers. Crawford has stopped 52 of 55 shots. … Matt Cullen picked up two assists in Game 2 for the Wild.

Injury report: Emery (lower body) and center Dave Bolland (lower body) are out for Game 3 but listed day-to-day. … For the Wild, Pominville (head) is doubtful after not practicing Saturday; Dany Heatley (left shoulder) is out the remainder of the season; Backstrom (lower body) is making progress but questionable for Sunday; defenseman Clayton Stoner (unspecified injury) is also doubtful after missing practice Saturday.

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