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Wild hope to even series with Blackhawks

by Brian Hedger


(Chicago leads best-of-7 series, 2-1)


Big story: The Wild clawed back in Game 3 of this Western Conference Quarterfinals series on Sunday afternoon with a 3-2 overtime win on Jason Zucker’s goal early in overtime – preventing Chicago from possessing a stranglehold on the series. Minnesota must win again in Game 4 on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET) to hold serve on home ice and put some pressure back on the Blackhawks when the series heads back to the Windy City for Game 5 on Thursday. Chicago will again be without injured goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland on Tuesday and Minnesota is still uncertain about the health of goalie Niklas Backstrom and forward Jason Pominville.

Team Scope:

Wild: The Wild stepped up the physicality in Game 3 and outhit the Blackhawks by a wide margin, but the game still went to OT because Minnesota couldn’t protect a slim one-goal lead down the stretch run of regulation after Chicago’s high-powered offense turned up the pressure on goalie Josh Harding. Zach Parise got on the board with his first goal of these Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sunday and it came as the result of a good forechecking effort – something the Wild were unable to do effectively in the first two games. Minnesota coach Mike Yeo expects the Blackhawks to not only make adjustments strategically, but also come out with renewed intensity.

“Every game is a new test and we face a big one [Tuesday],” Yeo said. “That’s what we’ve said right from Game 1. [In] the playoffs, you have to elevate your game … part of the challenge for us next game will be to brace against their pushback. We know that they're going to come [out] hard and I’m anxious to see how we respond against that.”

Blackhawks: After getting both goals in Game 3 from defensemen Johnny Oduya and Duncan Keith, Chicago is looking to get more production from its top line of rookie Brandon Saad – who was named a Calder Trophy finalist on Monday – captain Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. Aside from Hossa’s power-play goal in Game 1 and assist on Oduya’s goal, the line has been shut out and largely shut down by goalie Josh Harding and the Wild’s top defense pair, Ryan Suter and rookie Jonas Brodin.

The Blackhawks also need to adjust to Minnesota’s forecheck, which improved dramatically in Game 3. Michal Handzus, who centers Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, also had a tough day in the faceoff circle – losing 11 of 16.

“We had the start we were looking for (Sunday), we just didn’t sustain it,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They played like they had to win the game and we didn’t. We want to make sure we have more urgency to our game, more directness and the passion that comes with playoff hockey.”

Who's hot: Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored and added assisted on Zucker’s OT game-winner in Game 3 for Minnesota, while Kane tacked on two more assists for the Blackhawks. Kane hasn’t scored a goal yet, but has assists in all three games for a total of five in the series.

Injury report: Emery (lower body) and Bolland (lower body) are out for Game 4, but might be ready by Game 5 for Chicago. … Pominville (head) and Backstrom (lower body) both practiced for the Wild on Monday, but Yeo didn’t define their status for Tuesday’s game. Defenseman Clayton Stoner (unspecified injury) wasn’t among those who participated in an optional skate Monday. Wild forwards Zenon Konopka (foot) and Mike Rupp (knee) are questionable, while forward Dany Heatley (left shoulder) is out the remainder of the season.

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