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Wild try for series-tying win vs. Blackhawks

by Dan Myers


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


Big story: The Minnesota Wild will try to remain undefeated at home in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and even their second-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks in the process.

"We've given ourselves a chance to even the series up and to go back to Chicago and hopefully put a little bit of pressure on those guys," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "We know that they recognize the importance of the game, as do we."

Minnesota lost the first two games against the Blackhawks in the first round last year and won Game 3, but lost Game 4 at home and then the series in Game 5.

"This is a different team than we faced last year. They're much improved," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They got hot at the right time at the end of the year. They're much quicker. They're faster. They're hard to play against. There's not a lot of scoring chances. If we get out of ourselves and get ahead, whether it's a shift ahead, you're looking past this team. I think we're respectful for them."

Team Scope:

Blackhawks: Chicago will play its third straight game without forward Andrew Shaw, who remains out with a lower-body injury. Quenneville has said throughout the series that he believes the ailment is short-term and that Shaw was on a game-by-game basis. But he indicated Thursday that Shaw could be out for the remainder of the series.

"We'll see," he said. "Every guy's different and, you know, I think he's a very competitive guy and probably he would've done anything he could to play. I think we've got to tame him a little bit in that regard, so I think that was maybe what we were talking about at the time."

Quenneville has seen forwards Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad break out of mini-slumps in this series and hopes forward Patrick Sharp could be next. Sharp led the Blackhawks with 78 points during the regular season, but has three points in nine playoff games. He has been held without a point in each of the past two games and was minus-2 in Game 3.

"I just think that scorers, it's a little tighter for them and the production is usually across the board a little down than a regular season production for most players," Quenneville said. "Scorers, sometimes they get that added attention, so I mean, hopefully he can get that feeling good streak, whether they start going in offensively."

Wild: For Minnesota, the challenge will be about keeping the mental edge. The Wild knew they needed to win Game 3 to avoid falling into a nearly impossible hole against the Blackhawks. A win in Game 4 would also avoid comparisons to last season, when Chicago won the second game in St. Paul and cruised to a series win in five games.

"I think the fact that the fear of going down 3-0 was real," Yeo said. "But as the game wore on, I think we started to handle it a little bit better."

Minnesota expects to play Game 4 without forward Matt Moulson, who Yeo said has been battling a lower-body injury during much of the playoffs. Matt Cooke returns from a seven-game suspension just in time to take his place. He gives the Wild a potential shutdown option with Cooke, Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine.

"We haven't made any decisions yet, but obviously what he brings is a specific role to our group," Yeo said. "There's no question that we want him to create offense and that he has that ability. But there's a certain way that he's going to do it, and there's certain things that he has to bring to our lineup and adds to our group. And in a lot of ways, things that we're missing right now."

Who's hot: Hossa has eight points in the playoffs, six of which came in Games 1 and 2 against the Wild. He had three assists in Game 2 and was a plus-4. … Wild forward Mikael Granlund scored two goals in Game 3 and has four goals and three assists in 10 games this postseason. The four goals are half of his regular-season total of eight, which he scored in 63 games.

Injury report: The Blackhawks will be without Shaw (lower body), who is not on the trip. His availability for the remainder of the series is a question mark. … In addition to Moulson (lower body), forward Jason Zucker (quad) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness), Niklas Backstrom (abdominal surgery) and Darcy Kuemper (upper body) are out for the Wild.

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