BOSTON – Conscious of the task at hand, the Chicago Blackhawks took to the ice Wednesday morning for their game-day skate. No soft ice this morning, but by game time, the frozen battlefield will likely be a shade above a slushy, at least by late in each period.
For Chicago, it does not matter what the conditions are. They have to win game four. Otherwise, it is back to Chicago where they will have to begin a three-game winning streak to capture the Cup. Yes, it is possible, but not likely.
To measure up to the task, Marian Hossa will be back in the line-up despite missing the game-day skate with his Chicago teammates. On the second line and right side of a group which includes Michal Handzus centering the line with Patrick Sharpe on left wing, Hossa will attempt to return to the form which netted 7 goals and 14 points in Chicago’s first 16 post-season games.
Another switch intended to jump start the Blackhawks firepower will likely include a top line of Jonathan Toews centering a line of Bryan Bickell at left win with Patrick Kane on the right side. That group enjoyed success earlier in the playoffs netting 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points in 20 games. The hope is they can regain their touch and get more looks, something which has stymied the talented group against Boston in the series so far.
With all of the changes expected to overcome Boston and the 2-1 series deficit, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville was asked at his game-day press conference about his team having a sense of desperation.
“No, we know the importance of the game. We got to come in here and win a game. Coming off our last game, there’s some positives to take out of it. Basically things we have to concentrate to improve on, obviously faceoffs and our power play needs to ignite us as well. We definitely know how important.”
Chicago needs to improve its power play to get back into the series. The Blackhawks have not scored a power-play goal in its last 20 chances dating to Game 2 of the Western Conference Final. The Blackhawks have an 11.3% power-play success rate this postseason (7-for-62), including a 3.7% mark on the road (1-for-27).
Winning face-offs also will be critical to compete against the Bruins. Although Boston held a slight edge in the first two games, they dominated at the dot 40-16. Quenneville talked about how his team must do better at winning the puck off the draw and how Boston might be doing some things which compromise the fairness before the drop.
“Well, we’ve looked at it, dissected it, really spent some time on it the last couple days to know we have to be more aware of what they’re up to. Let’s make sure we win more than our share, because it was a very abnormal, one-sided, last game and could have been the difference in the game.
Scoring, particularly from Chicago’s top two lines, power play effectiveness and winning the majority of the face-offs will improve their fortunes over the results from game three.
Game four is set for Wednesday night at the TD Garden in Boston. The puck drops at 8:00 PM ET.
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