ST. PAUL, MINN. (AP) - Trying to keep up with the Chicago Blackhawks would be unwise for the Minnesota Wild.
Running into them over and over and over again, as Game 3 of this Western Conference quarterfinal matchup proved, is probably their best bet.
After a rough-and-tumble effort in an overtime victory, the Wild were bracing for the inevitable pushback from the top-seeded Blackhawks in Game 4 on Tuesday.
“A lot of teams respond well after losses, and that’s obviously a tough loss for them. They’ll be ready to go,” said Minnesota rookie Jason Zucker, who got the winning goal in the 3-2 decision Sunday that cut Chicago’s series lead to 2-1.
The Blackhawks acknowledged without prompting they needed to bring more intensity. But whether they’re actually focusing on bruising and banging more with the Wild, well, that depended on who was talking after practice on Monday.
“They played like they had to win the game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said, “and we didn’t. We wanted to make sure we had more urgency to our game.”
Yes, but teams aren’t successful in the spring if they change their style too much.
“Sometimes if you’re worried about bringing too much physicality and intensity then you’re not worried about doing the things we did to score a lot of goals this year,” star Patrick Kane said.
Defenseman Brent Seabrook blamed himself for not playing “very physical,” the way games usually go in May. But he stopped short of prodding his team to get into a checking challenge with the Wild.
“I don’t think we need to give them any kind of response. We have to play our game, and we have to play the way that we know we can play,” Seabrook said.
That means staying in the offensive zone and keeping the puck as much as possible and relying on superior depth to wear down the Wild.
“We’re a fast team, and we need to use that to our advantage,” rookie Brandon Saad said.
The Blackhawks have only one goal, by Marian Hossa, from their first line. Saad and captain Jonathan Toews have been shut out. But in the postseason, games are always tighter. The Wild have only one goal, by Zach Parise, from their top group, too.
Gritty usually trumps pretty.
The Blackhawks are clearly missing the tenacity and playoff touch of center Dave Bolland, who’s been practicing but was declared out for Game 4 because of a lingering lower-body injury. Quenneville was even asked whether enforcer Daniel Carcillo would be inserted on the fourth line for some extra energy, much like the Wild did with Stephane Veilleux on Sunday.