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It’s the first home game for the Chicago Blackhawks in nearly two weeks, and it’s the first at the United Center in the Western Conference finals. That means an especially raucous crowd, and both teams are expecting it and want to use it.
“I’m very excited,” winger Troy Brouwer said after Friday’s morning practice. “They’re going to come out with a lot of desperation and a lot of desire.
”The building is going to be rocking, and we’ve had some trouble here at home, but tonight we’re going to have so much energy. It’s going to be a good time.”
As much as the home crowd can work to the Hawks favor, until someone scores, the Sharks feel it can help them as well.
“You feel some shivers on the bench when you’re the opposition,” Todd McLellan said after his team’s practice. “It can get you going too. I know some of our players when they first experienced it, they enjoyed playing in that environment. There are some rinks you go to in the league that you have to poke yourself to get yourself going. This isn’t one of them.
”Now we’re in the semifinals fighting for the Stanley Cup. If you’re not prepared to play in this environment, shame on you.”
As for the Hawks’ mindset, it wouldn’t be the first team to enter a game overconfident after winning the first two on the road. This is where the mind games begin.
“Let’s take the approach that this is an elimination game,” Adam Burish stated. “You have to think you have to somehow steal this one almost. Just because you’re up 2-0, you can’t be comfortable, especially coming back home. Let’s convince ourselves this is a must-win game.”
Burish also said his team is a confident group, so it’s possible they’re walking that fine line between confident and arrogant, though the stakes of the situation should be enough to keep them grounded.
Joel Quenneville simply wants simple play.
“We want to make sure we take advantage of being at home, but then again we want to make sure we don’t play that pretty game,” he said.
The pretty game includes an extra pass when a shot is there to be taken or extra stickhandling when dumping the puck is called for.
The numbers bode well for the Hawks. Not surprisingly, in franchise history, they are 17-2 when they have won the first two games. Even if they lose on Friday, they are 20-8 when leading a series 2-1. The Hawks are 11-0 when leading 3-0.
The Stanley Cup finals are in sight, but convincing themselves Game 3 is a must-win is a harder proposition than it sounds. Maybe the enthusiasm of the home crowd can do it for them.