Chicago Blackhawks: Shane O'Brien
With six stitches and some skin adhesive holding the bridge of his nose together, O'Brien pondered the irony that as a victim, his blood splattered across the ice in a second-period collision with Dustin Byfuglien's stick, he may have felt better than he did from the other side.
"I wouldn't say better," O'Brien said with a laugh, "but it feels good right now."
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VANCOUVER, B.C. --The Chicago Blackhawks have heard the talk. They know they haven’t put together a perfect 60-minute performance. Game 4 in Nashville was as close as they have come but it still didn’t match some of their greatest hits of the regular season.
“Sometimes you have to give credit to the opponent,” Sharp said after practice Wednesday morning before the Hawks take on the Vancouver Canucks in Game 3. “We’re not going to control the play for 60 minutes. They’re going to get their chances and score some goals.”
Still, he knows they can play better, and more physical, but his version of physical might be different than yours.
“When we play physical and with intensity, our game is much better,” Sharp said. “It’s not beating guys up or knocking guys around. It’s getting to pucks first and playing with that edge that makes us a good team.”
They did it more in Game 2 than in Game 1. Which Hawks team shows up in Game 3 is anyone’s guess. The Hawks have lost Game 3 in each playoff series they have ended up winning over the past two years.
Vancouver has been talking tougher themselves over the past two days. Their theme has been to respond with more physicality after vowing not to, coming off their playoff loss of a year ago.
“I don’t know how many guys over the have ice bags and stuff like that, but we have to make it a lot more difficult on them and make them pay a little bit more,” defenseman Shane O’Brien said on Wednesday morning.
That’s just fine with Sharp.
“It’s getting amped up a little bit,” he said. “We’re starting to see that [physical] play more and more now. Things are definitely getting amped up as we move along.”
There are so many ties to Vancouver, the storylines practically write themselves. There are no less than six players that grew up in the area and four Olympians return here after winning medals back in February.
“We had some good memories coming here a couple months ago,” Duncan Keith said. “It’s nice to come back here. Good ice here, anyway. It’ll be good to skate on here.”
Keith has had some well-documented problems with his skates most of the season, and isn’t the first player to state or infer other ice surfaces are better than the United Center. It gives hope for that elusive 60-minute skating effort.
Either way, those Olympics provided a good training ground for big games.
“The biggest thing is it gives you experience playing in a big game like that,” Keith said. “It gives you confidence going into other games.”
One player lacking in confidence right now is Troy Brouwer. He started on the fourth line in Game 3 and was quickly benched. On Tuesday, coach Joel Quenneville simply said, “He can give us more,” in reference to Brouwer.
On Wednesday, it was a very open and honest Brouwer responding.
“I have to take it upon myself to be better,” he said. “As far as these playoffs, I haven’t been good enough. In fact, I feel like I’ve hurt them more than I’ve helped them.”
With Brouwer out of the lineup, Dustin Byfuglien will skate from the beginning of the game on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews. Jordan Henry will most likely suit up as the sixth defenseman.
The postseason rematch was set Monday night when the second-seeded Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators. Now Chicago will try to send the Canucks into summer vacation for the second straight year.
The Blackhawks took care of Vancouver in six games when the clubs met in the 2009 Western Conference semifinals -- the same round as this year's matchup.
"There is a lot of history and bad blood there," Canucks defenseman Shane O'Brien said Tuesday, two days after the Canucks finished off the Los Angeles Kings in six games. "Every guy in the room remembers the feeling of leaving Chicago last year. It was one of the worst feelings I had ever been through.
"We definitely want to get some redemption on those guys."
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