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Three adjustments for Hawks in Game 4

5/9/2014

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Here are three changes the Chicago Blackhawks will look to make against the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 in their second-round series on Friday:

1. Avoid the Wild's neutral-zone trap: The Wild were able to slow down the Blackhawks by disrupting their puck possession in the neutral zone and often not allowing them entry into the offensive zone. A few ways the Blackhawks can counter the trap is by chipping the puck into the Wild's zone and chasing it down and also by getting more support in the neutral zone. The Blackhawks don't want an individual player attempting to break the trap by himself.

"I think we've got to put it in our mind that the rush game is going to be tight, and it's tough to generate cleanly, and it's tough to get odd-man situations," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "So just advancing it as quickly as possible, as neatly as possible, is our first priority.

"I think we get in trouble knowing that you're trying to make plays, you don't have a lot speed, they got a good gap, getting the puck in behind in something we articulate a lot. In this series, both teams don't traditionally give up too many odd-man breaks or give up much off the rest except when they got the lead on us. I think we were a little looser than we've been."

2. Create more offensive chances around the net: The Blackhawks utilized rebounds and net-front presence to score some goals in the first two games. Bryan Bickell was standing in front of the net when he redirected a shot for a goal in Game 1. Ben Smith redirected a Patrick Sharp shot to Patrick Kane for a goal later in that game. Jonathan Toews scored off a rebound from a Marian Hossa shot in Game 2. If the chances are going to be hard to come by, which they will likely be in Game 4, the Blackhawks need to make those shots count. The quantity and quality weren't there for the Blackhawks in Game 3.

"We could be doing that more," Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell said of getting to the net. "Last game was a thing we don't want to think about anymore. We get to the net, hopefully we can get second opportunities. It seems like pucks have been laying there for us and we couldn't get there."

3. Find more balance at least among the top three lines: The Blackhawks' third and fourth lines weren't a threat to score in Game 3. They combined for one shot on net. Quenneville has shifted the lines again and has given each of the top three lines some offensive threat. The top line will be Bickell, Jonathan Toews and Ben Smith. The second line will be Brandon Saad, Marcus Kruger and Patrick Kane. The third line will be Patrick Sharp, Michal Handzus and Marian Hossa. Each line has a couple offensive players and at least one player known for his defensive ability.

"We're looking for balance and maybe all lines, a little more threat to score on all the lines," Quenneville said. "That's what we're looking for a little bit. Offense, defensive reliability at the same time of having maybe more offense spread out throughout our lineup."