Patrick Sharp

Vermette, Teravainen return for Blackhawks in Game 4

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After voicing his displeasure with being a healthy scratch in Game 3, Antoine Vermette will draw back into the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.

Vermette along with Teuvo Teravainen, who also draws in tonight, watched as Chicago fell 2-1 to the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night.

Vermette has a goal and an assist to go along with a plus-4 rating while averaging 13:33 of ice time in 10 playoff games. Teravainen has scored a goal and three points in eight postseason games while averaging 13:46 in ice time.

During the team’s morning skate on Saturday Patrick Sharp skated on a line with Vermette with Teravainen – the trio played together in Chicago’s 3-2 triple overtime victory in Game 2.

Joakim Nordstrom and Kris Versteeg, who were inserted into Game 3 as “fresh legs” appear to be the odd men out tonight.

“There are some good stretches there in Game 2. I think that line can be a factor offensively. I think defensively they’ve been reliable in stretches, as well,” said Blackhwks coach Joel Quenneville of his third line. “Just some pace and energy across the board.

“That four-line rotation that we felt was best in Game 2 is what we’re looking for.”

Andrew Shaw meanwhile skated on the Blackhawks’ fourth line alongside Andrew Desjardins and Marcus Kruger at the United Center this morning.

“(Shaw) had some good games on the wall,” Quenneville said. “We talked about this maybe in the prior series, that some guys like them better on the wing, or you like him better at center. I think it’s 50/50. I think we like him equally as well. He’s comfortable in both areas.

“I think in the playoffs he raises his level of play. That persistence that you saw out of Shawsy just seems to rise.”

Kruger, who didn’t take a single faceoff in Game 3, said he was not battling an injury and expects to be back in the faceoff circle tonight.

“Your instincts, they find a way to get to the puck quicker, they got a good stick, they anticipate real well,” said Quenneville of Kruger. “I think offensively he has the same traits. But I think he’s so adept at the defensive side of things, we give him a little bit more of a job description on that side of it.

“Certainly very valuable and useful in a lot of ways.”

Puck drop tonight is at 8:00 p.m. ET on NBC.

Video: Ducks hold off Blackhawks in Game 3 to take series lead

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Patrick Kane had the puck on his stick, only seconds left in regulation, with a chance to send Game 3 to overtime. He missed, just barely, his shot sliding off the outside of the post.

And from there, the Anaheim Ducks were able to hold off the Chicago Blackhawks to take Thursday’s game by a final score of 2-1, which now also happens to be Anaheim’s lead in this Western Conference Final.

Sorry, no marathon overtime.

Simon Despres had never scored a Stanley Cup playoff goal before Thursday. His slap shot blast that beat Corey Crawford in the final minute of the second period stood as the winner. Talk about perfect timing.

The Blackhawks had their chances, but couldn’t take advantage.

They had five power play opportunities and were unsuccessful with each and every one of them. They are now 2-for-13 in the series. Their only goals with the advantage were in Game 2.

Chicago’s top players are also struggling to produce offensively so far in this series.

Kane did score late in the opening period for his first goal and point of this series. Jonathan Toews has only one point — an assist in Game 2. Marian Hossa has only one point. Patrick Sharp doesn’t have a point in four games.

It’s something to keep an eye on for Game 4 on Saturday.

Despite stunning Wild finish, ‘Hawks eliminate them for third straight year

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The Minnesota Wild went into this series hoping this year would be different. After being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2013 and 2014 playoffs, Minnesota certainly seemed to be in a better position.

The Wild finished the season with a 28-9-3 run. They beat the Central Division winning St. Louis Blues in six games. They had more experience this time around. They weren’t dealing with goaltending injuries. Surely this year would be different.

No.

Chicago forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, and Patrick Sharp played at their typical high level while goaltender Corey Crawford successfully put his rough first round behind him. At the other end of the ice Devan Dubnyk, who got a Vezina Trophy nomination off the strength of his superb second half in 2014-15, couldn’t consistently hold his own against the Blackhawks.

In a last gasp, the Wild scored two goals in the final three minutes of play, but it was too late as their season ended with a 4-3 loss to Chicago. In the end, Marian Hossa’s shorthanded goal on an empty net proved to be the winner. Before that, Kane provided the Blackhawks with a key insurance goal midway through the third period:

Chicago has become the first team to eliminate the same opponent in three consecutive years since Toronto did that to Ottawa in 2000-02, per the NHL Communications Department.

This also means that the Blackhawks have advanced to the Western Conference Final for the fifth time in seven years. That’s a remarkable stretch of playoff success, especially in the salary cap era.

Questions remain for Chicago going forward, not the least of which is what its defense will look like if Michal Rozsival misses a lengthy period of time due to what looked like a pretty bad ankle injury. For now though, Chicago can take a breather as it waits to see who will emerge victorious from the series between Calgary and Anaheim.

For a playoff overview and all tonight’s biggest stories, click here.

Yeo: ‘I don’t know what team played that game tonight, but it wasn’t us’

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After suffering a 4-1 loss tonight, the Minnesota Wild are just two defeats away from being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks for the third straight year. Certainly the team isn’t devoid of hope as the first two contests were in Chicago, so if Minnesota can defend the Xcel Energy Center in Games 3 and 4 then this will essentially be anyone’s series again.

Still just because a road to success remains doesn’t mean that it will be easy for Minnesota to travel. By the sounds of it, Wild coach Mike Yeo thinks they’ll need to make some adjustments to avoid falling victim to a familiar narrative.

“I don’t know what team played that game tonight, but it wasn’t us,” Yeo said, per the team’s Twitter feed. “I think we were focused on the goal, focused on the win, and not focused on the things we needed to do.”

Yeo still thinks the Wild have the personnel in place to win this series, but they have to crack down on the mental mistakes.

“It was a between the ears thing,” the bench boss told the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff in reference to Sunday’s loss.

Among other things, the Wild need to limit Chicago’s top players. Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp each have three points already in this series while Jonathan Toews netted a shorthanded goal in Game 2. Complicating things further is the fact that Minnesota wasn’t that great of a home team in 2014-15. The Wild were 22-13-6 at the Xcel Energy Center, which ties them for the worst home record of any playoff team.

Wild can’t contain ‘Hawks star forwards in Game 2

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Part of the reason the Chicago Blackhawks have been successful over the last seven years is because they have so many top end forwards. How can you silence a team led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa? The Minnesota Wild didn’t have the answer to that question tonight. Instead, they suffered a 4-1 loss to Chicago.

To Minnesota’s credit, the squad did hold its own defensively in the first half of the game. It took a great sequence by Hossa and Toews to break the scoreless tie at 12:28 of the second period, and even then the goal partially went in because Wild netminder Devan Dubnyk was the victim of some bad puck luck.

Minnesota might have been able to recover from that, but Kane made it 2-0 with roughly 20 seconds left in the second frame. Chicago hasn’t lost a contest in the regular season or playoffs when leading after 40 minutes and tonight was no exception.

Minnesota’s Matt Dumba made things interesting with a high shot that beat goaltender Corey Crawford, but Sharp was able to regain Chicago’s two-goal edge:

Kane helped himself to the empty netter to bring him up to five goals and 10 points in eight playoff games. He also has 101 points in 101 career postseason contests.

Minnesota was eliminated by Chicago in 2013 and 2014. The Wild were naturally hoping that this year would be different, but after falling behind 2-0 in the second round series, they have a very tough road ahead of them.