ST. PAUL, Minn. – Backs against the wall, in a must-win situation and facing the most desperate situation.
Insert whatever cliché you’d like: the Minnesota Wild is experiencing it right now. The Blackhawks could sweep them out of the postseason, so it’s the Wild’s (potential) last stand.
Will this be it or will the Wild force a Game 5? The Blackhawks know they’ll have to bring their best effort – a la Game 2, if you will – to finish this off tonight.
“Obviously this will be the toughest one,” Bryan Bickell said. “Their backs are to the wall and they have nothing to lose. They’ll give it all every shift to get one [victory]. We expect a high-pace game again. Last game we kind of handled the storm early, stuck to our systems. We got a couple good bounces on the power play to get that goal and just held them off from there.”
With the Wild facing elimination, it’s not a big surprise that it made some lineup changes. Star Tribune reporter Michael Russo chronicles them here – hey, it’s easier to have the Wild guru explain it to you. Coach Mike Yeo joked that he went to scientific lengths to come up with the new combinations.
“Dice, BINGO balls,” he told the media. “Obviously you’ve got to make some changes.”
Additionally, Nate Prosser will make his postseason debut tonight. He comes in on defense, replacing Jordan Leopold. Prosser, who hails from nearby Elk River, Minn., is excited to get back into the lineup after sitting the last month. Oh, and it’s also his 29th birthday today.
“It’s at an all-time high. How can you beat this?” Prosser said of the anticipation tonight brings. “At home, in front of my family and friends at the Xcel playing against the Blackhawks. You can’t beat that, you can’t even write that up. On top of that, it’s my birthday today so it all kind of boiled into one today. I’m really excited for tonight and just want to bring my game.”
[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]
The Blackhawks didn’t expect to be up 3-0 in this series. They’ve done it with a combination of timely goals, stronger defense and goaltending. It would be easy for them to look ahead to the Western Conference Finals, where they seem destined to go for the third consecutive season. But they’ve gotten to this point looking no further than the next game, and they’re not changing now.
“They went on an amazing run to get to the playoffs. We know what they’re capable of doing and they have a structured team game as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Every game has been tight, close. We expect that same tonight and we want to make sure we even raise our level of play.”