Blackhawks

Blackhawks treating Game 4 like it's a must win

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Blackhawks treating Game 4 like it's a must win

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks have reached this point again, although faster than most of us figured they would in this round.

They’re up 3-0 in this second-round series against the Minnesota Wild with a chance for a sweep on Thursday. But as we’ve written in previous rounds, the Blackhawks know that fourth victory is the toughest to get. And to get it this time, they’re going to have to bring their best game yet.

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The Blackhawks have a few chances to finish this series; their first is on Thursday when the Wild host Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center. But getting over that final hurdle is tricky. The opponent’s game gets that much more desperate and the Blackhawks have to match that, knowing it’s not the end of the world – or the postseason – for them if they do lose.

“You’ve got to expect them to come out hard. They’re not going to give up and roll over,” Andrew Shaw said. “They’re a great team. We’ve had some really tight games with them. So we’ve got to keep doing the same thing. We’ve got to play patient hockey and capitalize on our opportunities and if Corey [Crawford] keeps standing on his head and our [defense] keeps clearing the puck, we should have success.”

[MORE - Blackhawks playing strong team defense again]

At this time of year talk turns to teams having a “killer instinct.” Ryan Suter said the Blackhawks had it following their 4-1 Game 2 victory over the Wild. That instinct is something the Blackhawks tap into even more when they’ve got the chance to close a series. For them, every game has to be a must-win.

“We’ve been in a lot of different situations: we’ve been down 3-0, ahead 3-0. You’re always playing that next game like it’s a game you have to win. That’s your focus,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You don’t think of the three games after [Game 4]. Right off the bat, we want to make sure we’re playing the right way and not waiting for them to come at us. We want to make sure we try to quiet them even more effectively than we did yesterday.”

Several Blackhawks point to Game 2 against the Wild as their best of this postseason. They were strong on both sides of the puck and in goal. And they feel they’ll have to play as well as that, perhaps even a little better, to win this series.

“The Game 2 we had was probably one of our best in the playoffs,” Johnny Oduya said. “We want that effort, and that’s what’s going to be needed to win that game and that’s all we think about.”

[SHOP: Get a Corey Crawford jersey here]

The Blackhawks are closing in on another series clincher. They haven’t won anything yet and aren’t thinking past this next game. If they play accordingly, it could be their last game for several days.

“We have to treat it obviously like the game that it is. We know what’s at stake,” Oduya said. “You can’t really go away too far from what you want to do and how you want to play. It’s a fun game, the type of character games you want to be in. But with that said, we know how we have to play.”

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.