Blackhawks

Ducks overcome fatigue, regroup to regain home ice advantage

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Ducks overcome fatigue, regroup to regain home ice advantage

After suffering a triple-overtime loss in Game 2 that finished early Wednesday morning, the Ducks had to figure out a way to not only regroup, but do so while overcoming the fatigue of playing in the second-longest postseason game in franchise history.

And they did.

But it wasn't easy. 

Both teams, as expected, showed the effects of playing more than 116 minutes of hockey just 38 hours earlier.

The Ducks committed five uncharacteristic penalties — including three in the first period — in Game 3, but the Blackhawks failed to generate many scoring chances and came up empty on all five power-play attempts, showing it wasn't the only team struggling to find its legs.

"The teams looked tired," Ducks center Andrew Cogliano said following a 2-1 win on Thursday night. "And we were the ones that persevered."

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Five things from Hawks-Ducks Game 3: Anaheim dominates third period]

The Ducks cautiously admitted fatigue might have been a factor, but that doesn't necessarily reflect how they approached the contest and they weren't going to use it as an excuse when the game began.

"When the puck drops, you're in playoff mode," forward Patrick Maroon said. "I don't think you're thinking about being tired or taking a lot out of you.

"Obviously it's a long travel day for both teams, but I think mentally you got to prepare yourself, take care of yourself and move forward and just got to be ready for the drop of the puck."

What stood out the most was the Ducks' ability to respond to adversity against a Blackhawks team that had yet to lose a home postseason game.

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After taking an early 1-0 lead, the Blackhawks fired back with a late first-period goal by Patrick Kane that evened up the score. But the Ducks responded with a late one of their own from Simon Despres in the second period and shut the door in the final 20 minutes to take a 2-1 series lead and regain home-ice advantage in the Western Conference Final.

"We're a great character team," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "This is a character win."

And while they'll certainly enjoy resting on a win, the Ducks know the Blackhawks won't go away easy.

"It's going to take a very hard effort, better effort because they're going to come at us harder (in Game 4)," Despres said. "And it's going to be another hard-fought battle."

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”