Wild ready to 'attack' Blackhawks' game plan


Wild ready to 'attack' Blackhawks' game plan

Since the start of their second-round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild, the Blackhawks have preached the importance of playing a patient game against a team that doesn't give up too many opportunities.

So far that's paid off for Chicago, as the Blackhawks enter Game 4 with a 3-0 series lead and a chance to sweep.

[RELATED - Blackhawks treating Game 4 like it's a must win]

Now it's do-or-die for the Wild, who are still looking to come back against the team that's eliminated them from the postseason the last two years. And while the Wild have also taken a more patient approach in the past, that's not what they're looking to do Thursday night.

"I don't think patience is the right word," coach Mike Yeo told the Minnesota media prior to Game 4. "We have to keep attacking. We have to defend; defending is what prevents you from losing hockey games. We have to make sure that we don't lose. At the same time, you can't win if you don't attack. We have to attack their game plan a little more than we have. We have to attack smarter in certain situations."

Earlier in the series, Yeo said his team had seemed to be focusing on the overall outcome rather than taking each game one play at a time. Now the Wild have found themselves in a tough situation against the Blackhawks — teams with a three-game lead are 194-4 all-time in postgames series — and now Minnesota plans to put out a more aggressive performance to get a win on home ice.

"When we have the opportunity to attack, we have to go. We have to take advantage of it because they don't give you a lot of opportunities," Yeo said. "But we also have to find a way to create some more opportunities and that means getting in on the forecheck a little bit more, it means playing in the offensive zone a little bit more. Not being one and done when you get in the offensive zone."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans]

The Blackhawks' defensive performance from Corey Crawford on out has gotten better and better as the series has progressed. On Tuesday, Crawford recorded a shutout against the Wild, who couldn't generate a whole lot in front of Chicago's net.

So while patience has been the key word in this series, the Wild are now ready to take a different approach. The Blackhawks haven't been giving up a whole lot to the opposition, but tonight, the home team will try to find ways to change that.

"You're not going to get in the offensive zone in the first five seconds they have a big breakdown," Yeo continued. It's how we use our puck strength, our movement down in the offensive zone. It's how we have a good F3, it's how we hunt and recover pucks. We force them to make mistakes. That's generally and typically when we're on top of our game and we didn't see a lot of that stuff last game. I think we use that as a pretty good example of showing our guys that when we're doing those things, we can be effective."

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Snake-bitten Blackhawks light the lamp Saturday

Three unlikely heroes emerged in Calgary on Saturday night to help the Blackhawks find some footing near the end of their five-game road trip (currently 1-3-0) that wraps up Sunday in Winnipeg.

Blackhawks rookie center Kirby Dach hadn't scored a goal in six games; Alex DeBrincat had one marker in his last nine after finishing last season with 41; Alex Nylander had one goal in his past 17 contests.

The trio bounced back against the Flames to help the Hawks to an 8-4 victory.

Nylander scored twice, and DeBrincat and Dach each had a goal.

"It’s a learning process for us that [haven't] been through this," Nylander said after the game. "And we are lucky that we have these vets that are on our team that can help us and see that something like this in the season happens."

Related: Blackhawks' offense explodes in Calgary

Of all the Hawks who have gone cold this season, the most surprising was DeBrincat, who posted 41 goals last season and 28 as a rookie the year prior.

"I've been fighting with the puck a little bit too much," he said. "Even today, I didn't really play that well, but finally got rewarded."

Six points out of a playoff spot, having the three forwards off the schneid could be a big factor in the Hawks putting a streak together to keep their playoff hopes alive.

"Those guys, they have the ability to chip in for us offensively and if they can do that it's going to make a big difference for us," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the three. "Ultimately, it comes down to their work ethic away from the puck."

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews felt Dach, DeBrincat and Nylander gave the Hawks a much-needed lift on Saturday.

"For guys like that and the way they think, the way they play the game, their skillset, scoring goals gives you a ton of energy, it gives you a lift," Toews said. "It's nice to see them get a few and see a few pucks go in.

"I think even if you're just on the ice, you have nothing to do with the play, just to be around goals is infectious. So it's nice to see those guys make those plays as a result of their hard work and it's an incentive to keep doing the same thing."

Hopefully the goal infection spreads for the Hawks. Despite being six points out of the playoffs, Chicago has three games in hand on the Arizona Coyotes, who occupy the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.

With 24 games remaining, scoring contributions will have to come from across the board for the Blackhawks to go on a successful run to secure a playoff spot.

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Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

Andrew Ladd joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

The Blackhawks got a big lift out of skilled and scrappy forward Andrew Ladd during his first three seasons with the Blackhawks. 

Ladd was selected at No. 4 overall in the 2004 NHL Draft by the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Maple Ridge, British Columbia native won a Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006 before coming to Chicago in a trade for Tuomo Ruutu on Feb. 26, 2008. 

In four seasons with the Blackhawks, Ladd displayed strength on both sides of the puck, recording 111 points and a +/- rating of +29 in 203 games.

In 19 games during the 2010 Stanley Cup playoffs, Ladd had six points (three goals, three assists) and a +/- rating of +4.

Related: Versteeg joins Blackhawks All-Decade Team

After the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, Ladd was traded to the Atlanta Thrashers for Ivan Vishnevskiy and a 2011 second-round draft pick in a salary cap move. 

Ladd was traded back to Chicago with Matt Fraser and Jay Harrison for Marko Dano and two draft picks on Feb. 25, 2016. He had 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 19 games in his final season with the Hawks. 

Following the 2015-16 season, he became a free agent and signed a seven-year contract with the New York Islanders.

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