Chicago Sun-Times

Blackhawks say they're ready for the big, bad Blues

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Judging by the questions, you'd figure that the St. Louis Blues had handled the Blackhawks in every meeting this season. But it's just not true.

The Hawks only got manhandled once by the NHL-leading Blues -- a 5-1 pasting of the Hawks on March 6 in their last meeting in St. Louis. They've actually split their season series with two wins apiece with their fifth matchup Tuesday at the United Center.

"It seems like every time we play them it's a physical game," forward Patrick Sharp said. "They're at the top of the conference right now, so it'll be a good test for us. Playing in our building, we're kind of going back-and-forth against those guys, home and home, and we want to make sure we play well on home ice and remember what happened in their building."

The Blues, who will have Jaroslav Halak in goal Tuesday, have been the NHL's hottest team recently. They are 5-0 in their last five games and 9-1 in their last 10. The effectiveness of the Blues special teams has been a big reason why. Their penalty kill, in particular, has been outstanding. They've killed off 47 consecutive penalties dating back to Feb. 14 and have allowed just one power-play goal in their opponents' last 52 attempts.

The Hawks' power play, on the other hand, has floundered. They have just three power-play goals since the All-Star break. The Hawks' poor PP has reached a point where Barry Smith, the team's director of player development, has been on the ice for several practices to help it.

"They're on a roll -- an amazing roll," coach Joel Quenneville said of the Blues. "It's a hard game. It's a physical game. It's an important game for everybody, so let's get excited about it."

One of the most impressive stats about the Blues, who have taken off since Ken Hitchcock was named their coach, is that they are 30-7-2 when scoring first this season. The Blues have no problems sitting back and clogging the middle after taking a lead.

"The biggest thing with these last couple games is you give up the first goal and it makes for a tough game, especially against a team like St. Louis," forward Patrick Kane said. "They score first and they're going to clog it up and not give us much space, so we've got to make sure we come out, get the first goal, and hopefully they try and open it up and we can capitalize on their mistakes."

The Hawks' toughness as a team also came into question after the Blues tossed them around in their last meeting. The Blues were specifically mentioned by winger Marian Hossa, assistant general manager Marc Bergevin and Quenneville when talking about the team's decision to sign injured forward Daniel Carcillo to a two-year extension. He was initially signed for his abrasiveness and willingness to scrap.

The Hawks, who are using rookies Brandon Bollig and Andrew Shaw to provide a physical element, remain confident in their toughness.

"We lost our last game against them in their building, but we've beaten them in the past," Sharp said. "We've beaten them in our building. They're a great team, we've been tested with the physical aspect of the game before, and I think we're just fine."

Ray Emery will start in goal for the Hawks. The Hawks also remain without center Jonathan Toews, who is out with a concussion.

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About the blogger

Adam L. Jahns is a native Chicagoan. Jahns has been with the Sun-Times since 2005, covering the Hawks since 2009. He's also helped cover the Bears, Cubs, Sox and high schools. Follow him on Twitter:@adamjahns



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Adam L. Jahns published on March 13, 2012 12:05 PM.

Injured Blackhawks star Jonathan Toews rests again was the previous entry in this blog.

Toews, Hjalmarsson and Sharp sit out practice is the next entry in this blog.

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