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Blackhawks enter playoffs with something to prove

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The Blackhawks set an NHL record with a 21-0-3 start. They won the Presidents' Trophy as the league's best team. They won the Jennings Trophy as the league's stingiest team. They wildly exceeded any reasonable expectations.

And none of it means anything anymore.

"It's fresh, it's a clean slate," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're all in the same boat."

Indeed, when the puck drops Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals between the Hawks and the Minnesota Wild, the regular season already will be a distant memory.

"Obviously, a lot gets made of that sort of thing in the regular season," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Some good stories there, and we're certainly proud of those accomplishments. But the guys in the room, we've never brought that stuff up once. It's always all been about the playoffs and trying to elevate our game now. This is where it counts."

The Hawks will be without center Dave Bolland (groin) and backup goaltender Ray Emery (lower-body injury) for Game 1. Henrik Karlsson will back up Corey Crawford. Quenneville said both Bolland and Emery are "day to day."

"We're hopeful that they're going to be on the ice real soon," he said. "We expect them on the ice real soon."

Much of the talk in the dressing room following Monday's practice -- during which the power play was a focus -- centered around the disappointment of two straight first-round playoff exits since the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and how the frustration has driven them. And after a regular season which saw them lose just seven games in regulation, expectations couldn't be higher.

"Everybody's got something to prove," Quenneville said. "When you look at the season we had, and the success we had, the expectations are in place -- whether they're expectations from our fans, from our organization, from one another. I think that's a healthy situation. We should be going into the playoffs knowing anything can happen, and we're very respectful for our opponent. You look at their lines and their lineup, it's a dangerous team. But we're going to be concentrating on what we have to do, and we should all be motivated to continue on what we accomplished this season."

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About the blogger

Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.



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This page contains a single entry by Mark Lazerus published on April 29, 2013 1:17 PM.

Blackhawks-Wild series schedule released was the previous entry in this blog.

Kane, Saad bring back the Blackhawks playoff mullet is the next entry in this blog.

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