Jonathan Toews, mired in a playoff scoring slump with no goals and three assists in eight games, usually makes his presence felt eventually. And Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith knows it's coming.
''He's going to find his way on the board. It's something that we know,'' Brendan Smith said. ''We're going to try to keep him off as long as possible. These players, they're so competitive. They're so good that they'll find a way. It's something that we're just going to keep trying to eliminate. He's had some bad bounces where he's hit the post and stuff.''
The Red Wings have neutralized Toews with even more physical play than the Minnesota Wild did in the opening series. Toews responded with an outstanding effort in Game 3 -- all that was missing were the points.
"I think it's just being very aware of him and playing him hard,'' Smith said. ''I think just the will to battle. He's a very strong guy. He battles so hard. If you battle just as hard it'll help our whole game and that's what's been good for us in shutting him down.''
It seems unlikely that Toews will stay this quiet. The Wings just hope he doesn't break through at a critical time -- like when Toews had a hat trick and five-point game in a critical Game 4 at Vancouver in 2010; or when he scored the tying goal shorthanded with two minutes to go in Game 7 against Vancouver in 2011; or when he scored the winning goal in overtime in Game 6 against the Phoenix Coyotes to keep the Hawks alive in that first-round series in 2012.
''He's a great player. Don't get me wrong. We know it's going to happen,'' Smith said. ''We just have to make sure that we keep playing him hard and making sure that we're very aware of him because he is arguably their best player.''