After dispatching the eighth-seeded Minnesota Wild rather easily in the first round, the Chicago Blackhawks were expected to produce similar results against the Detroit Red Wings, who advanced after a hard-fought, seven-game battle with the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks.
However, top-seeded Chicago is in danger of falling into a 3-1 hole as it visits seventh-seeded Detroit for Game 4 of their Western Conference second-round series on Thursday.
The Presidents' Trophy-winning Blackhawks erupted for three third-period goals to post a 4-1 victory in the opener, but allowed four unanswered tallies en route to an identical 4-1 loss at home in Game 2. Chicago then dropped a 3-1 decision at Joe Louis Arena on Monday to fall behind in the series. Gustav Nyquist and Drew Miller scored 31 seconds apart in the second period and Pavel Datsyuk answered Patrick Kane's tally early in the third as the Red Wings posted their second straight victory over Chicago after dropping eight meetings in a row.
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ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS: Chicago converted its first power play of the series but has failed to score on its next eight opportunities. The lack of success prompted coach Joel Quenneville to mix up the team's units during practice on Wednesday, breaking up the No. 1 group by putting Brandon Saad and Bryan Bickell with Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and defenseman Duncan Keith while keeping Kane and captain Jonathan Toews together with a variety of different players.
"We're just looking for more balance on the units," Quenneville said. "And hopefully, we get some production."
Toews has struggled in the playoffs, recording just three assists in eight games. He has scored only three goals in 21 contests over the last three postseasons.
"He's been working," Bickell said. "His chances just haven't been hitting the back of the net, but I know if he gets one, then the floodgates whill open."
Quenneville is seeking his first playoff series victory over Detroit. He is 0-5 all-time against the Red Wings in the postseason, losing three times as coach of the St. Louis Blues and once while guiding the Colorado Avalanche before falling with Chicago in the 2009 conference finals.
ABOUT THE RED WINGS: Detroit also may change things up on the power play. After going 6-for-25 with the man advantage against Anaheim, the Red Wings are 0-for-12 over the first three games versus Chicago. Coach Mike Babcock may give Justin Abdelkader a chance in Game 4 as he spent time on the power play during Tuesday's practice.
"If I get the opportunity, I'm just going to do what I do, go to the net, retrieve pucks and be hard on the puck," the left wing said.
Abdelkader has not recorded a point with the man advantage in 257 career regular-season games. The Red Wings are being careful in their approach to the rest of the series, taking stock in the wise words of their former long-time captain.
"Halfway through a series is also halfway not there," defenseman Jonathan Ericsson told the Detroit Free Press. "We don't want to get too high or too low, that's what Nicklas Lidstrom always used to say. That's what we can't do. We just have to stay the course."
1. Kane has scored Chicago's lone goal in each of the last two games after failing to tally in the Blackhawks' first six postseason contests.
2. Detroit has won seven consecutive home playoff games against Chicago.
3. The Red Wings have captured 10 straight postseason contests in which they have scored at least three goals.