'Hawks better be quick studies

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 3:18 PM ET

DETROIT -- Had Jonathan Toews stayed at North Dakota, he'd have just completed his senior year.

Patrick Kane, had he gone that route, would be celebrating he has just one more year of college left.

Still, you don't have to wear a letterman's jacket to receive some lessons.

Not when you're in the Western Conference final against the Detroit Red Wings.

When the dust settled on the series opener, Toews, Kane and the rest of the Chicago Blackhawks knew they were taken to school by the veteran Red Wings.

Tonight's second game of the best-of-seven affair is a chance for the Hawks to show how quickly they can complete their studies.

Lesson One was puck possession. The Wings have beat all kinds of teams by pouncing on turnovers and turning them into scoring chances.

The official gamesheet said the Blackhawks had only one giveaway, but it was a big topic of discussion throughout the dressing room yesterday.

"It's never fun to give up possession against a team like that because they're going to make such smart plays and aren't going to give the puck back to you," Toews said.

"You need to be hungry to keep that puck and not give it up."

Lesson Two was about being battle-ready. Yesterday's practice for the Blackhawks was at a very high tempo.

"Our practice (Saturday in Chicago), there was a lot of sloppy passing and the pace was pretty slow," Kane said.

"I don't know if that had to do with the days off or whatever, but today we were flying out there, the pace was pretty good. We kinda treated it like it was a game, and that was important.

"Hopefully it'll help us next game."

Maybe the biggest lesson at this time of year, however, is the importance of the game between the ears.

As much as the Blackhawks can dissect their opening game performance and lament turnovers, missed chances and the like, the fact is they reached the Western Conference final on merit.

They can't forget what brought them this far, or be intimidated by the more experienced Red Wings -- something head coach Joel Quenneville was also trying to instruct.

"They know the meaning of where we're at right now, and I think we've got to acquire that appetite and taste immediately," he said.

"But I don't think we should be in awe or put them on a different pedestal. I think we've proven at the end of the year we can beat them.

"We know how we have to go about it. We've got to do things right."

The Red Wings are sure bracing for a hungrier Blackhawks team tonight at the Joe Louis Arena.

"They're going to come out with another strong push (tonight) again," said Wings captain Nicklas Lidstom.

"They feel it's only one game and have a chance to get back in the series.

"We expect them to come out with a good effort again."


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