Wild reflective, Hawks loose in leadup to Game 3

Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate Hossa's second period goal...

Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell of the Chicago Blackhawks celebrate Hossa's second period goal against the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 at the United Center on May 2, 2014. (Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images/AFP)

RANDY SPORTAK, Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:18 PM ET

Beating the Chicago Blackhawks has been a tall order for the entire NHL the last few seasons.

Is it more than just a physical challenge for the Minnesota Wild?

Having lost the first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series, on top of falling in five games when they met in the playoffs last year, the Wild are in tough -- maybe even more than most teams.

“For us, it's the mental hurdle,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said after his team's morning skate Tuesday.

“The first two games, I don't think we were completely on top of our game. We did a lot of good things and were right there with them. Scoring chances coming through two games were very even, we had a small edge in shots for. We had a pretty small edge in shot attempts for, which is a big difference from last year. As far as I'm concerned, we've leveled the playing field here, but we have to take the next step. We have to push past being close or even to them. We have to make sure that we get ahead of them. I believe that we can.

“It's a great test. It's a great team, but we've got a pretty darn good team ourselves. We just have to prove it now.”

Yeo is making a few switches to his squad in the hopes to spark something.

Struggling Matt Moulson has been moved to a third line with Justin Fontaine and Erik Haula, while Nino Niederreiter joined Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle.

On defence, Keith Ballard will dress instead of Nate Prosser, who had a rough outing in Game 2. Ballard last played on St. Patrick's Day, having been sidelined by a groin injury.

“A long time coming,” Ballard said. “It’s been a couple months, but I’m excited to play, I’m excited to get back in. I've been feeling good for the last week and a half or so. A lot of rehab. I had to get strength back in my leg and get feeling good.”

As for the Blackhawks, it wasn't certain whether Jeremy Morin would remain in the lineup or Brandon Bollig would return after being a healthy scratch.

Chicago defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson is to play. He was hit in the throat by a shot last game and didn't miss a shift. He can't speak, at least to the media, which prompted the question whether others will block more shots to be excused of those duties.

“They're getting in line for that one,” coach Joel Quenneville quipped.

There's the difference for the teams.

The Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champs, are loose. The Wild are trying to be calm and confident, but know they won't likely survive long if they lose this game and are down 3-0 in the best-of-seven affair.

“This game is huge. We know that,” Yeo said.

“This is going to be a tough test. It's a great team and they understand the importance of it, too, but I obviously think we're going to play a very good game tonight and we've got to find a way to get a win here. Find a way to get a win tonight and the series starts to take a different turn.”


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Here are the lines based on the morning skate:

MINNESOTA

Forward

Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Charlie Coyle

Zach Parise-Mikael Granlund-Jason Pominville

Matt Moulson-Erik Haula-Justin Fontaine

Dany Heatley-Kyle Brodziak-Cody McCormik

Defence

Ryan Suter-Jonas Brodin

Jared Spurgeon-Marco Scandella

Clayton Stoner-Keith Ballard

Goal

Ilya Bryzgalov

John Curry

CHICAGO

Forward

Bryan Bickell-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Patrick Sharp-Ben Smith-Parick Kane

Brandon Saad-Marcus Kruger-Joakim Nordstrom

Brandon Bollig/Jeremy Morin-Michal Handzus-Kris Versteeg

Defence

Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy-Michal Rozsival

Goal

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta


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