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posted: 4/26/2010 12:01 AM

Penalty-killers achieve perfection

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While the Blackhawks' penalty-killing units have been consistently strong all season, nobody could have expected this.

The Hawks are 21-for-21 in kills over the first five games of their first-round series with Nashville that would end tonight with another Chicago win.

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The high point of the series for the penalty killers came in overtime in Game 5 on Saturday when they shut down the Predators' power play for the first 3:56 of overtime while Marian Hossa served a major penalty for boarding.

"We've got some experienced guys," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think Johnny Madden helps with his experience. It starts right off the faceoff dot and goes right out to trying to alleviate those guys getting set up in our zone, to blocking shots, to clearing the pucks to the goalie making key saves.

"The enthusiasm of having three pairs up front that are moving and going short (shifts), the whole group has some cohesiveness and they have pride in not getting scored upon."

Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Sopel have been exceptional as penalty killers, particularly as shot blockers.

"I think everybody has seen Sopel block pretty much everything that has come his way," Madden said. "I wouldn't say we have a mental edge on them. I just think we have an idea what we want to accomplish out there and (Antti) Niemi has made some key saves for us. Everybody is chipping in and paying a price."

Fighting through it: Joel Quenneville thinks the Hawks' puck possession game has improved the last two games as they continue to try and muck their way through the Predators' clogging defense.

"Hopefully we have the puck a little more because we like to have the puck possession game that complements our team, but at the same time there's not a lot of time and space against them," Quenneville said.

"It's very frustrating to play against this team, definitely," Marian Hossa said following Game 5. "They got always five guys back waiting and waiting. It's just not easy to go through them. We just have to keep patient, shoot and get the rebound."

Predators update: It was an optional skate Sunday in Nashville, but all the players were at the rink.

Predators coach Barry Trotz said Patric Hornqvist would again be a game-time decision. Hornqvist hasn't played since Game 1 because of an upper body injury.

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