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updated: 4/22/2014 8:56 PM

Both teams savoring this series

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  • The Blues' Steve Ott and Ben Smith battle after a faceoff during the Hawks' 2-0 win in Game 3 at the United Center on Monday night.

      The Blues' Steve Ott and Ben Smith battle after a faceoff during the Hawks' 2-0 win in Game 3 at the United Center on Monday night.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

  • Jonathan Toews is sent sprawling by the Blues' Steve Ott during the Hawks' 2-0 win in Game 3 at the United Center on Monday night.

       Jonathan Toews is sent sprawling by the Blues' Steve Ott during the Hawks' 2-0 win in Game 3 at the United Center on Monday night.
    Steve Lundy | Staff Photographer

 

Even in the midst of a crazy competitive series, Joel Quenneville can take a step back and appreciate what he and his team are in the midst of.

"This is a tremendously emotional and passionate series -- in three games," the Blackhawks coach said. "It's extremely close.

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"With the playoffs, that's what makes it so special. You've got to find a way to keep persevering, finding ways and trying to overcome what's in front of you."

The guys on the other bench are loving it just as much.

"It's fun," St. Louis defenseman Barret Jackman said. "You see the triple-overtime game; I don't think many guys have experienced that. You're exhausted, but at the end of it you sit back and you're pretty excited that it went our way.

"And then Game 2, it was the same intensity and it went our way again, but it could have went in Chicago's favor. It was a battle, big hits, a lot of stuff after the whistle and between the whistles.

"That is what playoff hockey is all about."

And then there was Monday night's showdown at the United Center, where the full house was into it from the word go as the Hawks pulled out a hard-fought 2-0 victory to make it a 2-1 series.

"Probably one of the loudest crowds I've heard since I've been here," Patrick Kane said. "I don't know if it's because I hadn't played in a while at home, or just being here for the playoffs and them being excited, it just seemed like it was a louder atmosphere.

"I'm looking forward to that again (tonight)."

Can it get any more intense?

The answer in a word: yes, simply because of what's on the line tonight.

"Game 4 has always been a big one when the series is 2-1," Kane said. "It seems like a totally different series whether it's 3-1 or 2-2.

"The next game's huge."

And Kane figures to be a key component tonight, as once again Quenneville will reach into his bag of tricks and go with a line combination that has worked so well in the past -- the power trio of Kane, Jonathan Toews and Bryan Bickell.

In its playoff debut Monday, that line ended up accounting for the game-winning goal when Toews beat Ryan Miller early in the first period.

"Any time you play together you get excited about playing with each other," Kane said of playing with Toews. "We had some success last year in the playoffs together, too.

"I'm sure any time anyone gets a chance to play with him, they're excited, because he's such an easy player to play with."

While Hawks fans may be digging the fact that the band is back together, St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock certainly isn't.

"I don't think he's fighting very fair frankly," Hitchcock said of Quenneville. "I don't like that. But we'll find a way to figure it out.

"You see them so much together. They used to always come out after penalties and stuff like that, so you're used to it. When you've got good players competing at a high level, it's always a challenge."

Add in what's at stake tonight in Game 4 and the challenges only multiply -- for both teams.

"Coming into this building, with 22,000 people going as nuts as they are, it definitely gets you fired up," Jackman said. "They've got a little bit of life and we expect -- especially the first five minutes -- it's going to be pretty hectic."

And that's exactly what makes playoff hockey special.

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