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updated: 5/10/2014 10:07 PM

Time for Hawks to stop kidding around

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  • Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) chase the puck during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn.

      Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and Blackhawks left wing Patrick Sharp (10) chase the puck during the second period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn.
    Associated Press

  • Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Cooke, left, celebrates after Wild right wing Justin Fontaine scored on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, during the first period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Friday in St. Paul, Minn.

      Minnesota Wild left wing Matt Cooke, left, celebrates after Wild right wing Justin Fontaine scored on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, right, during the first period of Game 4 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Friday in St. Paul, Minn.
    Associated Press

  • Minnesota Wild left wing Erik Haula, center, of Finland, celebrates with teammates Marco Scandella (6) and Justin Fontaine, right, after scoring on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford during the third period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 4-0.

      Minnesota Wild left wing Erik Haula, center, of Finland, celebrates with teammates Marco Scandella (6) and Justin Fontaine, right, after scoring on Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford during the third period of Game 3 of an NHL hockey second-round playoff series Tuesday in St. Paul, Minn. The Wild won 4-0.
    Associated Press

  • Young guns like Charlie Coyle, here checking Johnny Oduya into the boards during Game 2, are playing with a lot of confidence after Minnesota evened its second-round series with the Hawks at two games apiece.

      Young guns like Charlie Coyle, here checking Johnny Oduya into the boards during Game 2, are playing with a lot of confidence after Minnesota evened its second-round series with the Hawks at two games apiece.
    Associated Press

 

On one side, there's the young, confident Wild bunch feeling awfully good about themselves after a pair of home wins, but trying like heck not to get too excited over what may lie ahead.

On the other side sits the steely, been-there-before Blackhawks, realizing they have yet to play their best against the gritty kids from Minnesota, and knowing if they do, the momentum of the series can turn just like that.

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Should be some showdown Sunday at the United Center for Game 5 in what is now a best-of-three series.

The Wild has ridden the backs of young players like Jared Spurgeon, Justin Fontaine, Eric Haula and Charlie Coyle -- to name a few -- throughout the playoffs and they've responded by putting Minnesota within a pair of victories from reaching the Western Conference finals.

"They've been great," veteran forward Dany Heatley said of the Wild's young guns. "They're obviously a huge reason why we're here. Whatever role they've played, they've done a great job.

"I thought towards the end of the year those guys got better as did our whole team. We went into the playoffs playing pretty well and those guys have taken it to another level."

Meanwhile the Hawks, who have struggled to solve Minnesota's defensive schemes -- being held to 22 shots on goal or less in all four games -- are optimistic that they're sitting on a big performance.

"We are a confident team," veteran Michal Handzus said. "We know we have the experience to go through it. But we know what we need to do and it's a matter of doing it on the ice. That's the most important part.

"It's playoff hockey. You need to have a short memory. Stay even keeled. Obviously we know we have to be better. Just forget about it, learn from it, and take from it what we need to take for the next game."

But first they have to solve the issues of finding space on the ice and getting pucks on net against the Wild.

"We need to play with high speed like we usually do," Marcus Kruger said. "That's something we haven't found, really, in this series.

"Then we need to have traffic at the net -- then it's easier to shoot. That's something we want to work on here."

That they'll be working on it at the UC should be a good omen for the Hawks, seeing how the home team has won every game thus far in this series.

"Home ice can sway the momentum and they took advantage of it," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said, "They've got the momentum and we want to get it back"

As one of the elder statesmen on the team, Heatley knows the key heading into Game 5 is keeping the young Wild players from getting too keyed up for what no doubt will be a madhouse.

"It's a huge game, but I don't feel the vibe in here that we're too confident, that we're too cocky," Heatley said.

"These guys have been learning on the fly, no question," Wild coach Mike Yeo said of his kids. "This will be another good challenge for us.

"I'm excited to see if we can take another step forward."

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