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Blackhawks Thu Apr 22 2010

Blackhawks Look to Campbell's Possible Return to Tie Series, Regain Focus

While panic and desperation are not words to throw around lightly, the Blackhawks may be creeping up toward that precipice before tonight's Game 4 in Nasvhille. And with reports that defenseman Brian Campbell is a game-time decision tonight, they've either taken another step closer or started backing off the ledge.

Tuesday's effort in Game 3, what little words are worth sparing on it, was pretty much non-existant. The Predators, outshot, outmuscled, and outhustled the Blackhawks in all facets of the contest, and the result was little more than a formality by the time the third period rolled around. Though the Hawks have struggled to play their game all series long, Tuesday was the first time they looked completely overmatched and defeated. Predators coach Barry Trotz has been exposing the Blackhawks weaknesses, and Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has no response other than to juggle lines every other shift in the hope of talent clicking. The series to this point is proof that talent only gets you so far.

Which brings us to tonight. Though not an absolute must-win, another half-hearted effort and Chicago can all but start making tee times. In Game 1, the Blackhawks were controlling the game until a bad goal and tie score caused them to tighten up and get sloppy to give the game away in the third period. The end result saw the Hawks lock down Nashville on defense in Game 2 first and foremost, while using their offensive speed to stretch and wear down the Preds. To send the series back home tied up 2-2, the Hawks need to show that same mentality of defense first, control the puck and grind it out if the goals aren't coming. Despite the series deficit, only Tuesday's game was a total disaster for the Blackhawks. The offense is struggling to get goals on Pekka Rinne, and Nashville's been doing a phenomenal job of limiting the Hawks' quality chances, but provided Chicago plays a strong game in their own end, Rinne will need to be even more spectacular than he has been to ward off the Hawks.

In an effort to shake the Hawks from their doldrums, Quenneville is making more lineup changes, bringing Adam Burish and Bryan Bickell down from the press box to instill some spark and passion up front. And in bigger news, defenseman Brian Campbell's now a game-time decision as he returns ahead of schedule from the broken clavicle he suffered March 14. Campbell's speed and ability to move the puck are something the Hawks have been sorely lacking in trying to break Nashville's forecheck and trap style. Campbell's return gives the Hawks two pairs of defenseman with the ability to move the puck, and a key component of their struggling powerplay back.

Of course, if the team is rushing a rusty Campbell back and expecting Burish and Bickell to be offensive saviors more than big bodies and agitators, those words may be a sign the Hawks have no idea how to get back the focus and momentum that was driving them the first part of the season. The results tonight will show which case is the correct one.

 
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