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Blackhawks Tue Apr 20 2010

Shift to Nashville should make Game 3 more of the same

Though the scene shifts to Nashville for tonight's Game 3 between the Blackhawks and Predators (8 p.m., Comcast SportsNet), the game on the ice should look very much the same.

Despite the different results on the scoreboard, Games 1 and 2 were incredibly similar. Chicago came out strong and pushed the momentum at the onset, then the games settled into tight, defensive affairs that ultimately hinged on turnovers and penalties and the play of the respective goalies. A bad bounce goal on Antti Niemi and an inability to clear the zone due to intense forecheck pressure by the Predators doomed the Hawks to the Game 1 loss. Meanwhile, in Game 2 Chicago made some key line changes (most notably pairing defensemen Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith back together), used their speed and upped their physicality to wear down the Preds and eventually crack goaltender Pekka Rinne for a pair of goals and the victory. Both goaltenders have made some big saves so far, and while Niemi calmed some nerves with his Game 2 shutout, Rinne has made some spectacular saves to keep Nashville hanging close and ready to capitalize.

Barring a meltdown from either netminder, Game 3 figures to be another tightrope walk. The teams have matched up fairly evenly and played throttling defense to limit quality scoring opportunities. One area that may be a huge factor is the powerplay. Though Chicago struggled for the latter half of the year with the man advantage, the Hawks used a string of penalties in Game 2 to push the momentum and get on the board with a Dave Bolland backhand goal; finishing the game 1-for-5. The Predators powerplay was near the NHL basement all year, and despite 5 opportunities themselves, couldn't put the puck past Antti Niemi. With quality shots at a premium, the team that is best able to use the man advantage will have the upper hand.

 
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