Wild prep for bruising bounce back from Blackhawks

Trying to keep up with the Chicago Blackhawks would be unwise

for the Minnesota Wild.

Running into them over and over and over again, as Game 3 of

this Western Conference quarterfinal matchup proved, is probably

their best bet.

After a rough-and-tumble effort in an overtime victory, the Wild

were bracing for the inevitable pushback from the top-seeded

Blackhawks in Game 4 on Tuesday.

”A lot of teams respond well after losses, and that’s obviously

a tough loss for them. They’ll be ready to go,” said Minnesota

rookie Jason Zucker, who got the winning goal in the 3-2 decision

Sunday that cut Chicago’s series lead to 2-1.

The Blackhawks acknowledged without prompting they needed to

bring more intensity. But whether they’re actually focusing on

bruising and banging more with the Wild, well, that depended on who

was talking after practice on Monday.

”They played like they had to win the game,” Blackhawks coach

Joel Quenneville said, ”and we didn’t. We wanted to make sure we

had more urgency to our game.”

Yes, but teams aren’t successful in the spring if they change

their style too much.

”Sometimes if you’re worried about bringing too much

physicality and intensity then you’re not worried about doing the

things we did to score a lot of goals this year,” star Patrick

Kane said.

Defenseman Brent Seabrook blamed himself for not playing ”very

physical,” the way games usually go in May. But he stopped short

of prodding his team to get into a checking challenge with the


”I don’t think we need to give them any kind of response. We

have to play our game, and we have to play the way that we know we

can play,” Seabrook said.

That means staying in the offensive zone and keeping the puck as

much as possible and relying on superior depth to wear down the


”We’re a fast team, and we need to use that to our advantage,”

rookie Brandon Saad said.

The Blackhawks have only one goal, by Marian Hossa, from their

first line. Saad and captain Jonathan Toews have been shut out. But

in the postseason, games are always tighter. The Wild have only one

goal, by Zach Parise, from their top group, too.

Gritty usually trumps pretty.

The Blackhawks are clearly missing the tenacity and playoff

touch of center Dave Bolland, who’s been practicing but was

declared out for Game 4 because of a lingering lower-body injury.

Quenneville was even asked whether enforcer Daniel Carcillo would

be inserted on the fourth line for some extra energy, much like the

Wild did with Stephane Veilleux on Sunday.

”He could play,” Quenneville said.

And if not?

”He might not,” the coach said, grinning slightly.

Yes, postseason gamesmanship was on full display. Wild coach

Mike Yeo, asked if fourth line forward Mike Rupp was hurt, coyly

declined to answer whether his absence from practice was for rest

or due to injury. One reporter reminded the coach that Rupp played

only four shifts, totaling 2:37 of ice time, in Game 3.

”They were hard shifts,” Yeo said, deadpanning.

The veteran forward the Wild acquired for more punch for the

playoffs, Jason Pominville, hasn’t participated in two weeks since

taking an elbow to the chin in a game against Los Angeles.

Pominville was back at practice Monday, but Yeo left his status

vague too.

The 21-year-old Zucker, whose uneven, undisciplined play

prompted the Wild to keep him at their AHL affiliate much of the

year, was recalled from Houston right before the final regular

season game. Aside from 36-year-old center Matt Cullen, Zucker is

one of the only forwards the Wild have with the speed to match the

Blackhawks. He showed that in Game 1 when his overtime shot hit the

crossbar, an inch that’s the difference now in the lead of this


But after his blind, bad-angle shot got past goalie Corey

Crawford in Game 3, Zucker has been more interested in talking

about the importance of physical play than his scoring touch or

skating ability.

”Obviously that’s a big part of our game, so we had to come out

strong. We have a lot of guys that hit all night and every night,

so we had to keep that going,” Zucker said.

The Blackhawks lamented their lack of puck possession in Game 3,

and the Wild were quick to point out that their extra effort along

the boards and in the corners was the key to them controlling the

game. They realized, too, that they’re only one-fourth of the way

toward finishing an upset of the Stanley Cup favorite Blackhawks.

This, after all, is a best of seven.

”Guys are going about their business. That’s the nature of the

playoffs. You have to put that behind you pretty quick,” Cullen

said. ”You can’t be in here running around like an idiot because

you won a game. We won one game.”

Follow Dave Campbell on Twitter: