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NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Wednesday, April 23rd (All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (2-1) at Chicago Blackhawks (1-2), 9:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks cut their series' deficit in half with a win on home ice. On Wednesday, the defending Stanley Cup champions hope to draw even with the St. Louis Blues when they host Game 4 at United Center.
St. Louis won the first two games of this best-of-seven series on home ice, taking both contests despite Chicago carrying a lead into the final two minutes of the third period in each battle. The Blackhawks fell 4-3 in triple overtime in Thursday's Game 1 before falling by the same score in the first OT on Saturday.
Chicago, however, shrugged off those frustrating losses to notch Monday's 2-0 home win over the Blues. Corey Crawford turned in a clutch performance for the Blackhawks, stopping all 34 shots he faced.
Meanwhile, the only Blackhawk to score on Ryan Miller was Jonathan Toews, who beat the St. Louis netminder with a wrister less than five minutes into the game. The only other tally came when Marcus Kruger sealed the win by scoring with Miller pulled in the final minute of the third period.
After allowing four goals in each of the first two games of this Western Conference quarterfinal matchup, Crawford notched the third shutout of his playoff career in Game 3. The 29-year-old had one shutout in a 23-game playoff run for Chicago last spring and also posted a 1.84 goals against average in the 2013 playoffs to help the Blackhawks win their second Stanley Cup title in four years.
Crawford stopped 15 shots in the first period, eight in the second and 11 in the third to blank St. Louis on Monday. His last save of the game came on an Alex Pietrangelo shot that was re-directed in the final minute.
"That was a big win for us but we have to keep the same mentality," said Crawford. "Just because we came here and got the first one at home doesn't mean it's going to be easy. We have to be prepared to work even harder and keep the same good feelings we had in this game."
While Chicago tries to maintain momentum in Game 4, the Blues are hoping to avoid a repeat of last year when they posted a pair of 2-1 wins over Los Angeles to open the first round, then lost the next four games.
"We knew this was going to be a long series," said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. "We really played hard and played well and did a lot of things we needed to do to win the game, but you have to give their goalie credit. He was good."
Miller stopped 23-of-24 shots he faced in this one, only letting Toews' seemingly harmless shot from the top of the left circle get past him. Toews took the shot with Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in front of him, and it squeaked through Miller's legs. The score stayed 1-0 until Kruger knocked home an empty-netter with 20 seconds remaining.
"After that I feel like I competed an battled," said Miller of his play after allowing the soft goal from Toews. "There are going to be moments where things aren't going to go your way, you just have to keep moving forward."
Of course, both teams were missing top players on Monday, as Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook began serving his three-game suspension for the check that knocked David Backes out of Game 2. Backes also was out with an upper-body injury after Seabrook drove his shoulder into the Blues captain's face, sending him head-first into the corner boards.
That play resulted in a five-minute charging major for Seabrook and eventually led to Vladimir Tarasenko's power-play goal, which tied Game 2 for St. Louis with just 6.4 seconds left in regulation. After Tarasenko evened the score, Barret Jackman scored 5:50 into overtime to give St. Louis a 2-0 series lead.
Seabrook won't be available to return in this series until Game 6, if the matchup goes that long. Hitchcock said Tuesday that Backes could be "back in the next two or three games" but the St. Louis forward will miss a second straight game on Wednesday.
The Blackhawks boasted an impressive 27-7-7 record at the United Center in the 2013-14 regular season. That included a 2-0-1 mark against the Blues during the five-game season series.
However, if St. Louis is able to pick up a win tonight on the road tonight it will have a chance to wrap up this series on home ice. The Blues are set to host Game 5 at Scottrade Center on Friday.
04/23 10:37:33 ET