The Chicago Blackhawks are in need of a win to even their Western Conference semifinal with the Detroit Red Wings. Here is some food for thought while we wait for Game 4 to get underway.
Coach Joel Quenneville has altered his top two lines in an attempt to wake up the offense. Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com tweeted Thursday that Patrick Sharp and Brandon Saad came out to practice on the first and second lines, respectively.
That's the second day in a row that Sharp has skated with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa while Saad has teamed up with Dave Bolland and Patrick Kane, according to Powers' reports. Quenneville knows his team needs more than the single goal Chicago managed in both Game 2 and Game 3.
The Blackhawks have yet to allow a power-play goal to Detroit, or any playoff opponent for that matter. The penalty situation still may factor heavily in Thursday's result.
Simply put, Chicago has to take advantage of 5-on-4 time in Game 4. The limited offensive output dictates that the 'Hawks must find a way to make the Red Wings pay for winding up in the box.
Detroit's lower lines have outplayed their Chicago counterparts in the last two games. If the 'Hawks are to pull even in the series, they need a big Game 4 from skaters like Bryan Bickell.
Viktor Stalberg was back in the lineup Monday night, and the line that was so effective at times in the regular season should be intact Thursday. Game 4 would be a nice time for that line to make an impact.
Getting To Jimmy Howard
Howard has done what a lot of us didn't think he was capable of when the series began. He has locked down the powerful Chicago attack the last two outings.
The Red Wings' goalie has stopped 68 of the Blackhawks' last 70 shots. Finding a way to get some shots past him is obviously a key.
Winning At The Dot
Detroit has an edge on faceoffs in this series, winning 52.6 percent of their draws. If Sharp stays on the top line, he probably won't be taking many faceoffs. Michal Handzus and Jonathan Toews need some help from Bolland and Marcus Kruger.
Bolland and Kruger were a combined 8-17 in Game 3, something that needs to be improved upon if the 'Hawks are to gain control of the puck.
No one wants to see Chicago limping home down 3-1. Quenneville needs to ensure that his players are in the best position to tie the series. Addressing the above issues would go a long ways to coming out of Game 4 with a win.