Blackhawks want more traffic in front of Smith

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Blackhawks want more traffic in front of Smith

GLENDALE, Ariz. Jonathan Toews gave his assessment after the Blackhawks 3-2 overtime loss to Phoenix on Thursday. They did a lot of good things, played their game for the most part. Just a few little tweaks needed to be done.

Two of them include eradicating those turnovers and making life a lot harder on Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith.

The Blackhawks had a rough second period in which they struggled to move and turned the puck over. That, and lack of hard-to-see shots against Smith were costly in their loss. So the Blackhawks talked on Friday about shoring up a few things.

The second period we had the puck on our stick; it wasnt like they had to make any indirect plays, said coach Joel Quenneville, who added that there could be some changes for Game 2. We have to be more effective, efficient in that area. The onus is on the puck carrier to be responsible.

The Blackhawks had particular trouble midway through the second period, when clearing the puck from their zone became an ordeal. The Coyotes tied the game on that prolonged possession, which had a tired group of Blackhawks on the ice.

Marian Hossa said the team may have gotten too particular on its passing.

It felt like the first period was really good and the second started turning pucks over. Maybe we tried to make big plays too much instead of keeping it simple in the neutral zone. Maybe chip it in and go for it instead of always finding tape-to-tape passes.

Once they get that taken care of they can get back to attacking Smith. Yes, the Blackhawks fired plenty of shots at him in Game 1; 45 to be exact. But the big, mobile Smith could see most of them en route to stopping 43. Meanwhile, it was the Coyotes getting those deflected, traffic-bred goals, and the Blackhawks know they need more of those in their game.

Hes a good goaltender, and hes going to see a lot of pucks. Traffic is probably the biggest thing, Patrick Kane said. We have to get traffic around the net, try to squeak some by him. Hes going to stop the ones he sees.

The Game 1 loss wasnt the end of the world, but it was a wake-up call. This is not going to be an easy series against a gritty, opportunistic team with a red-hot goaltender. The Blackhawks will make their tweaks and hopefully make a bigger statement come Game 2.

Its not fun to lose Game 1 but we have a long way to go. Well bounce back from this, Toews said. Well improve on certain details and well be just fine. Well be even tougher to play against. We want to steal one here tomorrow night and go home with a good feeling and not let that get away from us.

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

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Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

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