ST. PAUL, Minn. – Things haven’t gone exactly the way the Chicago Blackhawks’ top line has wanted in these first three games against the Minnesota Wild. And captain Jonathan Toews said that the Blackhawks’ best have to be the best now, himself included.
Toews talked about the Blackhawks’ need to rebound, and the top line’s need to do the same, prior to tonight’s Game 4 against the Wild here at Xcel Energy Center. Toews, Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa have been unusually quiet in the first three games, and Toews said they need to break out of it.
“Your best players have to be your best players. Those guys have to be better, and first and foremost that includes myself when I say that,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing against. We have to work hard as play as hard as we can and play that tough road game we’ve been looking for. Guys like myself have to step up and be better. They’re playing well, they’re playing strong defensively. But we have to find a way around that.”
One guy making life miserable for that top line thus far is Wild defenseman Ryan Suter, who was announced as one of the three finalists for the Norris Trophy earlier today. Suter has been stellar this season, and one of his assignments has been trying to stymie the Blackhawks’ top guys. Suter credited the Wild as a whole for their overall defensive work, but said you always have to be mindful of the opposition’s stars.
“We’ve been fortunate to contain them but the series isn’t over. They’re good players; good players find ways to get points,” Suter said. “I’m trying to take away as much time and space. Obviously, if they don’t have the puck, it’s hard to do anything with it. From the defensive standpoint, you want to take the puck off their stick and if you do get it, you don’t want to throw it away. You want to make the right play out of a scrum in the corner. If you do get the puck, you don’t want to give it right back.”
Suter has been making a lot of the right plays all season, hence his Norris final nod. Toews said the Blackhawks need to be tougher on Suter tonight.
“He’s one on those guys, every single game, we want to make his job more difficult. And we can do a better job at that,” he said. “That’s what you do to teams like that: you try and chip away at their best players and not let them go out there and play the game they want to play.”
Jason Pominville skated for the second consecutive day for the Wild, but neither he nor coach Mike Yeo was saying if the forward would play tonight.
For Pominville -- who has been out with a concussion since Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown elbowed him in the head in an April 23 game -- just getting back on the ice with his teammates helps.
“This is the best time of the year to play hockey, and I’m happy to be back with the group,” said Pominville, who has been part of the normal practice grind the past two days. “That’s the tough part about this is that guys don’t practice that much (right now). And when they do it’s optional skates and travel days and morning skates. So you don’t get a feel for 5 on 5 play or special teams or whatever it may be. Just being able to get engaged in battles today and yesterday was nice.”
As for that hit by Brown, who was suspended two games for it, Pominville was understandably not happy.
“I know he’s a guy who plays and hits hard. I just don’t think the elbows are needed when you try to hit a guy,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate when things like that happen.”