Konroyd's keys for Game 4 of Blackhawks-Wild

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Konroyd's keys for Game 4 of Blackhawks-Wild

1. Learn from the Bulls

The Blackhawks brethren from the United Center, the Bulls, had a pretty impressive win on Monday evening in Cleveland. They never trailed and dominated for most of the game. However, that wasn't the case Wednesday night and part of the problem was what head coach Tom Thibodeau characterized as “feeling too good about ourselves” after such a strong performance in Game 1. The Blackhawks have been in this situation before and never take anything for granted. They realize that a win earns them some extra rest, and with Anaheim coughing up a late lead in Calgary and losing in OT, they know they will get to sit and watch an extra game or two before the Western Conference Finals start. Stay focused and in the moment.

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2. Keep up the strong kills

A key point in Game 3 was the Hawks first penalty kill about 7 1/2 minutes into the contest. A power play goal would have had the Xcel Energy Center going amped up and going crazy. Instead, a smart and efficient penalty kill took the crowd, and life, out of Minnesota. Short shifts, great clears, and taking away shooting lanes prevented Minnesota from getting any shots with the man advantage. They ended up with a total of just three shots on six minutes of power play time. Don’t give the Wild any life on the power play.

3. Continue the rush game

Looking back at the goals Chicago has scored in this series, seven of their nine goals have come off the rush. That is not what you’d expect in a playoff game, where typically you have to earn your ice and grind out goals with greasy plays. This has not been the case so far. Attacks and counter attacks have given the edge to Chicago in the speed game. Keep protecting your lines, breakout with clean plays and passes, and continue putting pucks on Devan Dubnyk, who has looked pretty ordinary in this series so far.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

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Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.