ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Wild looked at Game 3 for what it was: a great game in front of their home crowd, and a much-needed victory to keep their Western Conference quarterfinal series with the Chicago Blackhawks close.
But Game 3 is over, and Game 4 looms on tomorrow night’s horizon. The Wild pushed. Now they’re preparing for the Blackhawks to push back.
The Wild played inspired, determined and desperate hockey on Sunday, outdoing the Blackhawks in several categories en route to a 3-2 overtime victory. But with the Blackhawks still leading the series 2-1, the Wild know they still have work to do. And Minnesota knows Chicago will be looking to stymie them.
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“I expect to see their best game of the series tomorrow,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said of the Blackhawks. “You have to elevate your game. At the very least, we have to bring a lot of the same things we brought last game. Part of the challenge for us is to brace against their pushback. We know they’re going to come hard, and I’m anxious to see how we respond to that. “
The Wild have seen this before. The Blackhawks won Game 1, despite not being at their best, and they promised to come out stronger for Game 2. They did, steamrolling the Wild in a 5-2 victory. But the Wild are on their ice now, and they’re coming off a victory, not a heartbreaking overtime loss. Either way, they say they’ll take the same mental approach for this game as with the others.
“We all came to the rink today the same way we did after Game 1 and Game 2,” goaltender Josh Harding said. “This is going to be a long series, and we’re just trying to get better every day. I know it’s getting repetitive but you have to treat each day like it’s a new day, and that’s the mentality we have.”
The Wild were a physical team in Game 3. It’s what they needed to do to slow down the Blackhawks. While the Blackhawks hope to get back to their speed- and skill-driven game and dodge those blows, the Wild still expect to throw them.
“I expect the game to be physical no matter what. If you’re a scorer, a checker, you’re hitting,” Devin Setoguchi said. “It’s got to be grind-it-out hockey. We expect a big push from them tomorrow and if we’re not ready, it’ll be trouble.”
Wild defenseman Jonas Brodin was not among the three finalists for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the league’s best rookie. Brodin took the snub in stride, saying he was more focused on the playoffs. But his coach was disappointed for him.
“Congratulations to the other players; they’re great players,” Yeo said. “I mean this with the greatest respect to them: I’ve coached this guy all year. We’re battling in the playoffs, and it’s hard to say we would be if he’s not on our team. This kid is a very, very good hockey player. So it’s disappointing for me.”
Goaltender Niklas Backstrom (lower body) and forward Jason Pominville practiced with the Wild on Monday afternoon. But Yeo did not have an immediate update on their status for Game 4.