Hawks lose home ice, but does it matter?


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Posted Online: May 19, 2013, 8:18 pm
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By Chris Kuc
When you have it, you cherish it.

When you lose it, you act like it's no big deal.

It's home-ice advantage and after working all season to obtain it, it's what the Blackhawks yielded to the Red Wings on Saturday when they dropped Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals at the United Center.

With the series shifting to Joe Louis Arena for Game 3 tonight, the Wings need only to hold serve in their home games to knock off the top team in the NHL. As the Hawks demonstrated with a poor effort in a 4-1 defeat in Game 2, that is easier said than done.

"Just because you're playing at home doesn't mean you're going to win the game — that was proven in Game 2," winger Patrick Sharp said after the Hawks' practice Sunday at the United Center. "You play all season long so you get that home ice and I guess if a series ever went to seven games the team with home ice would be happy to be playing at home.

"But we're comfortable playing on the road as well. It doesn't matter where we're playing, it's a tough game and we've got to be ready to play better than we did (in Game 2)."

The Hawks were the best road team this season with an 18-4-2 record. In the first round against the Wild, they split two games in St. Paul, Minn., before wrapping the series up at home.

"Hockey is the same game no matter what building you're playing in," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "On the road, you obviously want to have the fans behind your back, but you have to find ways to fight through and play our game. Sometimes we end up playing better on the road.

"You're going into the other team's building knowing the mentality you're going to have to have. You have to have that do-or-die attitude. You have to have it at home as well, but when you don't have the crowd behind you, it's kind of you against the world."

Added coach Joel Quenneville: "We know that every game is going to be ... on a level playing field. We know we're going to have to win a game in their building. We've been a pretty good road team all year."

Findings ways to win at Joe Louis Arena hasn't been an issue for the Hawks in recent history. They are 9-1-1 in their last four regular seasons there, including 2-0 in 2013.

"We like playing there, they've got good ice," center Dave Bolland said. "When you've got good ice, you're moving the puck easy (and) you're skating. Everything is moving faster. So it's a faster pace. We've always had success at Joe Louis."

That fast ice and pace could benefit the Hawks in Game 3 as they thrive on a quick-moving game that is activated deep in their zone by the defense making quick first passes or carrying the puck through the neutral zone. Add in another intricacy of well-worn Joe Louis Arena: Lively boards.

"There's an awareness," Quenneville said. "We've been in their building a lot of times and we've seen what the puck is capable of doing. Whether there's the unpredictability of their end boards or side board, there's almost a spring to the puck. It's a livelier game in certain areas and an awareness on both sides of the puck is something we have to be ready for."

Wings coach Mike Babcock said he doesn't believe home-ice advantage is just that — an advantage.

"I don't know if that makes any difference whatsoever," Babcock said. "Let's just play."



















 




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