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NHL: Wild seek to avoid repeat in Game 2

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CHICAGO — The Minnesota Wild outshot, outchanced and outhit the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 on Friday night, but, after a 5-2 Blackhawks win, Wild coach Mike Yeo proceeded to scold his players without naming names, saying too many were “below-average” and not at the level needed when facing the defending Stanley Cup champions.

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One day later, after the Wild practiced Saturday at the United Center, the coach was a lot calmer and even admitted he was mostly doing a little manufactured postgame coaching, so to speak.

Yeo has a great memory. In Game 1 against the Blackhawks last postseason, the Wild played well enough to win, lost in overtime and got smoked in Game 2. Most recently, in the first round against the Colorado Avalanche, the Wild played well enough to win Game 1, threw it away during a late-game meltdown and then wasn’t good enough to win Game 2.

Yeo believes the Blackhawks will be better during today’s Game 2 matinee. So the Wild better do the same, and that means being better on special teams, hitting the net and always being aware when Blackhawks star Patrick Kane hits the ice.

“We played a good game last game, but we didn’t play a great game,” Yeo said Saturday. “The little things that were missing, there was just a very small dip in some of the little things — stick on puck, net front screens, whether it’s a shot block that end up being the difference. Knowing who we’re playing against and the level of team that they are, we’re not going to get away with playing good games.”

The Blackhawks held an off-ice workout Saturday rather than practice, and coach Joel Quenneville and a handful of players all said the Wild outplayed Chicago.

Defenseman Johnny Oduya even went as far as to say, “We got away with one. We’re not going to do that again this series.”

The Wild pinned Chicago in its end for most the second period, outshooting the Blackhawks 17-3 and missing the net another 11 times. While the latter’s not a positive stat, it provides further evidence of the Wild’s territorial advantage and edge in scoring chances.

“They outworked us; that’s the bottom line,” Oduya said.

Yeo wants everybody involved. Defenseman Jonas Brodin particularly struggled, halting momentum twice with ill-timed, careless high-sticking penalties. In the penalty box for six minutes, Brodin cost the Wild two power-play goals.

By contrast, the Wild’s power play was 0-for-3 and is now 0-for-20 against the Chicago the past two postseasons.

“They’ve got a really good penalty kill,” said Zach Parise, who leads the NHL with 11 points. “They’re patient. A lot of teams are really aggressive and they’re not. They give you those shots from the sides, shots from the flank and they just try to get in the shooting lanes, so it’s hard to get it through.”

The Wild also must do a better job being aware when Kane is on the ice. He was invisible the first two periods Friday, then emerged like all great game-breakers do after the Wild tied the score in the third period.

Besides scoring a highlight-reel winning goal, he lost defenseman Nate Prosser in the final minutes for the back-breaking goal.

“We’ve got to play him more physical and have a tighter gap, but we just have to be more aware of who we’re up against, too,” Prosser said.

The Wild’s goal when they came to Chicago was to achieve at least a split. They still have that opportunity against a Blackhawks team that has won 15 of its past 17 home games, including five in a row.

“We said all last series we’ve got to get the road win,” Parise said, smiling. “Hopefully, we can get that (today).”

Late Friday

Chicago 5, Minnesota 2

Minnesota    0    0    2 —    2

Chicago    1    1    3 —    5

First Period—1, Chicago, Bickell 3 (Seabrook, Hossa) 14:48 (pp). Penalties—Shaw, CHI (Interference), 3:13; Brodin, MIN double minor (High Sticking - Double Minor), 13:09.

Second Period—2, Chicago, Hossa 2 (Saad, Leddy) 11:21 (pp). Penalties—bench, CHI (Too many men on ice), 7:13; Brodin, MIN (High sticking), 10:09; Leddy, CHI (Elbowing), 11:47; bench, MIN (Too many men on ice), 19:16.

Third Period—3, Minnesota, Stoner 1 (Parise, Pominville) 2:19. 4, Minnesota, Brodziak 3 (Haula, Heatley) 6:56. 5, Chicago, Kane 4 (Sharp, Seabrook) 8:22. 6, Chicago, Kane 5 (Smith, Sharp) 16:47. 7, Chicago, Bickell 4 (Toews, Hossa) 17:19 (en).

Shots on Goal—Minnesota 8-17-7—32. Chicago 13-3-6—22.

Power-play opportunities—Minnesota 0 of 3. Chicago 2 of 4.

Goalies—Minnesota Bryzgalov 1-2-1 (21 shots-17 saves). Chicago Crawford 5-0-2 (32-30).

A—22,116 (19,717). T—2:38. Referees—Kelly Sutherland, Dan O’Halloran. Linesmen—Steve Miller, Scott Driscoll.

Fontaine expected to suit up

St. Paul Pioneer Press

CHICAGO — Former Minnesota Duluth forward Justin Fontaine likely will play for the Minnesota Wild in today’s Game 2 of their Western Conference semifinal vs. the Chicago Blackhawks.

Fontaine is expected to take the place of Stephane Veilleux on the third line with Erik Haula and Nino Niederreiter.

That line was successful in limiting Colorado Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon in the opening round; now their focus turns to Patrick Kane, who scored two goals Friday in Game 1.

“If they want to throw a skilled line out there (against them), we’re comfortable with those guys in that role,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “I think Haula played a really strong game last game, so I’d like to see if he can continue that. Fontaine is a guy that has played well against Chicago for us.

“We felt going into Game 1, given what happened at the end of the first series, that we wanted to go with the same lineup, but we said going in that we would expect to see him very soon in this series.”

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