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ARNOLD: Blackhawks know Game 4 is 'huge'

Published: Thursday, May 23, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2013 5:51 p.m. CST
Caption
Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard stops a shot by Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews on Monday in Detroit. Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series is Thursday in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

DETROIT – Wander from one dressing room stall to another, fight your way through the scrum of TV cameras and microphones, and the answers all tend to sound the same.

Oh, the verbiage and the accents with which the sound bites are delivered from playoff-bearded mouths may vary. But regardless how responses are worded, the message coming from the Blackhawks is essentially identical.

Just in case you weren't aware, Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals has a lot riding on it for the Hawks. Win, and the home-ice advantage that everyone makes such a big deal about swings back into the Hawks' favor.

Win, and back-to-back losses to the Detroit Red Wings are forgotten and filed under "lessons learned" in what becomes a best-of-three series that returns to Chicago Saturday night.

But lose Thursday at Joe Louis Arena, and, well, let's just say things wouldn't look good for a team that would have to settle being the proud owners of the NHL's President's Trophy. And we all know Rahm Emanuel's not going to pay for a Michigan Avenue ticker tape parade for that.

Suffice to say, there's plenty at stake.

"It's going to be 2-2 or 3-1," Hawks forward Marian Hossa told reporters Tuesday in Chicago. "That's a huge difference."

Hossa used "huge" twice in a matter of only four sentences, conveying a message that's not exactly of the breaking news variety. There's now urgency for a team that seemed to skate through the regular season relatively tension-free. The pressure is now on a team that never lost three straight games during the regular season, but that – with a third straight loss to the Red Wings – would return to the United Center on the verge of being kindly escorted out of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Historians – well, sportswriters with too much time on their hands – point to 2010 when the Hawks trailed Nashville, 2-1, in the first round of the playoffs before reeling off four straight victories en route to capturing the Stanley Cup.

Jonathan Toews remembers the Nashville series well. The key, the Hawks' captain said, is to focus on not only taking one game at a time, but one shift at a time. Then Toews – who still hasn't scored a playoff goal in 2013 – uttered these words.

"We've been in worse situations than this."

Well, not this year, but we get the message.

There is no panic in the Hawks' dressing room and no one looking for sympathy. But there is resolve from a team that understands, like Hossa, that there is a world of difference between returning to Chicago with the series tied and being forced to win three straight games against Detroit, which is playing with the swagger the Hawks seemed to have all season.

So yeah, Thursday night's Game 4 is ... OK, OK, you get the idea.

"You throw around terms like must-win and all that – I think every game in the playoffs is a must-win," Hawks forward Patrick Sharp said. "You can spin every game however you want. Every game is huge. You want to win every time you take the ice. Being down 2-1 in their building and obviously that game – Game 4 – is really big."

• Jeff Arnold is a sports reporter with the Northwest Herald. Write to him at jarnold@shawmedia.com or follow him on Twitter @NWH_JeffArnold.

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