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Blackhawks plan for a physical Winter Classic
By Tim Sassone | Daily Herald Staff

The Blackhawks practice Wednesday on the temporary rink at Wrigley Field in preparation for today's Winter Classic against the Detroit Red Wings.

 

Associated Press

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Published: 1/1/2009 12:04 AM

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OK, let's settle this outside.

The Blackhawks get another crack at the Red Wings today on the biggest stage this side of the Stanley Cup Finals - in the NHL's Winter Classic at Wrigley Field before a worldwide audience.

While there was more of an All-Star Game feel at the ballpark on Wednesday when both teams practiced, the Hawks mean business. They trail the Red Wings by 6 points in the Central Division standings and might not get this close to first place the rest of the season should they lose again.

The Hawks felt they got pushed around by the Red Wings in Tuesday's 4-0 loss at Joe Louis Arena, and the plan is to push back.

"I think they took it to us, and (today) will be a different game," Hawks defenseman James Wisniewski said. "I think our game plan is going to change from how we've been playing the last 12 games."

The Red Wings ran at Patrick Kane every chance they could on Tuesday with a Dan Cleary hit knocking the Hawks' leading scorer out for most of the first period with a twisted right ankle.

Kane returned for the second period, but it was obvious his game had been thrown off and he was no factor the rest of the way.

"He's the biggest spoke in their wheel," Cleary said Wednesday. "Everything they do offensively goes through him, so you've got to hit him and not let him wheel and deal because he's such an exceptional talent."

Perhaps the game plan Wisniewski referred to consists of the Hawks making Detroit's best players, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Marian Hossa, targets for physical play.

"They were throwing their weight around a little bit, and we have to go out there and respond," Hawks rookie winger Troy Brouwer said. "We can't get pushed around.

"At the same time you've got to try and push around their guys a little bit, too."

The physical tone the Red Wings set in winning Tuesday was right out of coach Mike Babcock's playoff game plan.

"They played with a Game 7 mentality, and that's how we have to approach it," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

"We haven't had a lot of physical games this year just because we haven't engaged that way," Babcock said. "We have the ability. I think everyone saw last year in the playoffs, we'll play as physical as you want."

If there's a question about the Hawks with an eye toward the playoffs, when everything gets tighter and more intense, it's their ability to dial it up physically.

"We don't have a very small team," Brouwer said. "We have some pretty big defensemen, so we have to finish our checks and establish our presence out there and really just bring the tone early."

Brouwer, Dustin Byfuglien, Andrew Ladd and Ben Eager are the Hawks' biggest forwards and have shown flashes of being physical.

"I think playing the body was a big factor (Tuesday) night," Byfuglien said. "I think we got beat in that category, but for the most part I think we're doing all right."

While the Hawks might appear to be more of a finesse team, Kane defended the club's physical capabilities.

"You look at our team, and we definitely have some physical players," Kane said. "You've got guys like Byfuglien and Brouwer, a lot of guys you can talk about that lay the body out. And our defense is pretty physical, with guys like (Brent) Seabrook.

"I think we were 10-1-1 in a month, and we have one game where we kind of maybe got manhandled. It's just one game."