Ben Eager checks Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall during Game 2 of their Western Conference finals series. Eager has 12 hits in the first two games, tied for second among Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks want to hit the Detroit Red Wings with everything they've got tonight at the United Center in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals.
That might be easier said than done.
These aren't the Canucks or Flames, the Hawks' opponents in the first two rounds where the physical play in those series at times bordered on brutality.
The Red Wings are a different animal when it comes to physical play.
Catch them when you can, if you can.
"They might be more sly and smarter," Dustin Byfuglien said Thursday. "You can't really run around and try to hit them because they can move that puck to an open guy and pretty soon you have odd-man breaks. You've got to be careful what you do."
The Hawks believe they were physical enough in losses in Games 1 and 2 at Detroit.
"We've gotten in our fair share of licks," said Adam Burish. "You've seen a few guys leave the bench. (Marian) Hossa left for a little while and you've seen some guys scrape themselves up and off the ice.
"They just do such a good job at getting out of the way. I think (Nicklas) Lidstrom is the hardest guy to hit in the NHL, the way he can move around and maneuver around hits. Him and (Brian) Rafalski are hard to hit because they move out of the way so well. At the same time if you get a hit, make it count because maybe we have some bigger guys."
The Hawks were credited with 1 more hit than the Red Wings (36-35) in Game 1. The teams each had 37 in Game 2.
Burish believes the frenzied atmosphere in the UC should help the Hawks pump up the physical play.
"As the series went on against Calgary and Vancouver, we found a way to wear some good teams out," Burish said. "That's obviously going to be a point of emphasis to go after guys a little bit and try to stay in their face and try to stay mean with them.
"Playing here will give us an extra gear for sure, no doubt about it. It has all year, especially in the playoffs. Maybe that extra gear will help us get a few extra hits, too."
Byfuglien leads the Hawks with 13 hits in the series, 1 more than Brent Seabrook and 3 more than Ben Eager. Byfuglien has also been a nagging presence around the net, bothering goalie Chris Osgood.
"They know Buff's around," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's been pretty effective in the series, not just getting to the front of the net but with his size and presence.
"We had some good hits in both games. They're not an easy target. I thought we made some improvements in that area from Games 1 to 2, and we'd like to continue that from Games 2 to 3."
Byfuglien thinks there has been enough of a physical presence by the Hawks in the series.
"Maybe we can get more physical," Byfuglien said. "It never hurts, you know."
"Detroit's a totally different team," Brian Campbell said. "We have tried to be physical since the start of Game 1, but you're not going to see the massive hits because they're heads-up players and they know what's coming."
This might not meet the true definition of a must-win game for the Hawks, but it's as close as it gets. They trail 2-0 in the best-of-seven series and going down 3-0 would leave their chances somewhere between slim and none.
"Obviously it's going to be a tough task, taking four out of five from the defending champs, but we're going to take it one game at a time and the only game on our mind is (tonight)," Patrick Kane said. "If we can make it 2-1, we're right back in the series."
Blackhawks vs. Detroit Red Wings at the United Center, 7 p.m.
Radio: WIND 560-AM.
At a glance: The Hawks were better in Game 2 than in the opener, but the 3-2 loss in overtime put them down 2-0 in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals. A win tonight is a must if the Hawks want to have any chance of upsetting the Red Wings. The Hawks are 5-1 at the UC in the playoffs.
Detroit's probable line combinations:
Johan Franzen-Henrik Zetterberg-Dan Cleary
Tomas Hjolmstrom-Pavel Datsyuk-Marian Hossa
Jiri Hudler-Valtteri Filppula-Mikael Samuelsson
Darren Helm-Kris Draper-Justin Abdelkader
Detroit defense pairings:
Nicklas Lidstrom-Brian Rafalski
Niklas Kronwall-Brad Stuart
Brett Lebda-Jonathan Ericsson
Hawks probable line combinations:
Troy Brouwer-Jonathan Toews-Dustin Byfuglien
Andrew Ladd-Dave Bolland-Martin Havlat
Kris Versteeg-Sammy Pahlsson-Patrick Kane
Ben Eager-Adam Burish-Patrick Sharp
Hawks defense pairings:
Duncan Keith-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Cam Barker-Matt Walker
Next: Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at the United Center, 2 p.m. Sunday.