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Blackhawks At Blues Game Two Preview: Keith's Back - Will It Matter?

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Probably so, as the Blues' offense was stagnant Wednesday night.

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Seventy hits is the goal for tonight - at least according to Ken Hitchcock. He classifies this as more of "playing through checks" than just checking because you don't have possession. Here's his reasoning:

"A lot of it is what people (chart) as hits and what we consider playing through checks," Hitchcock said. "They count it as hits and we count it as playing through checks. We’ve got to play through the checking a little bit better. That’s what we consider to be body contact. It’s not just running into people, but it’s playing through the checking. Your hope is that they push it into areas that you know are going to lead to turnovers.

"At this time of year, if you think body contact’s going to make a player scared or petrified or bail out, it’s not going to happen, not when you get to be a playoff team. (But) it might force a player to put a puck in a bad area and that’s what you’re looking for. That’s what we meant yesterday was we didn’t play through the checks as much as we can to create turnovers. We didn’t do enough of that (Wednesday)."

This is rational thinking, it really is. However - and this is the thing - if you're trying to create turnovers, that still means that you don't have the puck. The Blues not having the puck was further evidenced by the two (!) shots on goal that they had in the third period. The Blues managed to miss 20 shots on the net, causing fans to have flashbacks of Brad Boyes.

Another thing those two (!) shots on goal served as evidence of was Chicago's defense, which blocked 22 shots, and which is probably going to be harder to deal with tonight with the return of defenseman and noted over-reactor Duncan Keith from suspension. Hitch doesn't want to pump up Keith's return too much, but let's just say that the Blues don't care for him much. Factor in that he's one of the best defensemen in the league, and there's cause for at least a little concern.

Brian Elliott's 35 save shutout in game one was a masterpiece, solidifying him (for now) as the starter for the discernible future. He's going to have to be just as solid tonight, because keeping Chicago's offense off of the scoresheet is difficult.

"If we can get them running around a little bit, catch them out of position, it’ll maybe get some odd-man rushes or get some open space," said Hawks’ winger Patrick Kane, the NHL’s leading scorer.

That's a tactic that's worked for the Blackhawks well against the Blues in the past. Elliott needs to be centered and focused in case it happens tonight while the Blues are trying to cause turnovers. Maintaining and skating the puck in the first place would be helpful.