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Blackhawks hope to make things harder on Wild goalie Josh Harding

MinnesotWild's Josh Harding makes save shot by Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) during third period Game 1an NHL hockey

Minnesota Wild's Josh Harding makes the save on a shot by Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) during the third period of Game 1of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series Tuesday, April 30, 2013, in Chicago. At right is Wild's Marco Scandella. (AP Photo/Jim Prisching) ORG XMIT: CXA111

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Updated: June 4, 2013 6:35AM



Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews called the heartwarming story of Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding ‘‘nothing short of amazing.’’ But Toews and his teammates want to write a new and very different chapter in Game 2 on Friday at the United Center.

‘‘We know he’s stepping into that spotlight and assuming the responsibility, which isn’t an easy thing to do,’’ Toews said. ‘‘[But] you always want to be tougher on their goaltender. Obviously, we’ve got to do that.’’

The Hawks’ chances in their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Wild seemed to improve dramatically when Harding — already a great story as a multiple-sclerosis patient playing in the NHL — replaced starter Niklas Backstrom, who suffered a lower-body injury in warmups
before Game 1. But Harding stymied the Hawks all night, stopping 35 of 37 shots in an overtime loss.

With Backstrom still ailing, Harding is expected to start again in Game 2. When Backstrom suffered the last-minute injury, Hawks goalie coach Stephane Waite gave the team a quick scouting report on Harding’s tendencies and style. At practice Thursday, they prepared for Harding on the ice.

‘‘The only thing different is he’s a southpaw,’’ center Andrew Shaw said. ‘‘We still stick with our game.’’

If Harding has a weakness, it’s not like the Hawks are going to
announce it. For the record, Harding is just another goalie.

‘‘Whoever’s in there, it’s pretty much the same thing with any goalie: You want to get shots and traffic, go to the net,’’ winger Patrick Kane said. ‘‘He’s had a tough season and a tough past couple of years, so you’ve got to give him credit for how he played in Game 1. He was awesome.

‘‘I think we’ve just got to get to the net a little more, find the middle of the ice. It seemed like we were on the outside a little too much last game.’’

If anything, the Hawks have to solve the Wild’s strategy of protecting Harding by blocking everything in sight in front of the net.

‘‘Just playing our game [is the key],’’ defenseman Johnny Oduya said. ‘‘We know they’re doing a good job to try and block as much as possible. I’m not too worried about that. If our game is working, that’s going to be fine.’’



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