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Canucks negating Hawks’ defensemen

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Before Game 3 of the Blackhawks’ first-round playoff series Sunday against the Vancouver Canucks, Chris Campoli said it was no secret the defensemen are an important part of the Hawks’ offense.

Consider the Canucks well aware.

The Canucks have paid extra attention to the Hawks’ defensemen, targeting them with hit after hit in the first three games of the series.

“[Being physical] was obviously part of the game plan and still is,” Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said after his team’s 3-2 victory Sunday over the Hawks. “[Duncan] Keith likes to roam all over the ice and [Brent] Seabrook gets up in the play and so does Brian Campbell. They all play big minutes, and if we can get bodies on them, we can be pretty successful like we have in the first few games.”

Through three games of the series, the Hawks’ top four defensemen — Keith, Seabrook, Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson — have minus ratings. Keith and Campbell are tied with a team-worst minus-4.

Keith was able to provide the Hawks a boost with his power-play goal 6:54 into the first period Sunday.

‘‘It is something we’re looking to do,’’ Campoli said before the game. ‘‘It’s not a secret that when we chip in offensively, it makes it a lot easier on our forwards.

‘‘We’re working hard, trying to make some plays.’’

Those plays turned into victories during the regular season. The Hawks were 16-6-4 when at least one defenseman scored. In the playoffs, though, they’re 0-1.

Fresh-faced

Hawks rookie centers Marcus Kruger and Jake Dowell were in the lineup Sunday, while veteran Ryan Johnson was a scratch. Kruger, a healthy scratch the last three games of the regular season, had replaced Dowell for Game 2 in Vancouver.

‘‘I got more comfortable as the game went on,’’ Kruger said. ‘‘I was trying to go out there and have fun and play my game.’’

There was some areas Kruger needed to improve on before he became an option.

‘‘Just watch and learn,’’ he said. ‘‘Watch every game and how the guys play and learn more about the system. That’s what I was trying to do. Just get more comfortable there. It was an adjustment.”

For Dowell, his goal is to bring a physical edge. He didn’t like the questioning of the Hawks’ toughness after two bruising games in Vancouver.

‘‘We definitely have the team to do it,’’ Dowell said. ‘‘It was in their building and a lot of their hits and some of their bigger ones excited them. They were trying to make a statement, and they did that. We have the ability to step up our physical game. We’re not a team that backed down all year. . . . The more we wear them down, the better we are.’’

Big, bad John

John Scott became the seventh Hawk to make his postseason debut Sunday with Tomas Kopecky (upper body) and Bryan Bickell (wrist) out with injuries.

Scott, the 6-8 tough guy, said he was ‘‘jacked.’’

He declared hours before the game that he hoped to ‘‘kick around a couple of [the Canucks] defensemen’’ because he was tired of seeing the Hawks’ top players ‘‘get banged around.’’

Scott seemed to energize the United Center crowd when he entered the game and administered some early hits, but the biggest surprise was seeing him on the power play.

‘‘I know I’m not going to play big minutes, but if I’m out there, I’m going to try to get in front, take [Roberto Luongo’s] eyes and pounce on a rebound or something,’’ Scott said.



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