How does a team like the Blackhawks respond when their margin of error has shrunk down to nothing, when plans A, B and C have been swallowed up in a 3-0 series deficit to a Nashville team that not only has all the answers but has shown its work?
Game 4, which takes place Thursday evening inside a hostile Bridgestone Arena that will again be aggressively daubed with canary yellow, will provide an answer that could have long-term impact whether the Blackhawks win or lose.
Win, and the team goes back to Chicago with an opportunity to make things right with the home crowd, which was last seen expressing their displeasure throughout the last half of Game 2.
Lose, and the team goes back to Chicago to face another long summer.
“The pressure is on them” seems to be the prevailing attitude in the Blackhawks’ locker room, but that’s not to say there isn’t also an enormous amount of pressure on the Western Conference’s top seed entering a do-or-die Game 4.
If Wednesday’s practice was any indication, Head Coach Joel Quenneville will most likely run the same forward groupings on Thursday, although he may make a change on the back end after Michal Kempny took veteran Johnny Oduya’s spot in practice on Wednesday. If Kempny does make the lineup for Game 4, it would mark the 26-year-old’s Stanley Cup Playoffs debut, one that comes with a heavy load given what’s at stake.