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Hawks expect tough test

The Blackhawks have a chance to close out their first-round series Thursday when they host the Minnesota Wild in Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Wild goaltender Josh Harding will oppose the Hawks in net. Harding injured his left leg during Game 4 on Tuesday, but he participated in Minnesota's morning skate and told coaches that he would be ready to play in Game 5. Darcy Kuemper will back up Harding because No. 1 starter Niklas Backstrom remains out with an injury.

A victory in Game 5 would equal several extra days of rest for Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook and his teammates. A loss would mean a return trip to Minnesota for Game 6 on Saturday.

Seabrook said he was focused on Thursday's game rather than the series implications.

"It would be nice to come out with a good effort and get a big win," said Seabrook, who has averaged more than 20 minutes of ice time in the series. "We know Minnesota is going to come out and play hard. They're not going to lay over for us by any means."

That said, the Hawks have won both home playoff games during the series while outscoring the Wild, 12-6, in the first four games.

Hawks center Dave Bolland and goaltender Ray Emery participated in the morning skate but have been ruled out for Game 5 because of lower-body injuries.

The opening faceoff is set for 8:30 p.m., and the game will air locally on Comcast SportsNet as well as WGN-AM 720.

-Tom Musick


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