Preps Talk

Blackhawks shake up power play in time of need

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Blackhawks shake up power play in time of need

Ah, the Blackhawks power play: its been the source of angst for the teams fans and a source of few goals for the team itself. The advantage has been anemic for most of the season, and different combinations, schemes and coaches havent really found a solution for it.

But now its the postseason, when the spotlight on special teams becomes glaring. The Blackhawks couldve used power-play production in several games. Now, they need it.

The Blackhawks power play enters the postseason scoring just 15.1 percent of the time, 26th in the league. Thats the second-worst percentage of any team in the playoffs; Phoenix is worse at 13.6 percent (29th). So for the past two days the Blackhawks have gone with two new power-play units.

Jonathan Toews, who should be back Thursday after missing 22 games with a concussion, was on the top unit with Brent Seabrook, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa. Duncan Keith, Johnny Oduya, Marcus Kruger, Andrew Shaw and Andrew Brunette make up the second group.

You have high-end talent on one. And with the other unit we should have traffic around the net, coach Joel Quenneville said. If you look at the collection of the guys, we should be able to make plays and create some offense off it.

If they do, the Blackhawks will happily reverse a trend thats gone on all season. Even when Toews was healthy, the power play struggled. They were mired in that 0-for run with him, finally ending it in their second game without Toews in Anaheim, breaking an 0-for-39 drought.

So theyll try these combos in the hopes of finding an answer. Each unit has someone whos strong at, and able to win, faceoffs Toews on the first and Kruger on the second. The inability to win those on a consistent basis didnt help matters, either. Nor did the Blackhawks shots or lack thereof on goal. There was a stretch where the Blackhawks mustered no shots on several consecutive power plays. The Blackhawks are going to have to create, crash and shoot to dent the Phoenix penalty kill, which is No. 8 in the league.

The regular season is over. The Blackhawks hope their power play woes are, too.

Were going to need it, Quenneville said. Sometimes one goal can be the difference. We hope that our power play can be effective.

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

Playoff drama highlights a busy week on High School Lites

High School Lites had a busy show as it was the final week of the regular season for IHSA boys basketball Class 3A and 4A. The Class 1A and 2A playoffs also tipped in boys basketball as the show has some thrilling regional titles that were decided in the final minute. And finally, the girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals were played on Friday as the state's top teams played in Bloomington.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Richards wrestler Mia Palumbo

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Simeon boys basketball

Highlights

Marshall shocks Leo in Class 2A regional final

Aurora Christian runs past Harvert Christian for 1A regional title

Buzzer-beater lifts Monticello over Gibson City for regional title

Jacobs goes unbeaten in Fox Valley with win over Dundee-Crown

West Aurora gets by rival East Aurora

Yorkville completes season sweep of DeKalb

Lemont escapes past T.F. North

Marshall needs OT to get past Teutopolis in girls 2A semifinals

Harlan takes down Eureka in 2A semifinals

Stockton runs by Okaw Valley in 1A

Schlarman races by Lebanon

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.