Blackhawks

All the feels: Patrick Kane reflects on chemistry with Artemi Panarin

kanepanarin.jpg
USA TODAY

All the feels: Patrick Kane reflects on chemistry with Artemi Panarin

Patrick Kane watched on Friday night. Of course he did. It was Artemi Panarin’s Columbus Blue Jackets regular-season debut and Kane had to see what his former former linemate did.

Not surprisingly, it was a pretty good night for the Russian left wing.

“He looks like he normally does, smooth with the puck, very smooth carrying it up the ice,” Kane said. “Nothing new for him.”

There’s no doubt Kane still misses Panarin, with whom he had an undeniable chemistry from the start. They clicked as well off the ice, too, getting through the language barrier with a little help from Google translate. After being part of different combinations for a number of years Kane had line stability for two consecutive seasons. So yeah, he’s a little sentimental about that whole stable setup with him, Panarin and Artem Anisimov.

“It’s kind of, I guess, fun to look back. Maybe even a little sad to look back at the chemistry we had. But obviously time’s moved on now and you gotta adjust to certain players and make it with new linemates,” Kane said. “But for first game our team was pretty good.”

Whether or not Kane finds the same longstanding chemistry with Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman remains to be seen but, entering Saturday’s game against the Blue Jackets, it’s off to a tremendous start. Kane benefitted from Schmaltz’s speed the way he used to Panarin’s creativity, the two clicking after working together for part of the summer and most of the preseason. And with Hartman providing the net-front presence Anisimov did the past two seasons, the production was there.

Still, there’s nothing wrong with Kane waxing sentimental on Panarin. It was a hell of a line to watch the past two seasons. Considering the Blue Jackets played on Friday, Kane probably won’t see Panarin until warmups on Saturday night. Maybe there’ll be some chatter, perhaps some chirping. Or maybe it’ll be simpler — “maybe even just looking at him or something like that.”

Kane, Schmaltz and Hartman had a good first game and there’s a chance the three could have a long, prosperous season together. Kane appreciated having two seasons’ worth of that with Panarin.

“He’s a really good kid, fun to get along with. We had plenty of battles on the bench where we were mad at each other but I think that’s a sign of a healthy relationship,” Kane said. “He was fun to have around.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Jets in Central Division showdown

12-14_jets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Jets in Central Division showdown

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. Connor Hellebuyck.

When ranking the importance of goaltenders to their respective teams, these two should be near the top of the list. And they're having Vezina Trophy-type seasons.

Crawford ranks second in the league among starters with a .933 save percentage this season and is 7-0-2 with a 2.18 goals against average and .933 save percentage in his last nine starts.

Hellebuyck on the other hand has arguably been the MVP for the Jets, compiling a 16-3-4 record with a 2.44 goals against average, .920 save percentage and a shutout in 25 appearances. Backup goaltenders Steve Mason and Eric Comrie have combined for a 2-5-1 record with a .897 save percentage in nine appearances. 

They are clearly better when Hellebuyck is in goal, and it's not close. Expect a fun showdown in net.

2. Pick your poison.

There may not be a deeper forward group in the Western Conference than the Jets. They have a dangerous four-line rotation, with the ability to score from top to bottom.

Blake Wheeler has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in six games this month, and is among the top 10 in scoring with 38 points. Patrik Laine has scored a goal in four of his last six games, while Nikolaj Ehlers has scored in three straight.

And then we get to the bottom six.

The third line of Andrew Copp, Adam Lowry and Brandon Tanev are the fifth-best trio in the entire league (minimum of 100 minutes) when it comes to possession numbers, controlling 61.38 percent of the even-strength shot attempts, while the fourth line of Mathieu Perreault, Matt Hendricks and Joel Armia is coming off a game in which they combined for five points (two goals, three assists).

This might be the biggest test yet for the Blackhawks.

3. Be ready by puck drop.

No team has scored more goals in the first period than the Jets, who have 40. The next highest team is the Toronto Maple Leafs with 37. 

But the Blackhawks aren't too shabby in the opening frame, either. They rank fifth with 32 goals, although seven of them came in the first two games of the season.

Still, there's no room for a slow start on either side. Two points are on the line for a Jets team aiming for the No. 1 seed and a Blackhawks squad trying to get back into the playoff picture.

Blackhawks recall Ville Pokka, place Cody Franson on injured reserve

ville_pokka.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks recall Ville Pokka, place Cody Franson on injured reserve

The Blackhawks have been one of the healthiest teams in the league this season as far as man games lost, but they took a mini blow to their blue line. 

Cody Franson was placed on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 9 and Ville Pokka was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, the team announced Wednesday.

Franson sustained a lower-body injury last Friday in a 3-2 overtime win over the Buffalo Sabres, and was considered day to day. But after practicing Monday, Franson didn't feel healthy enough to participate in morning skate ahead of Tuesday's game against the Florida Panthers and was ruled out.

Franson is eligible to return Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild.

In a corresponding roster move, the Blackhawks brought up Pokka, who has yet to make his NHL debut. There's a chance he could play Thursday in Winnipeg, but it's more likely the call-up is to provide insurance — although, the Blackhawks announced later in the afternoon that Jan Rutta (upper body) will not travel to Winnipeg, so perhaps Joel Quenneville could roll with seven defensemen against a high-powered Jets offense.

Pokka, 23, ranks second among IceHogs defensemen with 12 points (three goals, nine assists) in 26 games this season.

He was drafted in the second round (No. 34 overall) by the New York Islanders, and was acquired by Chicago in 2014 as part of the package that sent Nick Leddy the other way.