Blackhawks

Big contingent of former Blackhawks helping each other settle in with Hurricanes

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USA TODAY

Big contingent of former Blackhawks helping each other settle in with Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The names of former Blackhawks dotted the Carolina Hurricanes locker room, making those who are here now a lot more comfortable.

“Even Dahly, who was my roommate in Rockford, so we go way back,” said Scott Darling, referring to former Blackhawks defenseman Klas Dahlbeck. “Six of us from Chicago? It’s definitely huge off the ice, definitely makes the transition easier.”

The Hurricanes are the latest team to have a big influx of former Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks on their roster. There are, indeed, six there now: Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen were already there when Darling (rights traded from Chicago), Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk (acquired through the Vegas Golden Knights) arrived over the summer. Dahlbeck was picked up off waivers in October. Off the ice it’s about transitioning to new surroundings. On the ice, the former Blackhawks bring a winning pedigree that the Hurricanes have tried to feed off.

“They’ve had a lot of success in their careers and a lot of them are still young. They’ve been there, they know what it takes,” Carolina forward Jeff Skinner said. “For us in the locker room, anyone who hasn’t [won the Cup], it’s a good opportunity to learn from those guys.”

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, who coached the IceHogs from 2008-11, said the new acquisitions have been adjusting on and off the ice.

“They’re getting their feet wet. It’s an adjustment period, getting into Raleigh and getting settled in. Once that becomes second nature it allows you to concentrate on simply playing hockey,” he said. “We all know they’re very qualified hockey players. We like the additions we made in the summer and they’re starting to pay off. Guys are settling in and getting comfortable in the way they have to play for us to be successful as a team.”

The Hurricanes are trying to get back among the NHL’s best, and bringing in some of those guys doesn’t hurt. The start of this season, however, the Hurricanes and Blackhawks have been similar in other ways: both teams have gotten good-to-great goaltending, both teams have struggled to score and both know they should be higher in the standings.

“Was hoping for more points than we have so far,” Kruger said. “We’ve had chances to get more and we’ve been giving up [goals] late in games. Hopefully we can just get some victories in a row and build some confidence because I think that’s what we’re lacking right now, especially at the end of games. We’ve been playing well but we have to play well for the whole game. That’s what we’re trying to do here now.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk agreed that overall confidence will get there.

“Especially early on in the year you’re trying to get the confidence in your game and that confidence when it’s tight and it’s late,” he said. “I think we have a lot of guys who are confident in their abilities but just getting those reps and game experience. When you get those wins, there’s nothing like that. You build on it. Throughout the year you just pick up things that you did or didn’t do and hopefully that translates into wins along the way.”

The Hurricanes have had some growing pains this early season. It’s to be expected for a team that has a good amount of youth. But the Blackhawks they acquired have brought a winning pedigree and Carolina hopes it helps build the Hurricanes into a consistent winner again.

“The main thing is [to] learn from them like you would any other teammate but obviously they have a little something more to offer than most guys,” Skinner said of the former Blackhawks. “It’s been fun getting to know them, getting to play with them, and hopefully we can continue to build something good here.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

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USA TODAY

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

Artem Anisimov wasn’t happy with his October.

The Blackhawks center struggled the first month of the season. Maybe it was adjusting to new line mates after being with the same two for two seasons. Maybe it was just a slow start. Maybe it was more than that. Regardless, Anisimov was frustrated. So as October turned to November, Anisimov told Patrick Sharp that he was going to get back on track.

“He’s scoring lots of goals and he said he was going to in the month of November,” Sharp recalled. “So he’s backing it up.”

Anisimov is doing that, recording five goals in his last three games including a hat trick against his former team, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. Since November’s start, Anisimov has seven goals.

“My start of the season was not great,” Anisimov said. “But I keep working hard and be focused and say, ‘OK, November. I’m going to step up in November and forward.’”

When told of Anisimov’s prediction to Sharp, coach Joel Quenneville said, “well, now he set a precedent. We’ll have to look for it every month now.

“Quite a standard he was looking to achieve and got off to a great start here,” Quenneville said. “When Arty’s at the net he makes good plays, takes it to the net, draws some traffic to him and opens up other lanes behind him. I still think he has a purpose defensively, which he can add to that line.”

Anisimov’s resurgence coincides with the Blackhawks doing the same thing; after an up-and-down start, both are finding their rhythm again. For the Blackhawks it could be finding some line chemistry. For Anisimov it might be the same thing; he and Kane have been back together since Nov. 12, and those two and Nick Schmaltz have combined for a dynamic second line.

Or is it that mustache that Anisimov’s growing for Movember?

“I thought when you were saying what you were saying (about Anisimov’s vow), he made that statement when he got Kaner back on his line. But I think it was right when he shaved his beard into a mustache. That’s when he took off,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “So that’s the biggest correlation right there.”

OK, teaming up with Kane again probably looms larger. The two have had great chemistry dating back to the 2015-16 season, when they first teamed with Artemi Panarin. Kane’s puck possession helps free Anisimov up to do his work at the net, and he’s been capitalizing there.

“He’s had a great month. He’s just one of those guys who gets to the front of the net and finds ways to be productive,” Kane said. “Maybe seven or eight games ago people were talking about how he was struggling and now he’s having a great start to the season. It shows how a few games can change that but he’s been great for us, not only scoring a lot of goals but a lot of big goals to get some wins.”

Still, hockey players are a superstitious lot. Players have ribbed Anisimov about the mustache — “I asked him to serve me a sparkling water on the airplane because he looks like a waiter in France or something,” Sharp said. But considering Anisimov’s mustache and the points sprouted at the same time, they’re now imploring Anisimov to keep it.

“Yep,” Anisimov said with a grin. “That’s true.”