Blackhawks

Quenneville lights fire with heated 'let's go' message after ice cold stretch

Quenneville lights fire with heated 'let's go' message after ice cold stretch

The Blackhawks huddled at center ice, catching their breath after a series of end-of-practice sprints, something the team usually doesn’t do. Coach Joel Quenneville, unhappy with how the Blackhawks looked the last part of practice, barked out a heated message to his players and then immediately left the ice, something he usually doesn’t do.

Message sent.

“Those are never fun but you know what? It’s great in terms of [the fact that] losing is not acceptable here,” Cody Franson said.

Yes, that was definitely one part of the message on Tuesday. A sidebar to that could be that this is a reminder to the Blackhawks that, regardless of how much winning you’ve done in the past, sometimes you need a fire lit under you.

“The intensity and the pace went down. It was tough to look at it and I was just, ‘let’s go,’” Quenneville said of practice. “I think you’re always going to have bumps over the course of the season and stretches where your game isn’t where you want it to be, or there’s something that needs to be worked on in the game, attitudes or whatever. We want to make sure there’s enough intensity where we get something out of the practice. At the end, the pace wasn’t good enough.”

Tuesday’s practice, at least the part of it Quenneville wasn’t happy with, was a microcosm of the Blackhawks’ season thus far: not enough of a sustained work ethic and, as a result, disappointing results. From lackluster offense (including the power play) to facing early deficits, the Blackhawks have been frustrated by the recent results.

“We’re 5-5-2. It’s obviously not the start we wanted but we still have a lot of good players, we still have a good team. Let’s not push the panic button just yet,” Patrick Kane said. “Even looking back to last year, we had a really good regular season and guys and media and different things wanted to push the panic button because we got swept, and probably rightfully so. But I think when there’s a lot of attention on that, sometimes you have to loosen up.”

Again, there’s plenty of season remaining and the Blackhawks, losers of three straight, have shown they can get on a winning streak as quickly as they fall into a slump. Would it help if they loosen up? Maybe. But that looseness has to be coupled with a consistent work ethic and fire, otherwise there could be more sprints and harsh coaches talks in their future.

“When we’re playing our best hockey and we’re having fun, guys are out there smiling we’re not holding sticks too tight,” Kane said. “It’ll be fun to go out there [Wednesday], score a few goals, have some celebrations, get the boys smiling. I know that comes with hard work and winning games, but that seems to be when we’re at our best.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators 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. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: