With All-Star break behind them, Toews-less Blackhawks reconvene in Colorado


With All-Star break behind them, Toews-less Blackhawks reconvene in Colorado

DENVER – The Blackhawks gathered together at the University of Denver, practicing for about 45 minutes, a lengthy amount of time for them.

It won’t be fully evident until tomorrow night, when the Blackhawks face the Colorado Avalanche, if they’re re-energized off the All-Star break. But for most, it looked like the break served them well.

Even Patrick Kane, who was at the NHL All-Star festivities this weekend in Nashville said he feels refreshed. It was a bit of a surprise to see Kane practicing on Monday; those playing in the All-Star game usually sit the first practice out.

“I feel really good, surprisingly good,” Kane said. “It was good for me to get out there, practice with the team, get the body moving. Even though you’re in the All-Star game and skills competition, there’s still a lot of sitting around, standing around, waiting for things to happen. It felt good out there in practice. Hopefully it translates over tomorrow.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Andrew Shaw, who spent the break skiing in Colorado, said he should feel a little more energetic going into these final 29 regular-season games.

“Yeah this is honestly my favorite part of the year,” said Shaw. “You start seeing games remaining and getting closer and closer to playoff time. It’s always fun to try to see the team make the late pushes, and it should be entertaining second half of the season.”

The Blackhawks will start this portion of the season without Jonathan Toews; the captain missed the All-Star weekend due to illness, but is suspended one game nonetheless per NHL rules. Coach Joel Quenneville said Toews is “progressing” from his illness. Toews didn’t make the trip to Colorado; he’ll meet the team in Arizona.

[MORE HAWKS: Corey Crawford named No. 2 star of January]

Michal Rozsival, who did not practice (lower body), is also questionable for tomorrow’s game against the Avalanche. Duncan Keith also did not practice but he will play against the Avalanche. Corey Crawford is expected to start.

The Blackhawks got through the first 53 games well, despite losing three of their last four going into the break. Schedule-wise, this latter portion of the schedule won’t be nearly as grueling. It will nevertheless be a wild ride to the end of the regular season, and the Blackhawks are hoping they’re re-energized for it.

“We got through that grind. We did well in the last two months, as well,” Shaw said. “We’ve got to use that and stay fully energized and let the body heal up and get prepared for playoffs.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?


SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?


With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.