Blackhawks

Balanced attack allows Blackhawks to blow past Red Wings

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Balanced attack allows Blackhawks to blow past Red Wings

DETROIT — For so long this season, the Blackhawks have leaned on that second line for consistency and, more importantly, offense.

And while that line’s wings still played a big part in Wednesday night’s victory, the Blackhawks overall are starting to look more balanced, more polished and more prepared for the postseason.

Artemi Panarin had two goals and Patrick Kane and Brent Seabrook each had a goal and two assists as the Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings, 5-2, on Wednesday. The Blackhawks moved back into first place with 85 points; the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, both idle, are second and third, respectively, with 83 points.

Corey Crawford, who was selected to Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey earlier on Wednesday, stopped 31 of 33 for his 34th victory. That’s a new career mark for a season for Crawford. Duncan Keith had two assists, and Andrew Ladd scored his first goal in his second go-around with the Blackhawks. Christian Ehrhoff had a strong outing in his Blackhawks debut.

The Blackhawks liked how they looked coming out of Sunday’s game against the Washington Capitals. They were pretty happy with Wednesday night, too, as they once again played a strong game from start to finish. When they did make mistakes, Crawford was there to clean them up.

“I thought we had a good game across the board,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I liked the new guys’ contributions, the depth and the balance and the rotation on the four lines. I thought Christian looked very comfortable back there and made good rushes, had a great chance to score. But I thought our team game with the puck was good.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Corey Crawford among Blackhawks’ World Cup of Hockey selections]

Kane and Panarin were big parts of that again. Kane set up the Russian rookie on both his goals, the 5-on-3 power-play goal and Panarin’s late one, which gave the Blackhawks a 5-1 lead at the time. Kane’s 37th goal of the season proved to be the game winner; he also tied a career high in points for a season.

“I was on a pretty good pace the last two years and got injured both years. I think I had 20 games left last year and 14 or 15 the years before. Had a good season the year before with the lockout,” Kane said. “It’s probably inflated a little bit this year, but at the same time, I think I’ve been trending in this direction. I give my line mates and teammates a lot of credit. The power play has been good this year, which helps, too.”

Seabrook was active from the start, his 13th goal of the season giving the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead just 2:23 into the game. He also helped set up Panarin’s first goal as well as Kane’s.

“Another guy who’s having a great year,” Jonathan Toews said. “We know he’s capable of having success. To see him being put in situations over and over and getting the results he wants and that he’s worked for, it’s a lot of fun to see. He’s a huge part of our team, offensively and defensively right now.”

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Crawford was at his best in the second period, when the Wings fired 16 shots at him.

“I thought we played well. We did the right things all game,” he said. “I thought our PK was strong and we took maybe a few too many (penalties) tonight, but our PK stepped up and was really good. That was a tough team, and we had to be ready. I think we did what we needed to for this one.”

Things are coming together for the Blackhawks right now. They’re more than happy with what the second-line players have done for them this season, but they knew everyone else had to start contributing more. Right now, they are.

“Our team seems to really be coming together with the trades we got,” Crawford said. “We have to keep building on this momentum and chemistry we have right now.”

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: