Blackhawks

Blackhawks acquire Morrison from Flames

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Blackhawks acquire Morrison from Flames

OTTAWA, Ontario The Chicago Blackhawks were looking to get some experience at center. Now they have it.

The Blackhawks acquired center Brendan Morrison from the Calgary Flames on Friday night, in exchange for defenseman Brian Connelly. It was a move that Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had been looking at for a while. And its one that gives the team more experience at a position where they dont have a lot of it.

Were not a strong team in terms of NHL experience at center, Bowman said on a conference call Friday night. I like our depth with whats coming (Brandon Pirri, Marcus Kruger). Toews and Bolland are established. And now we have another established, legitimate center.

Bowman added that this move had nothing to do with the fact that Jonathan Toews is injured. He reiterated what coach Joel Quenneville has said all along: Toews injury isnt serious, and Bowman said the captain is targeted to return Tuesday against Vancouver.

The 36-year-old Morrison, who spent eight seasons with the Canucks, will make his Blackhawks debut against them on Tuesday. He has 200 goals and 601 points in his NHL career. More important, the veteran has gone to the playoffs nine times during his career. He said he was ecstatic to join the Blackhawks.

This team has as good a chance as any to compete for the Cup, Morrison said. Im going to come in and be a guy whos a leader when I can and be helpful wherever I can: special teams, 5 on 5, any situation. Im excited about core of this team.

When healthy, Morrison is a dependable player. Hes centered some great wingers, including the Flames Jarome Iginla. Morrison tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last March against the Chicago Blackhawks, and had surgery on it about a month later -- he had the same injury and surgery to the right knee three years prior to that. But Morrison said the knee is fine.

I forced myself back into action sooner than anticipated (early this season). But theres no issue as far as re-injuring the knee. I know its fine, he said. Ive been playing for past few months. Its solid and strong.

Morrison said some Blackhawks were taunting him as he skated off with that injury last March. The culprit was never identified. Morrison said hes not revisiting it.

To me thats a dead issue, he said. Ive turned the page from that. I have no issues with that at all moving forward.

As for more deals, Bowman wouldnt say he was finished. Hes said several times that hes still looking for a defenseman, and that hasnt changed. The trade deadline is Feb. 27, so Bowman still has plenty of time and cap space to get what he wants.

(This move) obviously doesnt impact defense. That hasnt changed, Bowman said. Were still a month away from the deadline. Im not going to rule out anything.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.