Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin getting his top-line chance

panarin-today.png

Blackhawks: Artemi Panarin getting his top-line chance

The Blackhawks are already down a great defenseman. Now they’re likely down one of their best forwards, albeit for a shorter time.

Regardless, it’s another time when everyone needs to do a little more and someone gets a great opportunity.

Marian Hossa, who suffered a lower-body injury against the Minnesota Wild, is questionable for Monday night’s game against the Los Angeles Kings. Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll know more about Hossa’s status on Monday morning, but based on line combinations at Sunday’s practice, it looks like the Blackhawks are prepared to go at least a game without Hossa.

[MORE HAWKS: Blackhawks: Patrick Kane not commenting on reports involving investigation]

Artemi Panarin moved up to the top line with Jonathan Toews and Ryan Garbutt on Sunday. For Panarin, who’s found great chemistry and success with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane, said through Viktor Tikhonov that he will have to adjust.

“There are some small changes,” Tikhonov translated for Panarin. “It’s not a completely different game. But with Kane we have a little bit of a different style. Obviously with Toews it’s going to be a little bit different.”

Quenneville said Hossa’s injury, which kept him out of the third period against Minnesota on Friday night, is not serious. Still, missing the forward’s two-way game for even one game is tough.

“Well, there’s quality ice time in a lot of areas and [someone] gets to play with Jonny, so we’ll see,” said Quenneville. “You miss quality minutes and playing the right way is something we’re trying to emphasize. We’re coming off a game where we need to be better in certain areas without the puck, solet’s make sure we’re paying attention to where we are around the rink.”

As for Panarin getting that top-line opportunity, Quenneville said it’s to help balance the lines sans Hossa but Panarin also was probably going to be there eventually.

“Over the course of a season, we envisioned Jonny and him playing together at some point. Hopefully that can work,” he said. “Jonny scoring last game – we haven’t seen any other lines [except the second line] score all year – hopefully we can share the wealth on the production side of things. Hopefully we become more balanced in our scoring.”

BRIEFLY

  • Duncan Keith (right knee) is “getting close to doing the next level of activity,” Quenneville said on Sunday. That doesn’t sound like it includes getting onto the ice just yet. Quenneville said he’d “have to find out for sure” when Keith can skate again.
  •  Michal Rozsival (left ankle) is doubtful to play this week. “He still has some extra work to do before we’re comfortable with him playing,” Quenneville said of the defenseman.
  • Corey Crawford will start vs. the Los Angeles Kings.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."