Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford gets the nod vs. Sharks

11-4-corey-crawford-blackhaks.png

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford gets the nod vs. Sharks

Corey Crawford will get the start again and Ben Smith will return on the other side of the ice when the Blackhawks host the San Jose Sharks tonight at the United Center.

The Blackhawks are riding the hot hand with Crawford, who has won six of his last seven starts entering today’s game. He stopped 26 of 28 in regulation and overtime in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over Buffalo on Saturday afternoon. Coach Joel Quenneville said it’s more about what Crawford’s doing right now than anything.

“Absolutely,” he said. “He’s been red hot.”

[SHOP: Hey Blackhawks fans! Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

Brandon Mashinter will likely return tonight against the Sharks, his former team. Who comes out is unknown; Quenneville wouldn’t divulge.

For Smith, it’s been a long wait to get back for the Sharks. Smith was hit in the head by a shot from teammate Marc-Eduard Vlasic on Oct. 17. He played in two games in late October but struggled with concussion symptoms since; this will be his first game since Oct. 31 against the Dallas Stars.

“We got him in a couple of games in the American League last week, wanted to see how he reacted to that, and get him back for a solid week of practice with our guys,” San Jose coach Pete DeBoer said this afternoon. “Playing his first game in Chicago is probably appropriate.”

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

jonathan_toews.jpg
USA TODAY

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?

joel_quenneville_2.jpg
USA TODAY

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.