Blackhawks

Blackhawks: David Rundblad will replace Michal Rozsival

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Blackhawks: David Rundblad will replace Michal Rozsival

David Rundblad probably had the same look on his face that most did upon seeing Michal Rozsival fracture his left ankle on Thursday night. It was enough to make anyone wince.

“I just felt really sorry for Rozy,” Rundblad said on Sunday. “He’s been playing really good so far. That injury, too, it’s just painful to watch. I just feel bad for him.”

At the same time, injuries are part of any hockey regular- or postseason — so are the opportunities for others that come from those injuries. So with Rozsival out, Rundblad is in.

Rundblad will take Rozsival’s place when the Blackhawks begin the Western Conference Finals. When the next round begins is still up in the air — three other second-round series are still in progress, including Anaheim-Calgary (Game 5 between those two is tonight). Until then, Rundblad will get in a few more practices to get prepared, which he says will keep the rust factor low.

[RELATED: Michal Rozsival lost for the season]

“Especially if you get a couple of practices like this, it’s pretty quick to get into it again,” Rundblad said. "I’ve just got to try to do everything game-like, even in practices. It won’t take that long.”

Rundblad is more of an offensive defenseman; he had three goals and 11 assists in 49 games this season. Coach Joel Quenneville said Rundblad won’t have a problem on the other side of the puck.

“I think he's been fine in his own end,” Quenneville said. “I think offensively he has some presence as well. He has some direct plays entering his own zone. Just make sure that you make the simple and the safe play and the obvious play.”

When Rundblad does play, it’ll be his first game in more than a month — he last played on April 11 vs. the Colorado Avalanche. He’ll have a familiar partner in Duncan Keith; the two played together a few times this season.

While Rundblad is coming in for Rozsival, will he truly replace Rozsival? Will he log the same amount of minutes? Rozsival, who had a solid second round, was playing anywhere from 15-18 minutes a night. The Blackhawks leaned heavily on their top four defensemen — Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson — after Rozsival was hurt on Thursday night. Kimmo Timonen has played limited time, recording 5-9 minutes through most of the playoff games. Whether or not he logs more time remains to be seen.

It won’t be surprising if the top four still take a bulk of the minutes moving forward. Duncan Keith, who leads the Blackhawks in ice time this postseason (30 minutes, 37 seconds per game), said they’re ready to do play more.

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“I think every game is different and how we play each series is different,” he said. “We have guys that are capable of playing a lot of minutes and guys that are capable of stepping up and playing when they get asked to play.”

Asked about how much Rundblad will play, Quenneville said, “he's gonna come in and play and minutes are dictated by how he plays and how the score of the game goes. Other guys are accustomed to playing significant minutes. Every game's gonna be different, but his play and the game and thescore will play a lot into it.”

Rundblad hated to see a teammate get hurt. At the same time he knows he has to do something with this opportunity.

“Of course, you always want to help the team and play as well as you can,” he said. “Games are so tight in the playoffs, there’s not much room for mistakes out there. I’ll just try to keep it simple and play as quick as I can.”

BRIEF NOTES

  • Andrew Desjardins did not practice today due to illness. Joakim Nordstrom took his place on the fourth line at practice.

  • Defenseman Michael Paliotta, who the Blackhawks signed late in the regular season, did not practice on Sunday. Quenneville said Paliotta’s gone home to train.

 

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

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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

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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."