Blackhawks' health returning at the perfect time

Blackhawks' health returning at the perfect time

Andrew Shaw summarized his feelings succinctly after Monday’s practice.

“I feel great, energized,” he said. “Ready to get this started.”

He’d probably feel that way regardless. It is, after all, that postseason time of year, and it’s never difficult for these guys to get up for a series with the St. Louis Blues. But for he and a few other injured Blackhawks the energized level may be that much higher.

Shaw will be good to go for Game 1, as will Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov, when the Blackhawks face the Blues on Wednesday night. Those three, who missed the last few games with injuries – Shaw and Anisimov were upper body while Hossa was lower – practiced on Monday. Andrew Ladd did not but coach Joel Quenneville said he was fine and would practice on Tuesday.

For the Blackhawks overall, entering this series healthy is critical. The break benefits those individuals, too.

“It definitely helps, especially obviously what I had, definitely the pause was good for me. Now I feel like I did before,” Hossa said. “Obviously, the good thing after the first time I injured myself, I play I think around eight games. So I didn’t miss that many games this time and I can be ready to go.”

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Corey Crawford played his first game in nearly a month on Saturday night. While he gave up five goals, it was nevertheless a good opportunity to shake off some of the rust he had during his upper-body injury. Crawford said he’s felt better with each passing day.

“Today was a big step in practice,” he said. “That game was a big step. I mean, numbers-wise it didn’t look so good, but just getting in there and getting a feel for the speed – little details, stuff you don’t see in practice – was definitely important.”

Quenneville said Crawford looked even better Monday.

“I thought he did a good job in the last game, but I thought he was outstanding here today,” he said. “He looked like he hasn’t missed a beat. It’s the best we’ve seen him on the ice. He looked like he was himself.”

When facing the Blues, the Blackhawks don’t need much more reason to be motivated. Getting healthy at the right time, however, is a wonderful incentive.

“It’s nice to get a little extra rest, makes me more hungry to get things started,” Shaw said. “I’m just excited for Wednesday.”

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


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?


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.