Blackhawks know frustrated Ducks are still dangerous


Blackhawks know frustrated Ducks are still dangerous

The Anaheim Ducks are not off to the greatest start. But the Blackhawks are still expecting a difficult test from their Western Conference foe.

The Ducks, who the Blackhawks needed seven games to eliminate in the Western Conference final last spring, are just 1-5-1 entering tonight’s game at the United Center. They’ve scored just six goals in those seven games. They’ve suffered as many shutouts in those seven games (four) as they did all of last season.

But the Blackhawks are expecting a big push tonight.

“That series we had with them last year was unbelievably tough and competitive. I’m sure coming in here [tonight] they can recreate that in an instant,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s a team we know can score and can make plays. Let’s make sure we build off what we’ve done the last couple of games. We like the progress in our own team game; we’re going to need that tonight.”

[FIVE THINGS: Blackhawks' patience proves pivotal against Lightning]

The Ducks went through their offseason changes, but so did the Blackhawks. Marcus Kruger said he was a little surprised at the Ducks' start but won’t be shocked if they turn it around, either.

“Just look at the lineup: They have a great lineup and they’ve been good for a number of years and a top team,” Kruger said. “I think they’re still going to be that team and we know they’re going to be ready tonight.”

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau talked of the intensity between the two teams during that Western Conference final. He wants the Ducks to tap into that, as well as that passion to play the sport, starting now.

“Today I talked to them about how great it is to be a hockey player. We’re so lucky, so blessed to do this job that we love, rather than doing things that are forced upon you, and we have to play with that. We have to play with that enthusiasm,” Boudreau said. “So hopefully that wears off.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks will go with their same forward lines and defensive pairs tonight. Corey Crawford gets the start. Frederik Andersen is expected to start for the Ducks.

Meanwhile, Duncan Keith continues to recover from the right-knee surgery he had last week. Quenneville said Keith’s not doing much at the moment.

“Slow process right now. It’s more of a recovery and just toning things down,” Quenneville said. “He’s moving, he feels real good. But [it] may be another week before he starts getting into the heavier training.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?