Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Left or right, Trevor van Riemsdyk rolls with changes

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Blackhawks: Left or right, Trevor van Riemsdyk rolls with changes

Trevor van Riemsdyk isn’t fazed about switching from left to right and back again on defense.

The defenseman did the same thing at the University of New Hampshire, going from his natural right side to the left as the team needed. It got to be a typical part of his game. With the Blackhawks, it still is.

“Whatever they need,” van Riemsdyk said. “Whether you have a bunch of lefties or righties in the lineup or the matchups and pairings they want to go with. You just have to be ready, have to be able to play either side, know when you’re going out there what side you’re supposed to be on, play accordingly.”

Van Riemsdyk has done plenty of moving around the lineup for the Blackhawks this season, having several different defensive partners and playing on the right and left sides. For a team that loves a versatile player, van Riemsdyk has fit in various ways.

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“It’s good having that flexibility on the back end. It gives you a lot of options in games,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He can play both sides, play with anybody, can play all situations and can kill penalties. He’s been helpful in a lot of ways. We’re going to need him to continue to play and get better as we go along.”

Van Riemsdyk has played with everyone at some point this season. He started the preseason with Duncan Keith. Then he was with Niklas Hjalmarsson, then Brent Seabrook and then Michal Rozsival and former Blackhawks Trevor Daley and Rob Scuderi and ... you get the picture. Part of it has been the Blackhawks looking for the right combinations on defense. Some defensemen — Keith and Seabrook — stay on their usual sides.

Van Riemsdyk has been one who’s gone back and forth, but his college days have prepped him for this. As a freshman at UNH, van Riemsdyk played left and right side. He spent of his sophomore season on the left and then was back on the right for his junior year. So he’s used to this.

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And his partners with the Blackhawks are usually pretty good.

“Yeah, it’s not too bad. Looking at the guys I get to play with, whether it’s Duncs, Seabs for a little bit, Hammer at the start of the year ... they’re all great players and they make it easy to play with them,” van Riemsdyk said. “Everyone’s pretty well aware of what we’re trying to do on the ice, so it’s not too challenging when you’re switching guys up because you have so many guys who are such great players. They make it easy for me.”

What’s also helped van Riemsdyk is a full, healthy season. He hasn’t had one of those in a while. He suffered a fractured ankle during his junior season at UNH, then a fractured kneecap and wrist injury, both of which required surgery, last season with the Blackhawks. Van Riemsyk has had his ups and downs this season, and his shifts from left to right. But the one constant has been his health, which has given him a chance to have a complete season.

“Yeah, it’s been nice,” he said. “Obviously I’ve been a little bit by the injury bug there the last little bit but it’s definitely nice to stay healthy and be here on a night-to-night basis and helping the team in whatever way I can.” 

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."