Blackhawks' Marko Dano trying to simplify game, improve defensively


Blackhawks' Marko Dano trying to simplify game, improve defensively

Marko Dano was reflecting on this last month with the Blackhawks, the adjustments to his new team, the ups and downs -- and those near goals.

“I had a couple of chances again but I still can’t score,” Dano said with a little smile. “I have to stay patient and positive.”

Dano’s been suffering from the same scoring struggles as most of the team right now, but he’s otherwise been learning plenty with the Blackhawks. He’s been working to improve his defensive game, and every now and then brings a little feistiness to the lineup. For the most part, it’s all been good.

[MORE HAWKS: Why Artemi Panarin is the Calder Trophy favorite]

“I was talking to the coaches; I played better on the road trip since I got here,” he said. “So I’m trying to do my best every night and play a simple game. Good things are going to happen.”

Dano’s played most of his time here on the third line, which did include fellow Slovakian Marian Hossa until the Blackhawks’ game in Ottawa on Friday night. As far as shadowing a player to hone that defensive game, Dano said of Hossa, “there’s the best example, so I’m trying to pick up some stuff from his game.” Hossa said his young countryman is coming along.

“I think he’s the type of player, a strong-skating player who can go to the net hard. He’s had a few opportunities; he hit a few posts, I remember, when I played with him,” Hossa said. “Obviously he’d like to create more offense as he told me, but he’s showing lots of good things.”

This last game Dano was back with Tanner Kero, who was also his line mate in Rockford when the two of them were producing. Who knows if that will be the combination by Saturday but the familiarity could provide a spark again.

“He’s been OK. We’re looking for more progression, more consistency offensively with the puck, influencing without it: basically be around it more and with more offensive zone time,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Dano. “The consistency of the one line doing all our production and trying to get some scoring and offensive zone time on the other lines is what we’re looking for. It’s not just him,” Quenneville continued. “That’s a work in progress across the board.”

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There’s no doubt about those last two sentences. Stopped us if you’ve heard this before, but the Blackhawks have gotten a bulk of their offense from second liners Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. Several Blackhawks have had some prime scoring chances. Marko Dano is among them.

Dano’s been frustrated that the chances he’s gotten haven’t resulted in goals. But the chances are nonetheless there, and Dano figures it’s only a matter of time before he starts capitalizing on them.

“Yeah, that’s a good thing; if we didn’t get chances, it wouldn’t be good,” he said. “Those chances are there. It’s just about time when those chances are going to go in.”

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

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


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."