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Blackhawks to meet President Obama next week

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Blackhawks to meet President Obama next week

Thursday, March 3, 2011Posted: 11:00 AM Updated: 5:52 p.m.
By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.coThe President Meets The President

When the NHL schedule was released, the Blackhawks' trip to Washington to play the Capitals was be one of the dates circled for the matchup alone. But it was also believed to be the perfect time in the team's hectic season and off-season, and President Obama's even busier schedule, for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions to be recognized by the nation's Chief Executive from Chicago.

Now, it's official. The Blackhawks will follow in the recent footsteps of the White Sox and Bulls with a ceremony at the Oval Office next Friday, March 11th, at 2 p.m., Chicago time.

Members of the Cup-winning team, along with Chairman Rocky Wirtz, Team President John McDonough, Executive Vice President Jay Blunk, General Manager Stan Bowman, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville will be honored by President Barack Obama during a formal presentation.

Its a great honor for this franchise, McDonough told Comcast SportsNet Thursday afternoon, as the Blackhawks took a day off from practice. Its been an amazing roller coaster the last year and a half, but its really the culmination of this. Weve invited all of the players, all of the coaches. Obviously, were going to have people no longer with the team that wont be able to make it. Its going to be memorable for every member of this organization.

Kris Versteeg, Nick Boynton and Brent Sopel would be the ex-Hawks with the best chances of attending, as Philadelphia is off that day between games at Toronto, and home to Atlanta. Montreal is off between road games at St. Louis and at Pittsburgh. While San Jose is off next Friday, its the only day between home games for Antti Niemi and Ben Eager. Atlanta (Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien) hosts New Jersey that night. Minnesota (John Madden) is at Dallas (Adam Burish). Edmonton (Colin Fraser) has a date in Detroit. The Blackhawks estimate their traveling party could be up to 120 members of the organization.

We visited the White House a few weeks ago and it was really a once-in-a-lifetime experience, added McDonough. But I think one of the highlights of this trip, if not the highlight, is going to be visiting Walter Reed Veterans Hospital. We had a chance to visit there a few hours before, and our players will be going and participating in that, honoring the veterans whove served our country.

Following the ceremony, First Lady Michelle Obama and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman will preside over a street hockey workout and clinic for local younsters on a rink set up on the South Lawn of the White House. conducted by members of the Blackhawks and Capitals. It's part of the collaboration beteen Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move!" initiative, the NHL, and USA Hockey which encourages children to lead active and healthy lifestyles.

Wednesday Night Leftoversand Friday Appetizers

One stat the Blackhawks actually won back in that February 7th loss in Calgary was in the Hits column. Theyd been outhit in all but one game since, but the Hawks were still 7-1-2 in those games. They had a 29-23 edge in hits Wednesday night (Bryan Bickell with a team-high five), but seemed to exhibit just the right balance between the physical edge necessary, without making trips to the penalty box.

Niklas Hjalmarsson may have just one point over his last 20 games, but hes gone from a minus-9 rating over the first 13 games of the season (without a single game with a plus rating), to a plus-11 now, second among the teams blueliners (Brian Campbell, 24).

Just because the next five games are against the East doesnt mean theyll be easy, and the Blackhawks will be challenged by not seeing one of their Western Conference enemies across the ice from them, wrestling for playoff position. Carolina will be playing the second of back-to-back games, trying to protect its last Eastern Conference playoff spot against surging Buffalo Thursday night. Torontos rallied its way back above .500 and within just four points of 8th place, entering Thursday night. Florida will probably look at Tuesdays game as their Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay was in a three-way tie for second in the conference, and only three points ahead for the Southeast lead over next Sundays Hawks opponent following the White House bash, Washington.

Joel Quenneville and his staff have to decide when to give Corey Crawford a breather in the net after nine consecutive starts. As much as his play, and the importance of the games, dicatates it, he cant be sent out there every night. The next six games consist of three back-to-backs.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to Blue Jackets: Looking at the bigger picture

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday night:

1. Blackhawks squander two leads.

For the 13th time in their past 16 games, the Blackhawks scored the first goal of the game. They had won their previous three instances when doing so, but couldn't seal the deal this time and fell to 5-6-2 in those 13 games.

What strung even more is that the Blackhawks held two one-goal leads and couldn't hang on to either of them. They have the seventh-worst win percentage (.571) when scoring the first goal this season with a 20-10-5 record.

2. Vinnie Hinostroza continues to produce offensively.

If you're trying to look for a rare bright spot on the Blackhawks roster this season, here's one. Hinostroza registered a secondary assist on David Kampf's goal for his fifth point in six games, and was on the ice for 16 shot attempts for and seven against during 5-on-5 play for a team-leading shot attempt differential of plus-9 (also known as Corsi).

For the season, Hinostroza has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in 32 games and he's doing so while averaging only 13:27 of ice time. His point-per-game average is up to 0.63, which is tied with Jonathan Toews for third on the team; only Patrick Kane (0.92) and Nick Schmaltz (0.71) are producing at a higher rate.

Hinostroza deserves more minutes, but at the same time his ability to produce on any of the four lines has allowed Joel Quenneville to put him in a bottom six role for balance.

"I like his speed," Quenneville said recently on why Hinostroza has been so effective. "I think with the puck, he's been good with it as well. More strength, on it, managing it, better decisions with it, and good plays off it. He definitely brings you energy and some speed, he can catch people with that quickness."

3. Ryan Hartman's benching.

Hartman was part of the fourth line that contributed to the Blackhawks' first goal of the game, and he was on his way to having a strong one. But that changed quickly after he took an ill-advised penalty in the first period.

Already leading 1-0, the Blackhawks had a 2-on-1 opportunity developing involving Hinostroza and David Kampf but Hartman was whistled for high-sticking at 17:06 behind the play. The Blue Jackets converted on the power play, and that was the end of Hartman's night.

He took only five shifts and finished with a season-low 4:16 of ice time, with Quenneville using it as an opportunity for a teaching moment.

4. Tomas Jurco building confidence back up.

It's been a tough season mentally for Jurco. He started the season with the AHL's Rockford IceHogs after failing to make the team out of camp, and compiled 25 points (13 goals, 12 assists) in 36 games. 

It earned him a call-up on Jan. 8, with Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman praising the way he progressed: "He looks like he's totally different, in terms of his composure and ability to make plays. That's why we brought him up here."

The problem? He was a healthy scratch for five straight games and went two weeks without seeing game action with the Blackhawks. Not exactly the best way to keep someone's confidence building. And since then, he's been fighting for a spot in the lineup.

For the last three games, Jurco has been given a shot on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane and he cashed in for his first goal of the season tonight and first since March 27, 2017. It's also the second straight game he's recorded a point.

While he may not be worth much if the Blackhawks were to deal him ahead of Monday's deadline, perhaps a change of scenery to a team that believes in him as a fit will bring out the best of his abilities. The Blackhawks tried and it just hasn't worked out.

5. Blue line observation.

This is more of a big-picture takeaway, but the Blackhawks have gotten only 20 goals from their defensemen this season. The Blue Jackets have gotten a combined 19 from just Seth Jones and Zach Werenski. Last season the Blackhawks had 30 total.

The Blackhawks just haven't gotten the offensive production needed from their back end and it's so important as it helps alleviate some of the pressure off the forwards.

I asked Quenneville about this after Friday's game and here's what he had to say: "Whether you score or not, you need the D to be part of your attack, be it off the rush, in zone. But I think the whole game, the whole league is four-man rush game, five-man attacks, coming at you, night-in, night-out, wave after wave.

"But you need to get your D involved in your support on the attack and you need them on the offensive zone off the point. You need some shooters on the back end that can get them through as well. I think offensive production from the back end in today’s game really enhances your offense and your possession game."

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.