Blackhawks

Blackhawks notes: Could Artemi Panarin play vs. Ducks?

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Blackhawks notes: Could Artemi Panarin play vs. Ducks?

The Blackhawks have certainly missed Artemi Panarin these last two games.

It’s no excuse for their two losses. But when you’re missing that offense, as well as the work he and fellow second liners Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane have done together this season, it’s a void even for a short amount of time.

And while Panarin didn’t practice with the team on Friday, there’s a chance he could play tomorrow night.

Panarin had an off-ice workout and could play on Saturday night when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks. Panarin has been out with an illness but coach Joel Quenneville said he was “encouraged” with how the left wing was feeling on Friday.

“He’s made good progress,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully at the same rate tomorrow, he’s playing.”

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Ducks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks went back to their battle drills at Friday’s practice. When those drills come out, it’s a clear sign that Quenneville wasn’t happy with their outing the previous night. The Blackhawks came on strong in the third period of their 4-2 loss to the Dallas Stars, but were terrible in the first 20 minutes, when the Stars took a 4-0 lead.

“We were very slow out of the gate, basically two games in a row,” Quenneville said. “When we’re more competitive in the puck area, that’s how we’re effective. You can get the puck more that way as well and you can keep it longer. We were too easy to play against two games in a row. We had success before because we were hungrier and more competitive.”

Andrew Desjardins said it was tough to pinpoint why the Blackhawks were so off in their first two games of this home stand.

“I think the last two games, just the compete level, commitment to doing the right things,” he said. “It’s been good at times – in the third when we were coming back, but when a team’s holding a lead like that they may be sitting back more. It’s just that compete and intensity level. We just have to get mad and get a little more pissed off going into the next game. Our effort level can go up.”

The Blackhawks have been great at home this season, and their inability not to take advantage of these first two games was frustrating. They need to take advantage of the next two if they want to try and maintain their slim Central Division lead. The battle the Blackhawks showed in Friday’s practice has to be there from the start in Saturday’s game.

“I thought we played as good as we’ve played at any time all year in those three games [out of the All-Star break]. We were flat vs. San Jose and really poor last night. We’ve been pretty good at home. That was the thing we’re not pleased about: play the right way at home. We shouldn’t get blown out in the first period of an important game like that like [Thursday] night.”

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."