Blackhawks

Blackhawks offense quiet in loss to Hurricanes

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Blackhawks offense quiet in loss to Hurricanes

The Blackhawks went into the Christmas break with a whimper. They came out of it the same way.

Brent Seabrook supplied the only offense – and that was with just three seconds remaining in regulation – as the Carolina Hurricanes beat the Blackhawks 2-1 on Sunday night. It was too quiet a night for the Blackhawks, who hadn’t played since Tuesday and were just three seconds away from being shut out for their second consecutive game.

And for the second time in as many games, the team beating the Blackhawks was playing the second half of a back-to-back.

The Blackhawks had been finding more offense throughout their lineup in those last several games before Christmas. But they now have just one goal in their last two games. Marian Hossa said the problem was easy to identify on Sunday.

“I felt we played too much outside tonight,” Hossa said. “We had a few good chances but not enough. And when we did the goalie [Eddie Lack] saw everything. We got a goal at the end but it was too late.”

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Coach Joel Quenneville agreed about the lack of traffic.

“Not ‘til late,” Quenneville said on when that net-front traffic finally surfaced. “We got a little bit more predictable and we were more effective. They blocked a lot of shots but we were looking to make too many plays either entering their zone or into the slot that were denied. We’ve got to get greasier goals; that’s how you score in our league. You’ve got to take it to the net. I counted about six chances that were either empty nets or potential empty nets that we either misfired or didn’t bear down or weren’t hungry enough. That might have had us in the lead; scoring first was important.”

Justin Faulk got that all-important first goal for the Hurricanes, scoring his 14th of the season with just 18.2 seconds remaining in the second period. Victor Rask’s 10th of the season, which he scored about five minutes into the third period, proved to be the game winner.

The Blackhawks’ third and fourth lines had some of the better chances. Not surprising, considering those six players are the ones usually playing that hard-driving game. At other times the Blackhawks seemed to get caught up in making one pass too many.

“I think maybe we’re a little bit of guilty of trying to be too pretty with the puck instead of just keeping it simple,” Duncan Keith said. “Throw it at the net and have one guy there and just do a better job of getting it to the net and guys going to the net.”

The Blackhawks wanted to come out of the Christmas break rested and playing with energy. They were certainly rested. But the energy, and the drive to get to the front of the net and make life difficult for Lack, wasn’t there.

“I think everyone was well rested so that should be to our advantage. Obviously we didn’t take advantage,” Hossa said. “This game, we should’ve played a little different. We didn’t have enough bodies going to the net and sacrificing to get the ugly goals.”

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."