Blackhawks

Blackhawks on outside of standings looking in

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Blackhawks on outside of standings looking in

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011Posted: 4:20 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

CALGARY, Alberta The Chicago Blackhawks may have been a bit surprised when they looked at the standings this morning: the reigning Stanley Cup champions are in 11th place in the West.

Yes, there are miniscule points separating them from the top eight, but there it was nonetheless: Blackhawks 11th.

When you looked at the standings and (coach Joel Quenneville) said it this morning at the meeting, you could see the disbelief on guys faces, Troy Brouwer said.

It is a little hard to grasp for the Blackhawks, who have lost three of their last four entering Monday nights tilt against the Calgary Flames. They are on the outside looking in, and its unfamiliar territory. Still, the Blackhawks are keeping it in perspective.

Its not discouraging for us because of the way we played, but we have to continue to that aspect of our play and going into the next couple of games well be successful, Brouwer said.

The Blackhawks have been a calm bunch since Fridays loss, despite bad calls and another missed chance at two points. But theyre looking at the games ahead of them, not behind.

You look at the standings, everyones really close and we just happen to be in 11th place. Its not a position you want to be in, especially after the 82 games are over. But we have about 30 games left and playing some teams were competing with, too, Patrick Kane said. Every games important. Weve got some tough games ahead of us but I think if we put it all together we should be OK.

Itll start again on Monday against the Flames. As of Sunday, Calgary was one point ahead of the Blackhawks thanks to one of those three-point games about which Quenneville often talks, the Flames 4-3 shootout victory over Los Angeles on Saturday.

Those type of games, and the Blackhawks inability to finish late, have led to 11th place.

We didnt take advantage of a lot of games, 11 games tied or leading in the third period and we come up with no points, Quenneville said. We have to be better no matter where we play here on out.

The Blackhawks were still feeling encouraged by their level of play in Fridays 4-3 loss to Vancouver. If they want extra motivation for Monday, they can always think back on their Nov. 20 game here, when the Flames beat them 7-2. Then again, just getting back into the top eight is motivation alone.

Were sitting in 11th place today. We can all sit around and panic but thats not really the kind of group we have, Kane said. Everyones confident with what we have in here what we can do when we play at the top of our game.

Kanes pain

Patrick Kane just has to deal with and work through his left ankle sprain he suffered on Dec. 5. He was reminded of that on Friday morning when he went down for a few minutes prior to the Blackhawks game against Vancouver.

With this injury, pain goes through the roof for a minute, two minutes, even five minutes sometimes. That one in practice the other day, I definitely felt it right away, after I was OK with it, said Kane, who looked fine in playing 21-and-a-half minutes and taking seven shots on goal -- that night.

If its a nerve or something, I dont know what it is. The pains tough for a bit, Kane said. And it messes with your head because youre down for a little bit and then a couple minutes later youre fine. But Id rather have it that way than the other way around.

Power-play switcheroo

Troy Brouwer took Marian Hossas place on the Blackhawks top power-play unit at Sundays practice. Quenneville said it was just a little adjustment, a little alteration.

Our power play couldve been difference in the game (against Vancouver), Quenneville said. It could be (Brouwer providing more net presence). Weve had it before, but either way we need the net presence.

Crawford in

Corey Crawford will start against Calgary on Monday night, making his first start since suffering a 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 25. Crawford doesnt anticipate any rustiness after the layoff.

Ive been practicing hard and getting ready the best I can. Thats the only thing I can do is make sure Im good and battle hard, he said. Ill try to do the best I can and hopefully Ill bring my best game.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

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USA TODAY

Eight-defensemen rotation tricky, but Blackhawks understand juggling act

For Jordan Oesterle, the wait really wasn’t a terrible thing.

Sure, he was used to playing more consistently in the past. But he knew with the Blackhawks carrying eight defensemen that several players, including him, would need to practice patience and understanding.

“It hasn’t been too long. It’s only been a week and a half so it’s not terrible,” said Oesterle on Thursday morning, a few hours before he made his Blackhawks debut against his former team, the Edmonton Oilers.

For the second consecutive season the Blackhawks are going with eight defensemen to start the season. In one way, it’s good: if anything goes awry, be it someone’s game or someone’s health, the depth is readily there.

But so are the challenges. It’s a juggling act, a delicate balance between making the right decisions and making sure a player understands that a scratch may be more about the rotation and not his individual game.

Communication, above all, is key.

“It’s not easy being the guys who are in or out, right on that bubble situation where you come in not knowing if you’re going to play. But as a staff we want to keep everyone involved,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We know the depth of your defense is going to get challenged at some point during the year. We feel the eight guys who are here can play but that’s how we’ve always done it: We’ve always let guys know whether you’re in or out. Sometimes you have to be more patient than you’d like but handling it the right way, whether you’re a good pro or teammate, that can be healthy around the environment of your team.”

Based on all outward appearances, everyone has handled it well. Connor Murphy has been a healthy scratch twice – “I mean I just want to see the team win really...if we're winning and guys are playing well that's all that matter,” Murphy said after his first scratch.

Oesterle was a healthy scratch the first seven games. Michal Kempny, who Oesterle replaced, has been scratched the last two games. Cody Franson has also sat seven games. Franson, whose patience has been in place while awaiting contracts in his career, is practicing it again. But he’s appreciated the Blackhawks’ communication on it.

“This situation gets tough when they don’t say anything to you; you don’t know if it’s because of the way you’re playing, you don’t know if it’s something you did or what the situation is. The coaching staff has done a great job of being in our ear, letting us leave our work at the rink and not take it home with us,” Franson said. “That goes a long way in being able to stay positive and in the right mindset through it.”

After starting with eight defensemen last season the Blackhawks eventually went back to seven. Will they do that again this season? Maybe, but whoever gets sent down would most likely have to go through waivers. The Blackhawks reassigned Gustav Forsling last season to get back to seven defensemen and get Forsling more playing time. But this season Forsling and Jan Rutta have been dependable and have pretty much become the Blackhawks’ second pairing.

So for now, eight defensemen it shall be. Being part of the rotation isn’t always easy but so far players seem to get that it’s for the greater good.

“It’s one of those things where we’ve got eight quality guys. I think no matter who’s sitting on any given night, it might not necessary be due to how they’re playing or how they’re doing individually,” Franson said. “I think Q’s done a great job of managing that situation. That’s one of those things where it’s a great problem to have but it’s not an easy one to handle. So we’re all aware of what’s taking place right now and you just try to be as professional about it as you can.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 4-2 win over Coyotes: Puck don't lie

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night:
 
1. Surviving a crazy first period.

The Blackhawks committed four penalties in the opening frame within a 2:18 span, and escaped unscathed from it despite a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities for the Coyotes.

Of course, the only goal allowed in the period came from a fluke deflection off Jordan Oesterle's stick and slipped underneath Corey Crawford's five-hole.

Joel Quenneville likes to say the team that takes advantage of their 5-on-3 opportunities has a pretty good chance to win the game. It applied in this case, with the Blackhawks coming out victorious after surviving that stretch.

2. Power play comes alive early.

The Blackhawks got off on the right foot in an area that has been an issue for them this season, capitalizing on their first power play of the game 24 seconds into it when Richard Panik redirected a Jonathan Toews shot that tricked past Louis Domingue.

Good thing too, because it was the only man advantage they'd get. Well, excluding the power play they received with 17 seconds left in regulation when the game was already decided. 
 
3. Another controversial review in Arizona.

What's with it with controversial reviews in Arizona and the Blackhawks being on the wrong end of the call?

The Blackhawks appeared to have taken a 3-1 lead when Tommy Wingels converted on a penalty shot, but it was overturned after officials reviewed it and determined the Coyotes netminder got a stick on Wingels' initial shot. Replays didn't exactly show conclusive evidence, but the NHL released a statement proving otherwise:

Video review determined that Wingels shot the puck into the net after Arizona goaltender Louis Domingue made contact with the puck. According to Rule 24.2, "No goal can be scored on a rebound of any kind."

Shortly after, the Coyotes scored in the final minutes of the period to even up the score at 2-2 in a big turn of events at the time.
 
4. ... But puck don't lie.

The overturned penalty shot didn't matter in the end though, because the Blackhawks came away with the victory and Wingels ended up getting his first goal after all on an empty netter that iced the game.

It was Wingels' first goal as a member of his hometown team, and it was well deserved for a guy who was part of the fourth line that turned in arguably their best performance of the season.
 
5. Lance Bouma rewarded with game-winning goal.

Speaking of which, it was fitting that Bouma scored the game winner with 4:24 left in the third period because that trio of Bouma, Wingels and John Hayden was around the net for the majority of the night.

They combined for two goals and two assists, had eight attempts shot attempts (five on goal), eight of the team's 16 hits and four blocked shots.