Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Phillip Danault adjusting well to NHL game

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Blackhawks: Phillip Danault adjusting well to NHL game

Phillip Danault figured it was going to take a little time.

The Blackhawks center was brought up for the first time last season but was in Chicago briefly. Recalled again in December, Danault had a better chance to get acclimated.

“I told my dad I needed five-to-10 games to get used to the NHL,” Danault said. “The execution is way different and details are so different. It’s been a great chance for me. I’m glad to take it.”

It’s not a surprise that Danault has been up the entire time since he was recalled on Dec. 18, the day after the Blackhawks learned they’d be without Marcus Kruger (wrist) until the start of the postseason. Now, 24 games into this season, Danault has adjusted to the NHL and to his checking-line center role with the Blackhawks.

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“He’s done a great job for us,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He handled a big responsibility, takes a lot of defensive responsibilities and D-zone face-offs and sometimes you’re out there against top lines, a lot of starts in your own end and you’re expected to defend against top guys. We trusted him in that role right off the bat and that line has done a great job for us and everyone’s contributed in their own ways.”

It’s well known that the Blackhawks told Danault, when they drafted him, that they wanted him to be another Kruger. That wouldn’t be a problem for Danault, who said he’s been playing that two-way game since he was with the Victoriaville Tigres of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The adjustments, however, had to come as he advanced through the ranks.

“All the small details, execution, moving your feet; you can’t stand in the corner without moving your feet and protecting the puck here. That’s the big difference,” Danault said. “I kept my game from juniors but to be good here, as much as you have juniors, you have to take a couple of more steps and then you’re ready. You also need a coach who trusts you in all situations and I’m lucky to have that.”

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Quenneville trusts Danault and his linemates. He, Andrew Desjardins and Teuvo Teravainen have been together quite a while now (outside of a game or two in which Teravainen has played elsewhere when teammates have been out). Being part of the same trio has helped Danault’s NHL transition as well.

“It always takes time to get used to new linemates but we’ve been lucky to stay together and I think we’re playing great together and are very good defensively,” Danault said. “We bring offensive chances. The points aren’t coming but I don’t think that’s our job right now. [We have to] stay tight defensively and try to buzz in their zone as much as possible.”

Danault has a goal and four assists in his 24 games this season; a good part of that came in late December/early January, when that line was on a hot streak. In the 33 games he played before his injury, Kruger had one assist. Supplementary scoring isn’t the top priority for the checkers but it’s always welcome.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!

Points aside, Danault has done the job the Blackhawks needed him to do in Kruger’s absence. He knew it was going to take some time to adjust to the NHL game. This season, he’s gotten the chance to do so.

“I’m modeling my game after Kruger because he’s obviously the best defensively and on the PK. So when I came here I just wanted to prove I could play two-way and bring some offense at the same time,” Danault said. “I think it’s part of my game right now.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.