Blackhawks

Blackhawks plan practice, rest during slow week

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Blackhawks plan practice, rest during slow week

When the Blackhawks hit the ice this week, they’ll be doing it more for practices than for games.

Such is the NHL schedule: after going at a breakneck pace through December and January, the Blackhawks face a very quiet week. So will they be watching what’s going on with the busier teams in the Central Division?

“Not a lot,” Andrew Shaw said. “I mean you want to seal your own fate. You want to go out there and win every game; you don’t want to worry on another team losing games. You just do what you can to win your games.”

Yes, but the Blackhawks won’t have many opportunities to win or lose this week. After a busy schedule, the Blackhawks will play just two games between now and next Tuesday (they host the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday morning). The Dallas Stars, who are one point behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division, will play five. That busy Stars' schedule begins tonight when they’re at the Winnipeg Jets and ends next Tuesday when they face the Predators.

So how does a team that does so well when it’s busy handle a very quiet week?

“It’s always a key when you have these days off – they seem pretty rare – to make the most of them. Whether it’s rest or recovery, whatever you need, capitalize on that because obviously down the stretch it’s going to be pretty intense,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “There are a lot of really meaningful games so you have to be prepared for that. Any extra days off, you should focus on making the most of them, controlling what you can.”

[ROAD AHEAD: What should the Blackhawks do at the trade deadline?]

The Blackhawks are having a week similar to what the Stars had in early January, when Dallas had five days off (Jan. 10-14) between games. At that time, the Blackhawks were in the midst of a hot streak, eventually winning a franchise-record 12 consecutive games. Their winning streak, coupled with the Stars’ struggles at the time, catapulted the Blackhawks into first place in the Central Division. Will the Stars return the favor in this latest stretch? Maybe, maybe not, but the Blackhawks don’t plan on getting too caught up in what the Stars are doing this week.

“Some days you want to let your mind rest. Other times you want to watch and see how they’re doing,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s just a daily thing; probably tune in here and there and other days make the most of the rest and take advantage of that.”

The Blackhawks have long been good about concentrating on their game and their needs instead of other teams. They’ll glance at the standings, they’ll make note of who’s doing what around them. But ultimately they need to worry about themselves and about playing well – when they do play this week.

“You always know where we’re at. We just try to focus on our game,” Teuvo Teravainen said. “That’s what we can really focus on, getting better and we’ll see what the other team’s doing.”

BRIEFLY

  • Patrick Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson had maintenance days on Tuesday. Both are expected to play on Thursday vs. the Nashville Predators.
  • Erik Gustafsson, a healthy scratch on Sunday, should play Thursday against Nashville.
  • Marian Hossa (lower body) should start skating later this week, coach Joel Quenneville said. Quenneville added that it was“tough to say” if Hossa would be ready for the Blackhawks’ Detroit/Boston back-to-back in early March.
  • Marcus Kruger (wrist) skated on Tuesday but his timeline hasn’t change; he’s still not expected back until around the postseason’s start. Said Quenneville, “we know that his legs aren’t the problem. He’s still a ways away.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?