Blackhawks: Rundblad likely in for Timonen for Game 6


Blackhawks: Rundblad likely in for Timonen for Game 6

David Rundblad “could” play and it looks like Kimmo Timonen will sit when the Blackhawks host the Anaheim Ducks in Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals on Wednesday night.

Coach Joel Quenneville wouldn’t come right out and say Rundblad was in tonight, only saying “it could happen.” But Quenneville’s “could” usually means yes. And Rundblad was in the dressing room early, as was Kyle Cumiskey, another sign that the two are playing tonight.

Timonen and Trevor van Riemsdyk were two of the last players to get to the room. Van Riemsdyk was a longshot to play anyway; he only resumed skating on Friday after missing a month and a half with a wrist injury.

“He’s a little short on time right now but that’s what we’re up against,” Quenneville said of van Riemsdyk. “There’s still progress. Every day he’s getting stronger and quicker and more comfortable with the game.”

With Rundblad and Cumiskey, the Blackhawks get younger legs among the defensemen group. Who they’re paired with yet is unknown. Timonen has struggled throughout this postseason, playing limited minutes. It seemed only a matter of time before the Blackhawks made a switch with him but, again, they don’t have a ton of defensive options.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

It’ll be Rundblad’s first game since Game 1 of this series. He had a rough night; two of his errant passes turned into Ducks goals as Anaheim went on to win that game, 4-1. Quenneville said Rundblad has to shake that game off.

“You have to move on, playing the next game, playing the next shift,” he said. “You want to be confident and comfortable.”

Rundblad understands that, with this second chance, he has to be better than his postseason debut.

“Small things: be quicker, that’s the biggest key. Move the puck quicker,” Rundblad said. “It’ll help me out a lot if I just do that.”

The Blackhawks know what’s at stake here: if they lose, they stay home. And they know they’ll be in big trouble if they get off to as shoddy a start as they did in Game 5 in Anaheim.

“Well, we have to win obviously, and our guys know it's a great challenge,” Quenneville said. “Every game's been tough. Every game's been on the line. I don't think their play should influence our approach knowing we have to be our best tonight. Give them credit for how they played, but I still think the games have been all even. One overtime goal separates us.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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


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."