Blackhawks

Blackhawks tapping into youth for physical play

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Blackhawks tapping into youth for physical play

The Blackhawks shipped out a big, physical presence on Monday when they sent John Scott to the New York Rangers. Now theyll try and get some of that sandpaper from within.

Brandon Bollig was recalled from Rockford today, and Andrew Shaw got his second call on Monday as the Blackhawks prepare for the Toronto Maple Leafs tomorrow night.

No, Scott never played a ton of minutes for the Blackhawks. He played in just 29 games this season, the final one of his two-year deal with the team. But he was still a physical option. Now Blackhawks young guys get their chance to bring that presence.

If Bolig plays tomorrow, it will be his NHL debut. Bollig skated with Jamal Mayers whos provided the most consistent physical presence this season -- and Jimmy Hayes today. He said hell try to bring whats worked for him in Rockford.

Being sound defensively, finishing every check. Its not just fighting but that physical aspect and bringing that energy that gets the scoring lines going, he said today.

Coach Joel Quenneville said I havent seen (Bollig) play but hes doing well down there. He gives us energy on that line, toughness, with speed and quickness. Hes responsible in the tough areas.

While Bollig is truly a new face, the Blackhawks know exactly what they can get with Andrew Shaw. The rookie stormed out to a hot start when he was first recalled in January, bringing an aggressive style along with a scoring touch. General manager Stan Bowman said Monday that Shaws been playing well in Rockford and deserved another shot.

No, a group of young and rookie players are not going to provide all the solutions right now. But guys like Shaw and Jimmy Hayes brought the Blackhawks a jolt when they needed it back in January, when Patrick Sharp was sidelined with a broken wrist and the team was going through that trying middle part of the season. With the teams recent struggles they could use that youthful energy again.

But the rest of the Blackhawks have to tap into it, too.

We need everybody here, Quenneville said. We have a tough road ahead of us here, a lot of challenges. We have a lot of rookies, young players, who have proven this year they can help us a lot of ways. We need everyone to accept some ownership, be it the leaders or the new guys. We have to move forward together.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit Niklas Hjalmarsson, Coyotes

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes Saturday night on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Niklas Hjalmarsson's new home.

Brace yourselves, Chicago. It's going to be a weird site seeing Hjalmarsson in a different sweater other than the Blackhawks, where he spent his first 10 NHL seasons and won three Stanley Cups.

Now he serves as an alternate captain and blue-line anchor for the Coyotes, who are the only team still seeking its first win of the season. You know they'll be hungry to snap that skid, especially when there's extra motivation for a player on their team facing a bunch of old friends.

2. Connor Murphy returns to Arizona, too.

The man Hjalmarsson was traded for will also be returning to a place he called home for four years. Murphy's role with the Coyotes increased every year before he was dealt to the Blackhawks as part of a shake-up for both teams, so you know he's going to play with something to prove.

Murphy is a physical defenseman, and has laid several notable big hits this season. His former teammates surely know it, and may want to keep their heads up.

3. Patrick Kane 2.0?

Ever since he was drafted with the No. 7 overall pick in 2016, Clayton Keller has drawn comparisons to Kane. They're both undersized, offensive playmakers, possess supreme stick-handling abilities and are American-born players.

Keller got a brief taste of NHL action last year, but he's secured a full-time spot with the Coyotes this season and has been arguably their best player so far.

The 19-year-old forward paces all rookies with five goals and ranks second with seven points, and leads the Coyotes in both categories. Expect to see his name as a finalist for the Calder Trophy for the league's top rookie at the end of the season.

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

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USA TODAY

Anton Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they need

Anton Forsberg had just finished an extended morning skate Wednesday morning in St. Louis. The backup goaltender had played in one regular-season game for the Blackhawks to that point, so getting in extra work to stay sharp was helpful.

“I try to keep my focus in practice and work extra every day, get a few extra shots in practice with the extra guys who are out there, work with Jimmy and try to keep my game shape,” Forsberg said, referring to Blackhawks goaltending coach Jimmy Waite.

Whatever Forsberg’s working on in practice and skates seems to be working, because in two games with the Blackhawks he’s looked sharp. Forsberg probably deserved a victory on Thursday night when he stopped 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 overtime loss to the Edmonton Oilers. It’s the backup life to wait and see when that next start will come, but Forsberg has been ready.

“For sure I felt more comfortable today, more used to the speed,” he said following Thursday’s game. “I felt I read the game better, felt I had more time moving around. It’s tough, again, to lose in overtime. Obviously I wanted to win and it’s frustrating.”

Frustrating for sure, but Forsberg is giving the Blackhawks exactly what they want and need: a dependable backup that gives them a chance to win. The two goals Forsberg gave up on Thursday weren’t softies, either — Patrick Maroon’s goal off a ridiculous Connor McDavid pass and Mark Letestu’s over game-winner that deflected off Brent Seabrook’s stick.

“He kept us in a tight game like he did in Toronto, got us to overtime. I kind of feel bad we didn’t get him a win in either of those,” Ryan Hartman said. “He played well both of those games. It’s nice to have a guy on the back end like that.”

Forsberg has blended in well with the Blackhawks. It helps that he already knew two of them, Brandon Saad and Artem Anisimov, his former teammates in Columbus. He and Corey Crawford already have a good rapport. Same goes for he and Waite, and Forsberg has soaked up any information they’ve given him.

“I feel like both him and Corey teach me a lot. We talk about different situations, especially all the reads,” Forsberg said. “I get to know how (Crawford) thinks the game. He’s been around a long time and has been doing well, so it’s interesting every day to hear what he has to say. Even Jimmy’s been around same thing there, discussing my game, what we want to improve, what we want to do different, what to keep the same and go from there.”

The extra work in practices and skates appears to be working as Forsberg has done a lot right in just his first two games, which were 10 days apart. The Blackhawks have had a good run of backup goaltenders; two games is a small sample size but Forsberg could be the latest reliable backup.