Blackhawks

Blackhawks' top line, Shaw prove lethal

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Blackhawks' top line, Shaw prove lethal

Updated: Sunday, Jan. 15 at 9:39 p.m.

The Blackhawks have had good balanced scoring lately. But ultimately your top guys have to be your top guys.

And on Sunday night, they were.

Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg each scored, as the Blackhawks top line of those two and Patrick Kane was stellar in a 4-3 victory over the San Jose Sharks. The Blackhawks have collected points in their last four games and are back atop the Central Division standings.

Toews, Stalberg and Kane combined for two goals, three assists and 17 of the teams 40 shots on goal, pacing the Blackhawks with a relentless game. Kane couldve easily had more than one assist, especially when former teammate Antti Niemi robbed him in the opening minutes.

I think all of us were kind of feeling it tonight, just holding onto (the puck), Kane said. Going up against their top line of (Joe) Thornton, (Patrick) Marleau and (Joe) Pavelski, you try to keep it away from them. I think we did a good job tonight.

Niemi stopped 36 of 40 against his former team; hes now 4-2-1 against them. Corey Crawford stopped 21 of 24 for the victory.

Dave Bolland also scored and rookie Andrew Shaw added his fourth goal in the seven games hes been with the Blackhawks. Stalberg, who now has 14 goals this season, had another potential score waived off due to a kicking motion.

We definitely had lots of chances; it felt like we couldve scored more Stalberg said of the top line. We had the puck on our stick most of the night, kept their top line from getting the puck.

It was the Sharks first regulation loss since Dec. 26; they went 6-0-2 in their last eight entering Sunday night.

Theyre a tough enough group to play against when youre managing the puck properly, but when you turn it over as many times as we did Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. I dont know if the puck had a Blackhawks logo on it and we thought we had to give it back to them, but we certainly did for at least the first half of the game. I thought their energy guys out-energized our group as well.

But, it wouldnt be a Blackhawks game if it wasnt a tight one. Sharks center and Evanston product Tommy Wingels made it 4-3 with less than five minutes remaining in the third, and then the Blackhawks had to kill off a Sharks 6-on-4 power play for the final 67 seconds.

It got a little scary there at the end, defenseman Duncan Keith said. (Crawford) made some big saves and we did a good job of staying tight, blocking guys out and taking away some of their lanes to get shots.

The Blackhawks took three of four on this back-to-back weekend against tough opponents. Theyve gotten a little bit of everything from everyone and got the best from their top guys on Sunday night.

Yesterday we didnt get the start we wanted to but Id say we carried that third period that we had yesterday right into today and had a great first tonight, Toews said. All in all we kept working. Its fun when we play the type of game like that.

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

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Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

ST. LOUIS – Eddie Olczyk’s morning at Scottrade Center was full of hugs and handshakes, of questions and encouraging words, of smiles and even some tears.

It was a busy morning but a good one for Olczyk, who Wednesday night will do his first hockey broadcast since being diagnosed with colon cancer in August. For the first time in a while, Olczyk felt like himself.

“It feels normal. It feels comfortable,” said Olczyk, who will be alongside Doc Emrick when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues. “I just feel invigorated. Seeing a lot of familiar faces, guys busting chops and a lot of well wishes.”

Olczyk went through his usual game-day routine, including quick chats with Blackhawks players following skate. On Wednesday those talks were that much more special, for both sides.

“Great to see him,” said Ryan Hartman. “When I first saw I was pretty excited to see him back. It’s definitely a presence you know when you’re watching games, that voice you heard growing up. He looks good, looks healthy. He’s in a battle but he looks really good.”

Olczyk will also be in the booth on Thursday night when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. Past that, he’ll play it by ear. He’s talked to NBC and Blackhawks president John McDonough, who Olczyk said gave him an “open canvas” in terms of scheduling. If Olczyk feels good on Saturday and the Blackhawks play on Sunday, he’ll try to get back in the booth.

“We think about him every day and we’ve had the pleasure of having him come by a couple of times. Having him be here today for a road game is great to know,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he has a tough battle ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to fight it. We support him every single day.”

Olczyk started chemotherapy treatments in September and he has his good and bad days. Those will continue for a while. So will his fight to completely beat this. But for at least the next two nights Olczyk gets to return to a normal routine, and that’s the perfect panacea for a trying time.

“I’m overwhelmed with everybody,” Olczyk said. “But this is the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."