Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Vermette, Teravainen take scratches in stride

vermettebench052215.png

Blackhawks: Vermette, Teravainen take scratches in stride

Antoine Vermette wasn’t in the most talkative mood on Friday.

The usually affable forward was still stinging from his benching in Game 3, when coach Joel Quenneville opted to use “fresh legs,” sitting Vermette and Teuvo Teravainen.

So did Vermette feel tired after the triple-overtime Game 2?

“Nope.”

Quenneville’s attempt to shake things up/get fresher legs into the lineup didn’t have the desired effect in the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Kris Versteeg played about 13 1Ž2 minutes, Joakim Nordstrom played about seven and the fourth line of Andrew Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Andrew Shaw, which had been so effective lately, was broken up to adjust to the changes – Shaw centered the third line in Vermette’s place.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

Now Quenneville could put Vermette and Teravainen back in on Saturday, when the Blackhawks host the Anaheim Ducks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals. It was an interesting turn of events when the two sat for Game 3, both having played solid through the start of this series.

“When we look at making decision we always think going into yesterday’s game was going to be our most challenging game, energy-wise,” Quenneville said. “Through a tough game 2 we felt using our depth could help us, get us some speed. As it turned out, we didn’t win the game. That’s where we’re at.”

Vermette’s still struggling on offense – he has just one goal and one assist in the postseason, and nothing since May 1. But he’s winning face-offs, something the Blackhawks wanted when they acquired him. His loss was doublyfelt in the face-off circle on Tuesday when Marcus Kruger took no face-offs at all. Quenneville said Kruger, “will be better,” in Game 4. Asked if Kruger had an upper- or lower-body injury, Quenneville hesitated a second and said, “there’s no injury.”

But back to Vermette, who thought he had a good Game 2.

“I was playing well there. So, obviously it came as a surprise and a disappointment,” Vermette said. “I’m not going to lie. I was not happy with that, but my job is to be ready whenever I have a chance to be in the lineup, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

[MORE: Quenneville unsure if he'll use TVR in postseason]

The 20-year-old Teravainen said, “I felt all right. Nothing bad,” following the triple-overtime game. As with previous times he’s been taken out of the lineup, Teravainen said he just focuses on practices until he plays again.

“I think it’s normal for a young player. Sometimes I’m not in and sometimes I’m playing,” Teravainen said. “But, of course, I want to work hard for to get the chance to play every game. Right now when I’m not in, I have to work even harder in practice and get back.”

The lineup changes were strange and obviously left two players none too happy. Quenneville said both Vermette and Teravainen “could” play in Game 4, which usually means “yes” in what we refer to as Q-speak. Quenneville thought the changes would bring some energy after a very lengthy Game 2. It really didn’t.

“When we look at making decision we always think going into yesterday’s game was going to be our most challenging game, energy-wise,” he said. “Through a tough game 2 we felt using our depth could help us, get us some speed. as it turned out, we didn’t win the game. That’s where we’re at.”

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

2-24_blue-jackets_matchup_nhl_chi_blank.jpg
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

2-23_berube_schmaltz_usat.jpg
USA TODAY

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."