Blackhawks

Campbell providing calm presence for Hawks

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Campbell providing calm presence for Hawks

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011
4:50 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Statistics abound in hockey. Points, time on ice, hits, plus-minus, etc. Whatever the numbers, good or bad, players are usually judged by them.

And for Chicago Blackhawks Brian Campbell, one number shows hes doing pretty darn well.

Campbell is a plus-23 this season, including a plus-10 in his last seven games. Its a gaudy digit, for sure; Campbell was a plus-18 last year and had a career-best plus-28 with the Buffalo Sabres in 2006-07. Its a testament of how reliable and key Campbell has been.

Theres a reason why youre plus-23. Its pretty remarkable, coach Joel Quenneville said. Hes out there against good players and playing big minutes. Its an indication that things are going pretty well.

Captain Jonathan Toews said the plus-minus is something that definitely shows how youre playing. Maybe you dont have all the points or goals but the plus-minus shows the effect you have on linemates and teammates. Maybe youre not always the first or second assist or not always scoring goals, but youre involved in the play.

Campells logged plenty of minutes this season and has played in every situation. Hes gotten comfortable with the Blackhawks these past few seasons and said hes learned plenty from Quenneville, a former defenseman himself.

There are a lot of just simple, easy things that he stresses: good stick positioning, good gap, just a lot of positioning in our own zone, when not to attack, staying in front of the net and not attacking plays that arent dangerous plays, Campbell said. Its been good. I feel really comfortable in his game plan right now.

Patrick Sharp said Campbells comfort level is evident.

Its as good as weve seen him play these last two years. Hes been very underrated for our team, Sharp said. Hopefully he continues to play like that for us.

Then theres Campbells partnership with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Campbell said hes been partners with the Swede longer than anyone else in his career, and the familiarity breeds results on the ice. Hjalmarsson, who was a minus-9 while Campbell was hurt and is a plus-8 now, noted his partners steady on-ice demeanor.

Hes very confident with the puck and always calm. That affects me. You know what youre going to get from him every night, Hjalmarsson said. He was good last season, too, but I dont know if Ive seen him play as good as he has this season. Hes been outstanding.
All-Star captains

Detroit defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and Carolina forward Eric Staal were selected as All-Star Game captains on Tuesday. Jonathan Toews said last week he didnt expect to be selected as an All-Star captain and sounded relieved on Tuesday that he wouldnt have to be picking teammates.

Now we can joke with each other about who gets picked before the other guy, Toews said. I guess it couldve been fun, but Ill be more comfortable sitting on the outside. Theres no reason I want to take all that pressure right off the bat.

Patrick Sharp, meanwhile, said he thinks Staal could pick him.

Staals from my hometown (Thunder Bay, Ontario), so he better draft me. But I have a feeling hes going to make me wait it out, he said. Either way well be having fun with it.

Bears or Packers?

With the Bears hosting the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship this weekend, the Blackhawks were taking sides. The teams two Wisconsin natives, Jack Skille and Jake Dowell, were firmly in the Packers corner. Others were going with the Bears.

Thats funny, because all of a sudden they became huge Packers fans, Sharp said of Skille and Dowell. Thats fine. I know my boy Robbie Gould and the Bears are going to pull it out.

Toews said itll make for interesting viewing this Sunday.

Im sure everyones going to be glued to a TV somewhere taking it all in, he said. I wish those guys (Bears) the best. Itd be awesome to see another team here do what we did last year.

And Quennevilles take?

I love football. Lets go Bears.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.