Blackhawks

Carcillo, Kane and the power play

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Carcillo, Kane and the power play

When the Blackhawks signed Daniel Carcillo last July 1st to cap off a day that also included free agent deals with Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell, they were fully aware of the wide range of what they were getting -- and getting themselves into -- as part of addressing their needs.

If you didn't know already, CarBomb-in-a-Can was right there for all to see since his return from a six-game injury absence in the four-and-a-half periods he played Friday and Monday.

There was the nice clean hit on Todd Bertuzzi that his teammates and Hawks fans absolutely loved, and Bertuzzi absolutely hated in that first period against the Red Wings. There was his second assist in as many games by creating a neutral zone turnover versus Edmonton, skating in and perfectly setting up Jonathan Toews for the game's first goal.

And there was his cat-and-mouse game with Tom Gilbert seven minutes into the second, sending the puck in, probably capable of winning a race to it, but playing the body full-speed below the goal line extended for a violent crash into the boards.

While Gilbert sat out Tuesday night's game in Buffalo with an apparent knee injury, the injury it looks like Carcillo sustained as Gilbert bounced back onto him might be longer-term, on top of the suspension he's sure to receive.

This high-speed game involving split-second decision-making about the consequences of contact has required an adjustment over the past year for players like Carcillo, Mayers, Ben Eager, Cal Clutterbuck, Raffi Torres, etc.

Some have learned more quickly than others, but a poor decision on a bang-bang play could only be a shift away.

You can see the potential in the signing of Carcillo with what he provided in the first four periods of his return. But between the injury and whatever discipline Brendan Shanahan and company hand down, who knows how soon we'll see Carcillo again as he recovers, serves and searches for the fine line in his style of play. And when he does come back, will the drastic swings in how he helps and hurts the team remain? It certainly won't be in what would've been his return to Philadelphia Thursday night.

Kane

Speaking of Philadelphia, it'll be the Hawks' first trip back to the scene of their greatest triumph over the past half-century.

Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup clincher turned him into the conquering hero, the toast of Chicago, and the life of the party. My bet is with Carcillo not around, Kane will hear the most grief from the City of Brotherly Haters when he takes the ice.

Here's also hoping it gets things going for him. Kane will admit to a certain extent that having just nine goals as 2012 begins is bothering him a bit. I have to think it's eating away at him more than he lets on.

With just two goals in his last 20 games, it's probably starting to reach snake-bitten levels. And while he leads the team and is among the league leaders in assists, "88" is probably wondering what his off-season conditioning commitment (before wrist surgery) and goals for a huge, Hart Trophy-worthy career year has gotten him.

He's been the good soldier, switching back and forth between center and wing, and says the most important thing is that the team is still among the best in the NHL without his hoped-for goal production. I -- and probably Kane himself -- can't believe he'll wind up with under 20 goals. He's way too gifted for that to happen, but we wait.

And yes, the good news is the team is where it is despite those numbers.

Power play unit

Kane was moved to the second power play unit at Tuesday's practice.

Back on the first unit was Andrew Brunette -- who has as many goals this season as Kane while averaging six-and-a-half fewer minutes of ice time. After scoring four power play goals the first month of the season, and with that unit in a 1-for-22 funk, the veteran with the soft hands and the "strong base" who doesn't mind camping out in front deserves the opportunity.

It's a big reason they made him one of those July 1st signings. Besides Kane, the second unit included the guy 16 years Brunette's junior to see if he can handle that position. Jimmy Hayes started his NHL career skating on a line with Brunette, and we're sure some secrets about playing that role to jump-start the PP will be shared to see if the kid can earn a longer stay with the big club than the Saads, Pirris, Morins and Smiths.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: