Blackhawks

'Dependable' Emery will start vs. Avalanche

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'Dependable' Emery will start vs. Avalanche

Updated: Monday, Feb. 6 at 6:09 p.m.

Joel Quenneville rolled out his reasons for going with Ray Emery against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Hes been solid, predictable and dependable. The guys played well in front of him the other night and he gave us a chance to get a point or two, he said. Unfortunately we didnt, but he deserves another start.

Basically, Quenneville said of Emery, every time hes been in the net for us this year hes been consistent.

Yes, Emery has been consistent. And right now, thats what the very inconsistent Chicago Blackhawks need.

Emery will get his second consecutive start on Tuesday night, as the Blackhawks look to end a five-game winless skid (0-4-1) in Denver. Corey Crawford will take a step back once again, much like he did in early December when Emery took the reins and went on a winning streak.

Perhaps that could happen again.

I think in Rays situation, he hasnt had a great chance to run with it, Quenneville said. Coreys had a lot of key games here recently. Well see how it plays out.

Ideally, Quenneville would like to have both his goaltenders as reliable, go-to options. But outside of a run from late December to mid-January, when Crawford and Emery were swapping in and out and both winning, that hasnt happened.

Granted, the differences in their goals-against average and save percentages arent tremendous. Crawford has a 2.94 GAA and a .900 save percentage while Emerys numbers are 2.73 and .904, respectively. But when Emery plays he wins, as hes compiled an 11-4-2 mark this season.

While Crawford cant be blamed for all of the Blackhawks recent woes the team defense has been suspect at best he hasnt been as strong as he could be. He certainly hasnt been as strong as he was last season, when his work down the stretch helped push the Blackhawks into the postseason.

Crawford admits he hasnt been as good as he could be, but doesnt think its about teams solving him from one season to the next.

Its still pretty much the same game, the same shots. I dont think thats the case where teams are figuring me out. The only problem is the consistency.

Is this going to be another case of backup replaces No. 1 goaltender for the top job? The Blackhawks have been down this path a few consecutive seasons already. But Quenneville isnt willing to commit to that road again just yet.

We dont want to get too far in advance. (Emerys) done well so well see how it goes, he said. Goaltending is a key part of our game. A lot of times a team in front responds to how the goaltender is playing.

The Blackhawks need a response to their current slide. Theyll see if Emery can provide the presence to spark it.

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

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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

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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."