Blackhawks

Extra money isn't burning hole in Bowman's wallet

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Extra money isn't burning hole in Bowman's wallet

CALGARY, Alberta The Chicago Blackhawks have a tidy little chunk of change at their disposal. Yes, were talking a few million dollars here, something the Blackhawks havent enjoyed in some time.

But just because they have it doesnt mean general manager Stan Bowman is ready to spend it.

The Blackhawks are off to the start they wanted this season. They have good personnel and good depth. So even though the Blackhawks now have about 6 million in cap space after Rostislav Olesz was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs, Bowman said theyll hold onto that cash for a while.

Were not in a rush to spend money, he said prior to the Blackhawks game against the Calgary Flames on Friday night. We have a lot more cap space than weve had before, and when the time is right, if the opportunity comes, we wont hesitate to move on it. Right now, we dont have any things were close to doing or looking at. But were always looking ahead at what might be there. Well see what happens.

The Blackhawks are enjoying this extra-cash thing. The biggest advantage right now is avoiding last seasons rigmarole of sending players back and forth from Rockford just to save cash.

On the trade and acquisition front, the Blackhawks can afford (no pun intended) to sit back and wait. First, its November. This isnt exactly the big trade or pick-up time of year. As Bowman said, nobodys giving up on their season yet.

Most (trades) come down in the second half and in the few weeks nearing the deadline. Its not like theres a lot of opportunities out there. Most teams that will eventually become sellers are not sellers yet.

Second, the Blackhawks arent exactly in need of making a move. Theyre winning. Theyve got plenty of depth. Hockey seasons are long and things can change quickly. If the Blackhawks suffer a big injury and need to pick someone up to supplement the loss, they can. If they want to get a gem come late winter, early spring, they can.

The Blackhawks like having extra cash to play with. Theyll spend it wisely.

Were trying to improve any deficiencies we may have as the season unfolds, Bowman said. We have a good idea where our team is at. Its inevitable things are going to change, whether its injuries or we hit a rough patch. Right now were not looking to do anything in particular. Were comfortable with the players we have.

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."