Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

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Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 5:34 p.m. Updated: 12:03 a.m.
By Chris BodenCSNChicago.com

The Blackhawks weren't flying quite as high as they would've liked en route to Game 7 in Vancouver Tuesday night. Left Wing Bryan Bickell could miss the remainder of the playoffs, no longer how long they last, but definitely the first-round series finale and whatever else could be immediately beyond.

"Bryan Bickell underwent surgery with our hand surgeon to repair a tendon lacerated during Game 2 of the Western Cnbference Quarterfinals," said Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement. "While the surgery was anticipated since the injury occurred, Bryan wanted to play before time ran out to complete the procedure appropriately. We anticipate a full recovery in approximately six to eight weeks."

Bickell had two goals in helping the team rally over the last three games, opening the scoring in Games Four and Six. He missed Game 3 after Canucks defenseman Sami Salo accidentally cut him near his wrist after a fall near the Blackhawks bench in Game 2.

Joel Quenneville did announce that Tomas Kopecky was (unlike for Game Five) on this trip and "progressing" from his upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the series opener, raising hope he might be available if the Hawks become the first 8th seed to rally from a 3-0 series deficit to beat a top seed.

But first things, first. The defending champs claim they're not spending much time worrying about who starts in goal for Vancouver Tuesday night, even if Cory Schneider was helped off the ice with only muscle cramping, and not anything more serious.

This will be the first Game 7 in Blackhawks history since 1995, when Denis Savard and company rallied from a 2-0 first-round deficit to defeat Toronto. The only players on the current roster who've played in playoff Game 7's are Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, and Marty Turco. Quenneville coached in three of them in St. Louis.

While Jonathan Toews may be having a quiet offensive series, Quenneville noted that he's been neutralized - and is neutralizing - 41-goal scorer Ryan Kesler, who's expected to be a Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) finalist this week. Each center's been held to no goals and three assists.

There are some interesting things to note about the new faces on each side as this series has progressed. Aside from the injured Manny Malhotra, Canucks GM Mike Gillis added Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Raffi Torres. Torres' hit on Brent Seabrook seems to have worked in reverse against his team. Ballard has been a healthy scratch the past two games. Hamhuis pushed Dave Bolland's head into the glass in Game 5, then got his come-uppance from Bolland behind the net Sunday night, setting up the first goal. Then he set up the third by tripping Michael Frolik, leading to his penalty shot.

On the Blackhawks' side, Frolik has two goals, five points and a plus-5 rating. Ben Smith's scored three goals. Chris Campoli's a plus-3 after committing his worst mistake since being acquired at the trade deadline, with the turnover that led to Vancouver's second goal. His teammates would make it a lot less costly.

The Sedins have combined for 12 points through six games (they had 10 in the six games a year ago), but didn't have Bolland in their grill the first three games.

Since Bolland has again treated the Sedin Twins like a scratchy, uncomfortable sweater (a combined minus-13 since his Game Four return, while Bolland has been plus-6), here are some Vancouver-related quotes he left the media with at O'Hare Monday before the team's departure for Game Seven:

On if any thoughts about the Canucks' scenario has crossed his mind: "I don't think I wanna be in those shoes."

If this year's "wingmen" with him (Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell) form a better line than last year's (Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg): "This one."

Because it's the current one? "Yep."

On whether he knew it was Hamhuis retrieving the puck behind Vancouver's net (after being upset wih Hamhuis pushing his head into the glass in Game 5), leading to his big hit, and the Hawks' first goal, by Bickell: "I think I knew from the blue line, in. I thought it felt better than a goal, yep."

On whether he'd ever vacation in Vancouver: "I'm pretty sure if I'm gonna go there on vacation it wouldn't be nice. They probably wouldn't let me in once I got to the border. I think people do recognize me and it's not the nices things they (could) say."

On defending the Sedins: "I don't think I have a formula. It's not like math. I just have to go out there and play. They're just two ordinary players." (This after admitting he heard about the Canucks calling him "nothing special," and "not a game-changer" upon his return to the lineup for Game 4)

On Toews' two goals in the last 18 games: "After last night, 'Tazer' asked me when he was gonna score. I was like, 'I dunno, pretty soon, hopefully.' I guess I'll just keep scoring."

Possible rematch?

If the Blackhawks complete their first-round series comeback from a 3-0 deficit Tuesday night in Vancouver, they'd face San Jose in the second round.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner (and series-clincher) early in overtime after the Sharks killed off a 5-minute Kings power play that spanned the end of regulation into the start of overtime. After their 4-3 win, the Sharks await either the Blackhawks or Red Wings in round two.

By virtue of the Sharks being the highest remaining seed in the West by virtue of the 8th- (and lowest) seeded Hawks knocking off number-one seed Vancouver, it would set up a rematch of last spring's Western Conference Final a round earlier, highlighted by Hawks Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi opposing his heir, Crawford.

But first-things-first: the Blackhawks need to defeat the Canucks in Vancouver in Game 7 Tuesday night.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

ST. LOUIS – Eddie Olczyk’s morning at Scottrade Center was full of hugs and handshakes, of questions and encouraging words, of smiles and even some tears.

It was a busy morning but a good one for Olczyk, who Wednesday night will do his first hockey broadcast since being diagnosed with colon cancer in August. For the first time in a while, Olczyk felt like himself.

“It feels normal. It feels comfortable,” said Olczyk, who will be alongside Doc Emrick when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues. “I just feel invigorated. Seeing a lot of familiar faces, guys busting chops and a lot of well wishes.”

Olczyk went through his usual game-day routine, including quick chats with Blackhawks players following skate. On Wednesday those talks were that much more special, for both sides.

“Great to see him,” said Ryan Hartman. “When I first saw I was pretty excited to see him back. It’s definitely a presence you know when you’re watching games, that voice you heard growing up. He looks good, looks healthy. He’s in a battle but he looks really good.”

Olczyk will also be in the booth on Thursday night when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. Past that, he’ll play it by ear. He’s talked to NBC and Blackhawks president John McDonough, who Olczyk said gave him an “open canvas” in terms of scheduling. If Olczyk feels good on Saturday and the Blackhawks play on Sunday, he’ll try to get back in the booth.

“We think about him every day and we’ve had the pleasure of having him come by a couple of times. Having him be here today for a road game is great to know,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he has a tough battle ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to fight it. We support him every single day.”

Olczyk started chemotherapy treatments in September and he has his good and bad days. Those will continue for a while. So will his fight to completely beat this. But for at least the next two nights Olczyk gets to return to a normal routine, and that’s the perfect panacea for a trying time.

“I’m overwhelmed with everybody,” Olczyk said. “But this is the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."