Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Surviving without their stars

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Hawk Talk: Surviving without their stars

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
3:45 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The news out of San Jose on Saturday morning, albeit a bit vague, was still pretty positive: some combination of the injured Blackhawks trio (Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Fernando Pisani) will be taking the ice soon in Chicago. One or more could be out there today. Same goes for Monday.

Good news, indeed, for a team thats been forced again to patchwork a lineup together in the hopes of finding success. But since this latest injury bug began at the end of their circus trip, the Blackhawks have somehow found a way to gather up some much-needed points. Granted, it hasnt been easy. They flirted with disaster against St. Louis and Dallas. Theyve called upreassigned Jeremy Morin enough that the kids frequent flyer miles probably rival mine. Theyve had to turn defensemen into forwards again.

Yet here they are with 35 points, good for fourth place in the Western Conference on a Sunday morning. And during this latest rash of injuries, beginning with Pisanis prior to the Nov. 27 game in Los Angeles, the Blackhawks have found a way to go 4-1-1. Thats without key penalty killer Pisani (upper body) and scoring stars Hossa and Kane.

So how did the Blackhawks get on a roll despite all of that? Theyve certainly banded together and played the team game, but a few individuals have stood out and in one case, sometimes stood on his head. Corey Crawford has been huge during this run, and if the 25-year-old hasnt been given a bunch of thank yous and steak dinners yet, he should be. Even in Saturday nights overtime loss to San Jose, Crawfords work was stellar. Without his big saves, that waived-off Viktor Stalberg goal is an oh-by-the-way mention instead of the potential game-winner. Coach Joel Quenneville said it couldve been Crawfords best game. Its hard to argue otherwise.

The Bryan Bickell-Dave Bolland-Troy Brouwer line has brought checking and some offense. John Scott has ignited the team with a few brawls.

Jonathan Toews has also been a force. He fired five shots on goal and was a threat throughout the night against the Sharks. The captain has been in top form lately and Im guessing the Blackhawks are feeding off that as much as the no-excuses mentality he and the team has no choice but to embrace.

Were at that point where its time to start expecting to play our best hockey, he said prior to the San Jose game. Right now I think were really starting to see some real results. Even though we have some injuries its time to go out and make things happen. We still have the guys who can do it.

The good news is, the reinforcements will soon return. The better news is how well the Blackhawks weathered the storm without them.

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.