Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Time for PK to kill, or be killed?

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Hawk Talk: Time for PK to kill, or be killed?

Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
6:39 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

The Blackhawks 0-for-3 result on the penalty kill in Wednesdays loss to Dallas didnt drop them to the bottom of the NHL, after all.

When we woke up Thursday morning, the unit that ranked fourth in the league a year ago was actually 28th. But there really is nowhere to go but up after a Stars squad that came to town converting 10 percent on its road power play hit the trifecta.

As you would guess Thursday, there were meetings, there were stops and starts on the ice for instruction and direction, and roughly half the practice was devoted to The Kill.

Whether its lanes and shots, clears, pressuring together, stick positioning, it goes hand-in-hand, said head coach Joel Quenneville. When youre victimized on a night like last night, being confident, having composure and working together and wanting to be out there is part of the solution. You get hesitant out there and gun shy. I think youd want to be out there and get it done. I think thats our focus and mindset right now going forward.

Marian Hossa agreed that changing momentum on that unit begins with an attitude adjustment.

Right now theres hesitation in our game on the PK. We could be in the right spots, but that half-second hesitation we just have to stop thinking. Thats why we had a meeting today and we did lots of PK on the ice about being on the same page. Dont think about it, just know your job and go out there and do it.

Hossas played six games since missing ten with a lower body injury and says hes still trying to find the level he played at the first three weeks of the season. After two assists in his return versus Columbus, collecting just one point (a goal Monday night in Los Angeles) doesnt sit well with him, and he knows it doesnt sit well with anyone else.

I need to get there sooner and faster. The team needs offense from everybody and I have to find a way to put the puck in the net. We know our jobs and have to be better at that. Like I said, after injury time is crucial. Im still finding the right timing and hopefully I find it soon so I can be effective and help the team win hockey games.

Patrick Kane (three assists in five games after missing eight) shares Hossas frustration.

You cant just have Sharpie and Tazer going. Youve got to have some of the other guys helping them that are go-to guys. Thats what was so great about our team last year. We had different guys stepping up every night. I think thats something both of us take pride in, scoring goals, making plays and helping out the offense. So when youre not doing that, its certainly not a good feeling, but we know we can get better and I think both of us are headed in the right direction.

Some of the depth guys stepped up last month during Kanes and Hossas absence. In the long run, though, its the Cup returnees who must lead the way back to the postseason.

Weve been here awhile, said All-Star defenseman Duncan Keith. We know what needs to be done. Its just a matter of everyone working together and getting it done. Definitely, the guys thatve been here need to lead the way.

Thats got to be in place for everything to work, said Quenneville. You need everybody to be a part of it, but certain guys, you expect them to be your top players. Thats always gonna be what makes the ship work.

Bad Bookends

No matter what the shots-on-goal totals indicate, the Blackhawks were fortunate to escape the first periods of their games in Anaheim and Los Angeles tied at one, and were even worse Wednesday. If the team is already having trouble finishing games, the last thing it needs are poor starts.

Probably our two toughest starts of the year were our last two games, according to Quenneville. You could argue our first game back last night (from the west coast) was part of it, but not to the extent of how poorly we played the first 20 minutes. Thats a huge hole. We were fortunate in L.A. and even last night, but its a situation where starts are critical to the outcome of games."

Our starts the last couple of games havent been good at all and we know that, agreed Kane. We have to get better, especially in front of our home crowd. Its a good situation for us to come in and get them into it. Second period last night, we tie the game 2-2 and the crowds on fire. Its fun to play in front of a crowd like that and if we get off to the start we want, theyll be there for us the whole game.

Briefly

38-year-old defenseman Jassen Cullimore, who recently cleared waivers, was assigned to Rockford. He played in 36 games, collecting eight assists, eight penalty minutes, and a plus-4 rating.

Its believed that 19-year-old Nick Leddy will be brought up ahead of Fridays game against Ottawa, now that his duties for Team USA at the World Junior Championships are completed. In six games earlier this season with the Hawks, Leddy had a goal a minus-1 rating. Since that time, in 22 games at Rockford, Leddy collected two goals and eight assists.

It could happen, Quenneville smiled when asked if Leddy was on his way back.

Cory Crawford will get a fourth straight start in goal versus the Seantors.

Thursdays practice Line Dance, left-to-right, for those interested:

Stalberg-Toews-Kane

Kopecky-Sharp-Hossa

Bickell-Bolland-Pisani

Brouwer-JohnsonDowell-Skille

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

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.