Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Two weeks notice for Chicago

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Hawk Talk: Two weeks notice for Chicago

Sunday, March 27, 2011Posted 3:06 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Saturdays loss to Anaheim marked the 24th time this season the Blackhawks led or were tied in the third period, and failed to come up with two points. Theyve come up with single points in just six of those games.

The defending champs have improved on that early-season flaw lately, but the timing--and the opponent--made number 24 hurt a little more. It dropped them to eighth in the West with eight games to go, three wins behind the Ducks in the tie-breaker, four points behind Los Angeles and Nashville and five in back of Phoenix. While Chicago has more games-in-hand compared to those four, the Monday and Tuesday back-to-backs in Detroit and Boston force them to live, learn and move on mentally to get on with the challenge of the final two weeks of the regular season. Theyll have consecutive days off just once in that span.

Weve done blown leads in the third period too many times this season. Weve been playing well defensively, havent allowed too many goals, yet we lost the game, said Troy Brouwer after the entire team was put through a half-hour workout Sunday morning (save for Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland). Just had a couple little letdowns that led to their goals. Were taking the positives we can. We didnt get a lot of help in the standings and have to get ready to go into Detroit.

Its a Wings team the Hawks see three times these final two weeks and Patrick Kane knows what their arch-rivals probably thinking.

Its a huge game for us tomorrow, obviously," he said. "Im sure Detroit wants to send a message to us that they dont want us to be in the playoffs and get a little redemption on us. But if we go out and play the way we should, we should be okay.

The way the Hawks should play especially since Sharp joined Bolland on the sidelines is defense-first. Going by the numbers, theyve allowed three goals (and scored seven) in the last three games. They got burned on the only two they allowed Saturday by the best line in hockey right now, while their own offensive stars had trouble generating enough pressure.

The result increased the pressure on them this week to hunt for points against two teams that are among the leagues best, but have hardly been dominant at home. The Wings are 20-12-5 at The Joe. The Bruins are 18-13-5 at The Garden. The Wings wont have Pavel Datsyuk or goalie Jimmy Howard Monday against the Hawks, but Johan Franzens expected to return after missing four games with a groin injury.

So how about an updated estimate from head coach Joel Quenneville on the ever-rising bar on the points it will take to get into the playoffs?

Ninety-six, seven, eight," he said. "Thats a realistic number youre going to need. Theres a couple numbers up there youd like to get that put you in a much better spot, and that includes home-ice advantage.
Sharp a Bit Sharper

One week has passed since Patrick Sharps knee-to-knee collision in Phoenix that resulted in a two- to three-week timetable for his return. Joel Quenneville wasnt yet ready to change that when asked about Sharps progress Sunday, but expressed hope.

Im not going to say when hes hitting the ice, but hes making some rapid progress here," he said. "Im really pleased and encouraged that hes been able to ratchet-up his off-ice training and conditioning. Well get a better assessment, but I dont have a number of days before hes back on the ice, but weve been happy with his progress.

He also said he doesnt envision being at the point where they rule Dave Bolland out for the year after taking an elbow to the head two-and-a-half weeks ago. He again called the centers situation status quo, with a little bit of progress.

Once he feels well enough, Bolland would begin off-ice exercises and must feel no ill-effects before graduating to on-ice activity. Once that hurdles cleared without symptoms, hed have to pass baseline testing before getting a green light to return to practice.

The Line Dance

For those whove watched Joel Quenneville for three years, it shouldnt be a real surprise that he mixed the lines up at Sunday mornings practice. Troy Brouwer reunited on the left side with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, while Viktor Stalberg skated with Ryan Johnson and Fernando Pisani. Michael Frolik (0-for-4 in the faceoff circle Saturday night) was back at wing with Tomas Kopecky flanking Jake Dowell. Then there were Marian Hossa and Bryan Bickell centered byMarcus Kruger (6-for-12 on the dot versus the Ducks).

I think there is some upside offensively with him, Quenneville said of Kruger after practice. Hes got some quickness to him, and I think his overall thought process is exactly what you look for in a centerman. Im getting a little more comfortable in where you can use him and how often you use him.

As for Brouwer:

Whether its him or Bick, we can use some more physicality up front. I think we get more zone time, more threats off the rush, and need more of a net-front presence, fighting through that space and fighting through getting boxed-out. Its a tough area but we need those guys to be even more involved.

Im excited for it, said Brouwer. Ive played on-and-off with these guys for the last two years and feel comfortable playing with them. Hopefully we can go out and help the team.

No changes in net Monday night, where Corey Crawford (.958 save percentage the last three games) will make his 20th consecutive start in goal.

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

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.