Blackhawks

Hawks hope Sharp can make quick return

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Hawks hope Sharp can make quick return

Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Posted: 12:53 p.m. Updated: 3:32 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Patrick Sharp has arguably been the Chicago Blackhawks most consistent player this season. Now hes sidelined while the Blackhawks try to hold on to a playoff spot.

Sharp is out with a left knee injury and coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks hope to have him back before the end of the regular season. Sharp, who leads the Blackhawks this season with 34 goals, was hurt in a knee-on-knee collision with Phoenix defensemanRostislav Klesla at the end of the first period on Sunday.

He had a noticeable limp when he came out for the Blackhawks team photo prior to Tuesdays practice.

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We hope to have him back before the end of the regular season, thats where were at right now, Quenneville said. Its not long term, but right now long term is (long enough). He feels better these last couple of days, so well see his progress the next little bit.

The injury could have been worse it couldve been (like) Jordan Hendry, said Quenneville, referring to the defensemans season-ending torn ACL. Still, considering Sharps offensive output this season, the Blackhawks need to hold on in the West and the absence of center Dave Bolland (concussion), its a big hole in the lineup.

Sometimes (injuries) are all at the same time. Weve had stretches this year where its something youre dealing with, Quenneville said. Weve been resilient in a lot of ways and have a group that wants to get it done. Were not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We want to welcome the challenge.

The Blackhawks went through something similar to this in December, when they were without Marian Hossa (lower body) and Patrick Kane (ankle) for most of the month. The Blackhawks went 5-2-1 without the two, including the Dec. 5 victory vs. Calgary in which Kane was hurt 65 seconds into the game.

No one wants to be (injured) but quite a few guys are banged up in every locker room, said defenseman Brian Campbell , whos coming off a foot injury he sustained March 8 against Florida. Hopefully you can just play through them.

The Blackhawks will make adjustments among their forwards. Forward Marcus Kruger, who has played mainly center, is en route to Chicago from Sweden. Kruger had six goals and 29 assists in 52 games in Sweden this season.

Its an opportunity for us to assess him quickly and see how he fits right in. Were missing two important players, he plays center, so well see how that works out, Quenneville said. Hes got real good instincts and that could help quickly.

Viktor Stalberg joined Jonathan Toews and Kane on the top line at Tuesdays practice. Stalberg, who has been strong in recent games, played with the duo earlier this season.

I dont think anyone expects me to replace Sharpie, but Ill try to do everything I can, Stalberg said. (Toews and Kane) are one of the best tandems in the league. Any time you get a chance to be on the ice with them you feel pretty fortunate.

Quenneville said Stalbergs earned the opportunity.

He gives that line some speed; that was noticeable in (Sundays) game and we liked what he provided. When he played with them earlier in the year he did a good job. Hes been more efficient with the puck and hes going to get some high-quality opportunities offensively. Being responsible defensively helps.

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 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."