Blackhawks

Hawks leaning on each other during slump

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Hawks leaning on each other during slump

NEW YORK Jonathan Toews gave a few smiles on Wednesday, an expression thats been hard to display considering the Blackhawks past few weeks of games.

Trouble sleeping, conversations on hockey and nothing but hockey, Toews and the Blackhawks are experiencing a lot of that right now. Nobody understands the life of a struggling athlete more than another struggling athlete. So with the pressure to win leaning on them heavy, the Blackhawks are leaning on each other.

The Blackhawks will look to snap their nine-game winless streak on Thursday, when they take on the surging New York Rangers. Its been a long haul on an already long road trip for the Blackhawks, who are dazed at whats happened the last three weeks. But theyve tried to take advantage of their time around each other, talking it out and trying to keep each others spirits high.

Every day were reminding each other that were teammates, friends and family. Well pull through it together, Toews said. Were not holding any of the bad luck or discouraging things against each other. Thats the biggest thing.

Dave Bolland said hes never been through a skid like this, dating all the way back to his junior hockey days. Keeping spirits high has been difficult, at best. But he said the team dichotomy has to pull the Blackhawks out of this off the ice as well as on it.

We go down as one and we win as one, he said. When one guys down, you boost him up. Were always helping teammates. Thats the one thing with this team: were a family. If anybodys down and anything happens, theres another guy to bump him up or say something.

And for those who think the Blackhawks are just turning off the hockey thoughts as soon as they leave the rink, guess again. Toews talked about having some sleepless nights lately. Patrick Sharp said the conversation is all hockey all the time, from on the ice to at the dinner table its not like you punch out of the rink and clear mentally, Sharp said. We take our job seriously.

The Blackhawks say theyre pulling together during this slump. They have to. Other teams are still gunning for them and nobodys feeling sorry for them.

They were a tight group when they were winning. They have to be just as tight, if not tighter, to start winning again.

It does get to be tough when youre losing to come to the rink. Nobody likes talking about it; everybody likes to stay away from it. But we do talk about it, Bolland said. Its never fun being in one of these and its tough. For us, talking and anything we can do to get out of it is positive.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: