Blackhawks

Hawks miss out on Parise, Suter but Bowman still confident

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Hawks miss out on Parise, Suter but Bowman still confident

The Chicago Blackhawks failed to land coveted forward Zach Parise on Wednesday, but general manager Stan Bowman is confident the Blackhawks will get what they need either through free agency, or through trades.

Parise was pursued by the Blackhawks during this early free-agency period but he went home, literally, signing a 13-year, 98-million deal with the Minnesota Wild. It was a disappointing pill to swallow for the Blackhawks; but Parises decision and that of Ryan Suter, who also signed with the Wild and whom also the Blackhawks were interested in early -- didn't totally surprise Bowman.

"We made a very appealing offer to them, but they didn't grow up in Chicago," Bowman said on a conference call on Wednesday night. The Blackhawks were one of the finalists for Parise, and Bowman said they made a "very impressive offer" for the Devils forward.

"Ultimately it came down to a family decision. Those are things that are sometimes hockey decisions, sometimes family decisions, and you respect that," Bowman said. "Players like to play in their hometowns and there are family considerations with the wife. When those are the things that are the tipping point, you have to wish them well and move on to the next matter at hand. We made an impressive case. That's the feedback we got from the agent."

The Blackhawks also went after veteran goaltender Martin Brodeur, who chose to re-sign with the Devils. But Bowman said approaching Brodeur didn't mean his confidence in Corey Crawford and Ray Emery wavered.

"He's the winningest goalie in the game; youd foolish not to talk with him. But beyond that, I don't think it says anything about (lack of confidence)," Bowman said. "I've said this for a long time: anytime you can talk to a player like that, it doesnt really disparage players. You wouldnt be doing your job if you didnt talk to them."

So what's next?

Matt Carle is one of the bigger free agents remaining. Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash have been mentioned in various trades. Considering the deals handed out for defensemen thus far, Carle could be cashing in on a massive payday. The Blackhawks may not want to get caught up in that.

Bowman said hell continue to look at free agency and trade possibilities to improve the Blackhawks, who are coming off two first-round exits. His objective, however, is not necessarily about making a splash.

Our (objective) is to win hockey games, he said. Its to put a team on the ice to give us the best chance to win the Cup next year. Its not like we have seven holes to fill. Last years team had 101 points and there was a lot more to give. There are ways to be better with that same group. Think there was some growth from within that were going to do, and well look at adding players from the outside.

Trades wont be ruled out, either.

A source said that the Blackhawks were looking at Jay Bouwmeester as the calendar turned to July. The Calgary Flames have nine defensemen including Bouwmeester, who has two years remaining on his current contract (at a 6.68 million cap hit per season).

The Blackhawks didnt land Parise. Neither did the other teams who were in hot pursuit of them. Bowman will continue to look at the options. There does need to be changes off last years team, no doubt. But Bowman wont break the bank, and the Blackhawks dont need a complete overhaul to get where they need to be.

Im not saying were simply going to sit and stand still where were at. Theres always the possibility of making acquisitions, trades, he said. We cant forget that in the season last year, we didnt have ending we wanted. But weve got some good pieces in Chicago, and were fortunate for that.

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."