Blackhawks

Hossa back to early-season, healthy form

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Hossa back to early-season, healthy form

Thursday, March 10, 2011Posted: 2:10 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

TAMPA, Fla. Marian Hossa started the 2010-11 season about as strong as he possibly could have, scoring seven goals over his first seven games.

The few months following, however, were pretty quiet, as Hossa battled injuries and struggled to find the net when he was in the lineup. But lately, Hossa has looked more like his early-season self.

Hossa is finding his offense again, as evidence by his eight-game point streak that just ended against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. In that span the right wing tallied seven goals and five assists as part of a successful line with Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland.

Hes progressing in the right direction, coach Joel Quenneville said. The first two weeks (of this season) he was at the top level of the game, and now can see him getting better and better. Its nice to see him getting production as well.

For Hossa, a big part of his resurgence is thanks to his improved health, which was a problem through the middle part of the season. He missed five games with a shoulder injury, then 10 games in late Novemberearly December with a lower-body injury after a freak practice collision with former Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton. He also missed one game in January (flu) and another in February (vertigo).

Obviously its nice to play a bunch of games and get into a game situation for a longer period of time. It helps to have no injuries, no flu or anything like that. I can just play and get into a game tempo, said Hossa.

Hossa was just starting to develop some chemistry with Bolland, and it was benefiting them both. Bolland was on a four-game point streak before he was injured against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. If Bolland can get back quickly, that line should go back to its productive ways.

If not, Hossa will be looking to spark that production with another center. Maybe its Michael Frolik, who had a strong game at that spot on Wednesday night after Bollands departure. Frolik and Hossa have played a bit together this season with Tomas Kopecky, and Frolik showed that he can fit in at center just fine, despite not playing there for a while.

Regardless, the Blackhawks need Hossa to keep doing what hes done lately. Hes healthy, hes found his game again, and it can only be beneficial for the Blackhawks as they try to keep pace in the Western Conference. race

I just try to stay focused on the game, Hossa said. Hopefully nothing else will stop it.

Kubina suspended

Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina was suspended for three games Thursday for his elbow to Blackhawks Bolland's head on Wednesday night. Bolland took the hit in the first period of the Blackhawks 4-3 shootout loss and did not return. No penalty was called.

Bolland was to be re-evaluated today.

Kubina will forfeit 60,096.76 for the elbow; the money goes to the Players Emergency Assistance Fund.

Briefly

The Blackhawks did not practice on Thursday. Instead, they visited wounded soldiers and their families at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

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 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.