Blackhawks

Kane back at center, for the time being

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Kane back at center, for the time being

Everyone now knows Patrick Kane is more than capable at playing center. So with Marcus Kruger still sidelined and Brandon Pirri reassigned to Rockford, the Blackhawks will turn to Kane again for that No. 2 center spot.

Kane was centering a line with Patrick Sharp and Viktor Stalberg on Thursday as the Blackhawks prepared for Friday nights game against the Detroit Red Wings.

Pirri had filled that role the past three games. The young center earned rave reviews from coach Joel Quenneville against Montreal but wasnt as strong in the last two games.

So its another turn with Kane, who was centering the second line by the end of Wednesday nights game against the Los Angeles Kings.

I guess the last few times I went to center we had some balance. We had some pressure, some chances, Kane said. I guess they want to start it out that way and well see how it goes.

Kane has been struggling in the goal department lately, but hes pairing with two who havent. Stalberg had a four-game point streak before Wednesdays shutout, and Sharp had a nine-game point streak recently.

Its always good to play with some good combinations. Sharpies been playing great and so has Stalberg. So its good to play with two pretty confident guys right now.

Kruger will probably be back at that No. 2 spot when he returns. But when that is, is anyones guess. Kruger is sidelined once again with a concussion after taking a few big hits on Monday against Columbus. Quenneville said Kruger is feeling better, but he has yet to skate and hes out tomorrow against Detroit.

And Quenneville knows what he gets with Kane at center.

He seems to have the puck a little bit more and it seems we have more threats on both lines with him in the middle, Quenneville said. Thats part of it.

Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

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Artem Anisimov keeps his vow, dons a mustache and raises his productivity in November

Artem Anisimov wasn’t happy with his October.

The Blackhawks center struggled the first month of the season. Maybe it was adjusting to new line mates after being with the same two for two seasons. Maybe it was just a slow start. Maybe it was more than that. Regardless, Anisimov was frustrated. So as October turned to November, Anisimov told Patrick Sharp that he was going to get back on track.

“He’s scoring lots of goals and he said he was going to in the month of November,” Sharp recalled. “So he’s backing it up.”

Anisimov is doing that, recording five goals in his last three games including a hat trick against his former team, the New York Rangers, on Wednesday. Since November’s start, Anisimov has seven goals.

“My start of the season was not great,” Anisimov said. “But I keep working hard and be focused and say, ‘OK, November. I’m going to step up in November and forward.’”

When told of Anisimov’s prediction to Sharp, coach Joel Quenneville said, “well, now he set a precedent. We’ll have to look for it every month now.

“Quite a standard he was looking to achieve and got off to a great start here,” Quenneville said. “When Arty’s at the net he makes good plays, takes it to the net, draws some traffic to him and opens up other lanes behind him. I still think he has a purpose defensively, which he can add to that line.”

Anisimov’s resurgence coincides with the Blackhawks doing the same thing; after an up-and-down start, both are finding their rhythm again. For the Blackhawks it could be finding some line chemistry. For Anisimov it might be the same thing; he and Kane have been back together since Nov. 12, and those two and Nick Schmaltz have combined for a dynamic second line.

Or is it that mustache that Anisimov’s growing for Movember?

“I thought when you were saying what you were saying (about Anisimov’s vow), he made that statement when he got Kaner back on his line. But I think it was right when he shaved his beard into a mustache. That’s when he took off,” Jonathan Toews said with a laugh. “So that’s the biggest correlation right there.”

OK, teaming up with Kane again probably looms larger. The two have had great chemistry dating back to the 2015-16 season, when they first teamed with Artemi Panarin. Kane’s puck possession helps free Anisimov up to do his work at the net, and he’s been capitalizing there.

“He’s had a great month. He’s just one of those guys who gets to the front of the net and finds ways to be productive,” Kane said. “Maybe seven or eight games ago people were talking about how he was struggling and now he’s having a great start to the season. It shows how a few games can change that but he’s been great for us, not only scoring a lot of goals but a lot of big goals to get some wins.”

Still, hockey players are a superstitious lot. Players have ribbed Anisimov about the mustache — “I asked him to serve me a sparkling water on the airplane because he looks like a waiter in France or something,” Sharp said. But considering Anisimov’s mustache and the points sprouted at the same time, they’re now imploring Anisimov to keep it.

“Yep,” Anisimov said with a grin. “That’s true.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: After 20 games, do we know the identity of this Blackhawks team?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast Tracey Myers and Jamal Mayers join Pat Boyle to discuss the teams wins over the Rangers and Penguins.  Have they figured some things out and what is the identity of this team after 20 games?

Jammer weighs in on Artem Anisimov’s big week and are there enough Hawks committed to net front presence?  They also discuss the surging play of the blue liners and did the Hawks fail to send a message to Evgeni Malkin, after he kneed Corey Crawford in the head?