Blackhawks

LIVE: Blackhawks trail in Phoenix, 2-1 after 2nd

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LIVE: Blackhawks trail in Phoenix, 2-1 after 2nd

Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011
11:00 a.m.

Associated Press

By tightening up their defense, the Phoenix Coyotes have quickly put a disappointing stretch behind them.

The Coyotes look to win their fourth in a row Saturday night when they host the banged-up Chicago Blackhawks, who hope to bounce back from a discouraging loss heading into the finale of a six-game road trip.

After recording consecutive shutouts for the first time in his career against Minnesota last Saturday and Colorado on Monday, Ilya Bryzgalov made 16 saves for Phoenix (28-19-9) in Wednesday's 3-2 overtime win in Dallas. Radim Vrbata scored a power-play goal 1:13 into the extra period for the Coyotes, who are one-point ahead of eighth-place Calgary in the Western Conference.

"We have to play the way we've played the last three games," said Vrbata, who has three goals in his last two.

That means continuing to limit the number of shots their goaltender has to face.

Phoenix has allowed an average of 23.0 shots in winning its last three after yielding an average of 34.3 in its previous six. The Coyotes had lost six of eight prior to this winning streak, allowing at least four goals in each of those defeats.

"Our identity is to play a tight game, like you've seen the last three," forward Lee Stempniak said. "The big thing for us is to not have to go out and score five or six goals to get a win, if we can limit them to two goals, we have a way better chance to get a win."

The Coyotes are 20-0-3 when allowing two goals or fewer.

The Blackhawks (28-22-5) scored twice just over four minutes into Friday's game against Dallas, and took a 3-0 lead less than 13 minutes in, but ended up losing 4-3 in a shootout. It was the fifth loss in seven games for Chicago, which has been outscored 9-2 in the third period of those defeats.

"Every time we lose, it's the same thing that happens and we don't change it," said captain Jonathan Toews, who has two goals and 10 assists during a season-high six-game point streak. "We had a good first period, and we had a good effort, we were doing the right things and somehow it goes away in the second. I don't understand what's going on and the writing's on the wall. We get satisfied and we give teams a chance to come back ..."

The Blackhawks had a tough time Friday overcoming the loss of right wing Fernando Pisani, center Ryan Johnson and left wing Viktor Stalberg, as all three sustained upper-body injuries and didn't return. Coach Joel Quenneville said the three are day-to-day and will be evaluated on Saturday.

The Blackhawks are 11th in the West and three points behind the Flames, but Quenneville is trying to remain optimistic.

"We have a chance to be .500 on this trip, so we look at it in a positive way, and go from there," he said.

Quenneville is expected to go with Corey Crawford in net after backup Marty Turco played in his return to Dallas. Crawford, who has never faced Phoenix, is 1-3-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average in his last four starts after going 4-0-1 with a 0.97 GAA and two shutouts in his previous five.

This will be the first meeting between these teams since the Coyotes' 2-1 win in Chicago on Nov. 10. Phoenix is 4-1-0 against the Blackhawks since the start of last season, after being outscored 23-5 while losing the previous six meetings.

New Orleans has struggled in back-to-back scenarios, going 5-7 when playing for the second consecutive night.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

ST. LOUIS – Eddie Olczyk’s morning at Scottrade Center was full of hugs and handshakes, of questions and encouraging words, of smiles and even some tears.

It was a busy morning but a good one for Olczyk, who Wednesday night will do his first hockey broadcast since being diagnosed with colon cancer in August. For the first time in a while, Olczyk felt like himself.

“It feels normal. It feels comfortable,” said Olczyk, who will be alongside Doc Emrick when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues. “I just feel invigorated. Seeing a lot of familiar faces, guys busting chops and a lot of well wishes.”

Olczyk went through his usual game-day routine, including quick chats with Blackhawks players following skate. On Wednesday those talks were that much more special, for both sides.

“Great to see him,” said Ryan Hartman. “When I first saw I was pretty excited to see him back. It’s definitely a presence you know when you’re watching games, that voice you heard growing up. He looks good, looks healthy. He’s in a battle but he looks really good.”

Olczyk will also be in the booth on Thursday night when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. Past that, he’ll play it by ear. He’s talked to NBC and Blackhawks president John McDonough, who Olczyk said gave him an “open canvas” in terms of scheduling. If Olczyk feels good on Saturday and the Blackhawks play on Sunday, he’ll try to get back in the booth.

“We think about him every day and we’ve had the pleasure of having him come by a couple of times. Having him be here today for a road game is great to know,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he has a tough battle ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to fight it. We support him every single day.”

Olczyk started chemotherapy treatments in September and he has his good and bad days. Those will continue for a while. So will his fight to completely beat this. But for at least the next two nights Olczyk gets to return to a normal routine, and that’s the perfect panacea for a trying time.

“I’m overwhelmed with everybody,” Olczyk said. “But this is the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."