Blackhawks

Positive news on Hawks' injury front

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Positive news on Hawks' injury front

Sean O'Donnell didn't see any of the Winnipeg Jets' home debut on Sunday, but he's got a pretty good idea of how the crowd reacted.

"I played for the (Minnesota) Wild that first year (in 2000) and the fans were so excited to have hockey back," the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman said. "We didn't have a great team but it didn't matter if we lost every game 10-0. They were so happy to have us back. It's a passion. I can imagine because I remember Minnesota."

And that's pretty much how the Jets, who will play the Blackhawks on Thursday, were received in their first home game: they got beat badly but it didn't matter. The fans, very few of whom left despite the blowout, gave their new Jets a standing ovation.

The city if Winnipeg is embracing its second chance at having an NHL squad. It was tough for them losing the original Jets in the mid 1990s, when exorbitant salaries were too much for the small-market team to handle. They wanted that again.

That was evident in September 2010, when the Blackhawks played a preseason game there against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena was packed, most fans backing the Blackhawks and plenty wearing the sweater of city native Jonathan Toews. And now Winnipeg can enjoy it all season long again.

For those who played against the old Jets, it was a welcome sight.

"You can tell how excited they are, be it at the draft or going into the (opening) game. Even getting beat at home the support is there," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "These guys live and breathe it every day. When we played that preseason game last year, there was definitely appetite of wishful thinking of getting a team. And it transpired in a positive way."

Winnipeg is part of the hockey landscape again. Yes, the team struggled out of the gate. But they are in a city that wanted hockey and will actually put butts in the seats for the sport.

"It's good to have any hockey market that can support a franchise," O'Donnell said. "As many teams as you can get in those markets, it's good for the game."

The big 4-0

Blackhawks defenseman Sean O'Donnell will celebrate his 40th birthday on Thursday. Patrick Sharp said they'll be sure to get the veteran something.

"We were joking earlier we're going to get a contact list of everyone's phone numbers except instead of the guys in the room it'll be our parents numbers so he has lots of people to hang out with after the games," Patrick Sharp said.
Injury updates

Corey Crawford (groin) missed a second day of practice but Quenneville anticipates him practicing Wednesday. He's still expected to start against Winnipeg on Thursday.

Ben Smith (concussion) practiced with the team on Tuesday. And while he wasn't cleared for contact yet, Quenneville thinks it could happen soon.

"Benny looked as good as I've seen him (on Tuesday) and felt good too. So he's real close to getting into the game," Quenneville said.

Viktor Stalberg (left knee) skated on his own on Tuesday and could join the Blackhawks practice on Wednesday.

Briefly

Former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien will be part of the Jets' lineup when they play the Blackhawks on Thursday. It will be the first game on the United Center ice for both since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

Daniel Carcillo was once again teamed with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa at Tuesday's practice.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night:
 
1. That's how you start a game.

The Blackhawks haven't had the best of starts over the last couple weeks or so — aside from their recent four-goal first period against New Jersey. But they flew out of the gates in Pittsburgh.

Chicago recorded 27 shot attempts (11 on goal) in the opening frame compared to Pittsburgh's 13 attempts (nine on goal), and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 11-2.

Two of those chances were breakaways from Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews, but both were denied by Matt Murray. The Blackhawks cashed in on one of two power play opportunities, however, and took a 1-0 lead into the second.

2. Power play strikes again.

Speaking of power plays, the Blackhawks came up empty on their first one of the game, but they were handed another one 44 seconds later at the midway mark of the first and capitalized when Gustav Forsling slipped one five-hole past Murray. 

It's the third consecutive game the Blackhawks have scored on the man advantage, something they hadn't done since Oct. 7-12 when they scored in four straight. It's also the second consecutive game the power play unit netted the game winner.

The Blackhawks are 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on the power play in their last three games after going 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) in their previous 12. 

3. Should Blackhawks have pushed back immediately following Corey Crawford injury?

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Evgeni Malkin swiped Crawford in the mask while racing for a loose puck, forcing the Blackhawks netminder to exit before returning a few minutes later.

Malkin was given a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference, but should the Blackhawks have stood up for Crawford at the expense of getting tagged with a penalty themselves?

No question a power play opportunity with a chance to make it a two-goal game at that stage of the game — and against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who hadn't lost in regulation at home this season going into the matchup —  is important, but the Blackhawks' lack of retaliation was a bit surpising. 

It wasn't a dirty play by Malkin by any means, but there's a principle involved when your goaltender gets hit like that. Those are the kinds of penalties you shouldn't mind taking, and at the very worst it would've been 4-on-4 hockey with one of Pittsburgh's best forwards in the box.

4. Artem Anisimov stays hot.

The goals keep coming for No. 15.

After the Penguins tied it up at 1-1 in the third period with a shorthanded goal, Anisimov scored 21 seconds later on the power play to put the Blackhawks back in front 2-1.

Anisimov now has nine goals in his last 10 games after scoring just one goal in his first 10 to start the season. He also has four game-winning goals on the season, all of which have come this month. Brandon Saad leads the NHL with five.

5. Alex DeBrincat extends point streak.

Lost in the shuffle was the Blackhawks' top rookie getting on the scoresheet once again.

With an assist on Forsling's power play goal in the first period, DeBrincat extended his point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists in that span, and is averaging a point per game over his last nine (six goals and three assists).

DeBrincat also moved into a three-way tie with Richard Panik and Toews for second on the team with 13 points.