Blackhawks

Toews last Blackhawk chosen; Sharp separated

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Toews last Blackhawk chosen; Sharp separated

Friday, Jan. 28, 2011Posted: 10:15 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

RALEIGH, N.C. You try to make sure a teammate makes his flight, and this is the thanks you get.

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews sat in the All-Star draft audience waiting to be selected, many hours after he tried to make sure teammate Patrick Kane caught the early-morning flight from Chicago to Raleigh. Finally, with the 16th pick, Kane gave Toews the call.

I guess hes realizing he does need me, Toews said with a laugh. He relies on me. And when he doesnt have me, he feels pretty lonely. I think hes covering his bases for Sunday.

Toews was the last of the Blackhawks to be selected in the inaugural All-Star player draft, and hell be surrounded by plenty of present and past teammates on Nicklas Lidstroms squad with Kane, Duncan Keith as well as Atlantas Dustin Byfuglien and Minnesotas Martin Havlat.

Patrick Sharp was selected right before Toews by fellow Thunder Bay nativeAll-Star captain Eric Staal.

The new format gave each captain and their two alternates a chance to draft their All-Star teammates, regardless of conference affiliation. It also opened the floodgates for some good-natured ribbing throughout the evening.

Keith didnt have to wait long, as Kane announced him as Team Lidstroms second selection.

I was just happy to get it out of the way there it was kind of a relief, Keith said. It was cool. Im sure it was fun for the fans, too, and thats what its all about. Im just kind of disappointed we didnt get Sharpie on the team.

Sharp, meanwhile, will be the lone Blackhawks player on Staals squad, although hell also be coached by Joel Quenneville and Mike Haviland.

(Kane) had a few chances to grab me and didnt, so Ill have to make him pay (on Sunday), Sharp said. I got the Hawks coaches on my side, anyways, so it looks like Ill get some ice time. Other than that you have to face all those guys, but it should be cool.

Even Sharp, who was selected right before Toews, had to have fun with the Blackhawks captain as he waited.

I shook his hand when I got picked, Sharp said. The only chance I have of getting drafted ahead of Jonny is a game like this. It was a big thrill for me.

Of course, with his selection-process power, Kane couldnt resist, either.

It looked like he was sweating from my point of view, too. I felt bad for him, Kane said with a laugh. Our teams going to be awesome. If we couldve gotten Sharpie, too, it wouldve been great. A lot of them are probably my picks, and were happy to have them.

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.