Joel Quenneville

Blackhawks place Corey Crawford on IR, but what happened?

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Blackhawks place Corey Crawford on IR, but what happened?

The Blackhawks placed goaltender Corey Crawford on injured reserve and recalled Jean-Francois Berube from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, the team announced Friday.

It's unclear what Crawford's injury is, but there were a few moments in Thursday's 4-3 overtime loss against the Dallas Stars where he seemed to be laboring a bit. 

The first sign came early in the first period when Crawford made a shorthanded save on Mattias Janmark, going from left to right.

Crawford shrugged it off, so it was hard to think anything of it.

But it became more apparent that something wasn't right in the third period when he had to make a quick reactionary save on Tyler Seguin's redirection with 13:46 left. The Blackhawks netminder was visibly slow to get up. 

And when the play exited the Blackhawks zone, Crawford needed an extra second or two to gather himself.

Whether or not this is related to what forced him to land on injured reserve, it's a crucial blow for the Blackhawks who are fighting for a wild card spot in the Western Conference and will be without arguably their most important player for the next week, at least.

Berube, 26, is 6-6-0 with a 2.54 goals against average, .913 save percentage and two shutouts in 12 appearances this season for the IceHogs.

Fourth line adding a little of everything, including goals, for Blackhawks

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Fourth line adding a little of everything, including goals, for Blackhawks

They know their role, what they have to do every time they’re on the ice. Fourth liners are out there to bring energy, to bring a physical presence, the sandpaper, the grit, all those familiar terms.

As for what fourth liners want to do? Well with that, they’re like every other hockey player.

“You know, we all play this game for one reason and that’s to score goals,” Tommy Wingels said recently. “Whether you’re a five-goal scorer or a 50-goal scorer, you go out there wanting to score a goal every shift. that being said, are we going to do that? No. But we’re certainly going to try every shift.”

For Wingels, Lance Bouma and John Hayden, who have comprised the Blackhawks’ fourth line for most of this season, the trying has yielded some good results lately. All three have scored in recent games; Wingels and Bouma provided the goals in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to Nashville on Tuesday night, with Wingels nearly tying the game late.

When the Blackhawks were experimenting with different line combinations during their scoring drought, the fourth line remained intact. That’s mainly because those three serve a certain purpose but it’s also because it’s been consistent. Bouma, in and out of the Calgary Flames’ lineup the last two seasons due to injury or lack of production, has found a steady role here. Wingels was expected to play mainly wing but has found his niche at center. Hayden brings skill and the physical element, mixing it up a few times this season.

It didn’t take long for the three to mesh and get familiar with each other’s tendencies.

“We played with each other for most of the year so we know where everyone’s going to be on the ice. And it’s a good combination,” Bouma said. “We have a good mixture on the line. We’re all gritty guys, we all want the puck and are hungry on it. If we continue to play like that we’ll have some success.”

The fourth liners know their role: bring the energy, the grit, the physical presence, all of that. But goal scoring is never frowned upon, and those three have brought that, too.

“It’s a lot of different things we try to do. We try to be physical, we try to draw penalties, we try to bring momentum in our favor, we try to play well defensively,” Wingels said. “It’s just doing anything we can to help this team win.”

Cat with the hat: Alex DeBrincat's latest trick fuels high-scoring Blackhawks

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Cat with the hat: Alex DeBrincat's latest trick fuels high-scoring Blackhawks

Patrick Sharp has been highly complementary of Alex DeBrincat since the 19-year-old started camp with the Blackhawks in September. But on DeBrincat’s biggest night as a pro, the night he celebrated his first NHL hat trick, Sharp nevertheless had to give the kid some grief.

“It was awesome. Only problem is he had that mustache for it,” Sharp deadpanned. “So he’s gonna be on TV a lot with that ugly mustache.”

All Movember-motivated facial hair aside, DeBrincat has developed his game just fine with the Blackhawks. He’s improving his defense with every game. He’s flipped from the left to the right side without missing the beat. And this month DeBrincat has tapped into the offensive potential that was on full display during his Erie Otters days, celebrating that hat trick in the Blackhawks’ 7-3 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night. DeBrincat now has nine of his 10 goals in November.

“Special night for him,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He finds the net, he sees pucks, gets himself available, the puck follows him around, he has a great stick, his anticipation is high end, play recognition, special player. Nice.”

DeBrincat had a huge smile on his face as United Center spectators threw hats onto the ice. After the game he was a little more subdued.

“It was nice. Pucks were bouncing my way, and it’s cool to get that over with,” he said. “I think today the puck luck was there for me and for a lot of the guys. So I thought that was a big reason I had those chances.”

Maybe, but DeBrincat was already a proven goal scorer at the OHL level. It was just a matter of time before the Blackhawks found out if he could do the same in the NHL. So far, so good.

“He’s a great player,” Sharp said. “You could tell that in training camp, whenever he got the puck he just has poise with it and he’s looking to make a play. I said earlier that he was playing like he’s in junior hockey still, and that’s a compliment. Because he’s looking to make those plays, he’s not intimidated at all by the speed or the pace of the game, and you can see the results.”

Patrick Kane recorded three assists, his second the feed that led to DeBrincat’s third goal. Sharp broke out of his slump. So did Ryan Hartman, with two assists. So did Nick Schmaltz. The Blackhawks got off to another strong start and didn’t look back, the goals that were so elusive a few weeks ago now coming in bunches.

“I mean, in those games we were just one play away. Pucks were rolling on us. Sometimes they don’t go in for you, and other nights everything goes in,” Schmaltz said “You have to stick with it, can’t get too high or too low. It’s a long season, so you just have to bring the same mindset every night.”

The Blackhawks’ tests don’t end. They’re just starting a busy week that continues Tuesday night in Nashville. But the confidence is surging. So is the offense. So is DeBrincat.

“He’s a great kid. He’s doing well for us, and he’s playing a big role,” Schmaltz said. “He’s a goal scorer. It’s fun to watch. The guy just finds a way to put the puck in the net and not a lot of guys can do that, especially at this level. Hopefully he keeps that up and he’ll help our team succeed.”