Blackhawks

With NHL trade deadline looming, Blackhawks hold out Erik Gustafsson from lineup

With NHL trade deadline looming, Blackhawks hold out Erik Gustafsson from lineup

With three days left until the NHL trade deadline, the Blackhawks held out defenseman Erik Gustafsson from Friday's game against the Nashville Predators for precautionary reasons. He also did not travel with the team to Dallas on Saturday.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton said after the game that the hockey operations department made the late call to scratch Gustafsson and the coaching staff "acted accordingly." Nick Seeler drew into the lineup for Gustafsson, and Slater Koekkoek was moved to the top pairing.

"Obviously, make a quick decision as far as what we’re going to do and you never know how it’s going to work out," Colliton said following a 2-1 overtime win for the Blackhawks' first home victory since Jan. 19. "But I thought Seeler did well. A lot of guys played extra minutes and hard minutes with all the penalties in particular. Thought we did a real good job of handling it. Our group did a good job of responding to that type of thing. Obviously Gus is a very popular guy in the room, but I thought we handled it well."

Gustafsson is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and there have been no extension talks between the Blackhawks and Gustafsson's representatives, so it's not surprising the team is exploring the market for the 27-year-old blue liner with the Blackhawks six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference going into the weekend.

And even though the Blackhawks responded nicely with a win over the Predators, Gustafsson's absence was felt inside the locker room.

"It sucks, but it’s part of the business," said Alex DeBrincat, who scored two goals, including the overtime winner. "We have to go out there and do our job and they have to do theirs. For us, we just need to go out there and play our game and not really worry about it."

Gustafsson is coming off a season in which he recorded a career-high 17 goals and 60 points. He has 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 59 games this season, and has a plus-8 rating during 5-on-5 play. 

Gustafsson carries a $1.2 million cap hit, which makes him an attractive piece to teams who are up in a financial crunch. He's a perfect third-pairing defenseman on a good team and can be a difference-maker for a playoff contender that's looking for a power play quarterback.

With Gustafsson likely to be moved before Monday's deadline, Lucas Carlsson was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League to serve as the extra defenseman on the upcoming four-game road trip. He leads all IceHogs blue liners in goals (five), assists (21) and points (26) through 48 games this season.

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2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

2010 Hawks Rewind: 3 things we noticed in Blackhawks' Game 1 win over Sharks

In honor of the 10-year anniversary of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, NBC Sports Chicago is re-airing each of the Blackhawks' 16 postseason wins from the run that ended a 49-year championship drought. You can join the conversation using #HawksRewind on social media.

Despite opening the Western Conference Final on the road, the Blackhawks overcame an early deficit to defeat the San Jose Sharks 2-1 in Game 1 at HP Pavillon. Here are three things we noticed in the win:

1. An epic goaltending battle

The Blackhawks and Sharks ranked third and fourth, respectively, in goals per game going into the playoffs, so it wasn't a surprise to see two of the NHL's best offensive teams reach the Final Four.

The offensive firepower was on full display in Game 1, with the two teams combining for 85 shots on goal, 68 scoring chances and 22 high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. But it was the goaltending that stole the show.

Antti Niemi made a career-high 44 saves on 45 shots for a save percentage of .978. He also stopped all 13 high-danger chances. His counterpart Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 38 of 40 shots, including all nine high-danger chances, for a save percentage of .950. 

2. Escaping the special teams nightmare

The Blackhawks made Game 1 very difficult on themselves in the special teams department. They committed five minor penalties compared to the Sharks' zero, which is as lopsided a ratio as you'll ever see in the playoffs.

The Sharks capitalized on one of those five chances but credit the Blackhawks for hanging in on the other four. They played a full 60 minutes without a single man advantage and made sure it wasn't the reason they lost the game.

3. The legend of Dustin Byfuglien grows

You are going to see a lot of Byfuglien in this series, and he didn't waste any time.

In a 1-1 tie, a wide-open Big Buff pounded his stick on the ice, received a pass from Patrick Kane in the high slot and buried a slap shot past Nabokov with 6:45 left in regulation and it turned out to be the game-winner.

Byfuglien scored a goal in all four games and was credited with the game-winner in three of them. Game 1 was just the start.

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Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

Blackhawks re-sign Highmore, Lankinen, agree to terms with 2 prospects

The Blackhawks announced on Thursday that they have re-signed pending restricted free agent forward Matthew Highmore and goaltender Kevin Lankinen, and agreed to terms with forward prospects Evan Barratt and Andrei Altybarmakyan on entry-level contracts.

Highmore's deal runs for two years through the 2021-22 season and carries a $725,000 average annual value (AAV). Lankinen's deal is also for two years and runs through the 2021-22 campaign, and carries a $800,000 AAV.

Barratt's deal runs for three years through the 2022-23 season and carries an $870,000 AAV, while Altybarmakyan's is a two-year deal that runs through the 2021-22 campaign and carries a $817,500 AAV.

Highmore has six points (two goals, four assists) in 36 games with the Blackhawks this season and registered 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 21 games with the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Lankinen went 8-10-2 with a 3.03 goals against average and .909 save percentage for Rockford before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery on March 2.

Barratt, who was drafted by the Blackhawks in the third round (No. 90 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, is the most notable signing. He registered a team-high 12 goals and 22 assists for 34 points in 34 games during his junior season at Penn State, and was also a Hobey Baker nominee in 2019 after setting career-highs in goals (16), assists (27) and points (43) as a sophomore.

Altybarmakyan was also taken in the third round (No. 70 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He registered career highs in goals (six), assists (11) and points (17) in 49 games this season for HK Sochi of the Kontinental Hockey League, and appeared in three games for HK Tambov of the VHL.

With the re-signing of Highmore and Lankinen, the Blackhawks now have nine pending restricted free agents, which most notably includes Drake Caggiula, Dominik Kubalik and Dylan Strome.

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