Blackhawks

Patrick Kane: "I think we've been playing better... Obviously, we're going to need to go on some type of run"

Patrick Kane: "I think we've been playing better... Obviously, we're going to need to go on some type of run"

After nine days on the road, the Blackhawks are back in Chicago and had their first practice on Tuesday.

They set out on their five-game road trip, which began and ended in Winnipeg, three points out of a playoff spot. After going 1-4-0 on the trip with the lone victory in Calgary, the Hawks find themselves eight points out of the postseason promised land, in danger of missing the playoffs for a third consecutive year.

"I think we just have to take care of our mentality," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think we played pretty hard the last three games of the trip. Obviously didn't get the results we wanted. But the challenge is to stick with it, continue to play that way and improve."

In their latest stint on the road, Chicago lost 2-5 in Winnipeg, lost 3-5 in Edmonton (without Connor McDavid), lost 0-3 in Vancouver (Hawks dominated with 49 shots on goal), won 8-4 in Calgary and lost 2-3 in Winnipeg. 

"We want to keep working at our game and we feel there's more to get, but the biggest thing is we need to compete, we need to work, we need to have that edge to our game that I think, for the most part, we had. Then those results will come for us," Colliton said. 

Even with possible improvements and the right mindset, the Hawks are facing a monumental challenge in jumping the four teams ahead of them for a playoff spot.

RELATED: What did we learn about Blackhawks during road trip?

If it's possible to right the ship before time runs out, the journey begins on Wednesday at the United Center against former Blackhawk Artemi Panarin and the New York Rangers.

"Focus on the first period tomorrow," Colliton said. "Prepare with as much urgency and desperation as we have all year."

"I think we've been playing better lately and we actually played pretty well on the road trip," said Patrick Kane after practice. "I look at the first two games. We had the lead. 

"Obviously, any of the last three games we could have come away with the win as well. Played pretty well in those games, so just a matter of executing in certain situations and playing the same way but trying to get the results in the net."

The power play was the difference on the trip and in the Hawks' season as a whole. They went 0-for-14 on the man advantage during the five-game trek.

"The power play has been something that hasn't been clicking this year," Kane said. "That's something we're trying to improve on and get better at, and I guess the last game we didn't have any power plays but still, throughout the road trip, a goal here and there can make a difference in a game."

Kane, who has 74 points (27 goals, 47 assists) in 59 games this season, thinks it's still possible for the Hawks to reach the postseason.

"I think we have 23 games left. Obviously, we're going to need to go on some type of run," he said. "We're going to need to win five or six in a row at some point, maybe even more to get ourselves back in the picture. I think right now, just kind of focus on this two-game homestand. 

"We got the Rangers coming in tomorrow then obviously Nashville. A huge game for us as well. Just try to get a win tomorrow. Let's get the crowd excited. Let's get the team excited and then [there will be] a huge game on Friday."

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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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