Blackhawks

Artem Anisimov set to return for Blackhawks in Game 1 vs. Predators

Artem Anisimov set to return for Blackhawks in Game 1 vs. Predators

It was frustrating for Artem Anisimov to miss the final month of the regular season. The second-line center was at the top of his game when he suffered an injury to his left leg in Montreal on March 14.

Still, there are silver linings to everything; in Anisimov’s case, it’s being ready for the postseason, which it appears he will be.

“I was happy about this news and I started getting ready for the playoffs. The staff did a tremendous job with conditioning for me and I’m ready to play,” Anisimov said on Tuesday. “Get ready for the first game, and here I am.”

Anisimov will be back, as will Niklas Hjalmarsson, when the Blackhawks begin their first-round series against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Anisimov has been skating for about a week now, and he doesn’t foresee any limitations with his game – “I’m going to continue to go to the net and play hard every shift and do all my stuff,” he said.

Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t foresee any issues, either.

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“He looked good, handled everything well. He said he felt good conditioning-wise and health-wise, so all good,” Quenneville said of Anisimov’s practice on Tuesday, his first since sustaining his injury.

“Arty does a lot of things for you. Special teams, both units. Faceoffs, that line, big minutes, matchups and predictability defensively, and offensively getting to the net. So he knows his role and does it very well,” Quenneville continued. “He really adds something to our lineup because he's so useful in ways, and that's an important spot for us. It's good to (see him) back.”

The line did well in Anisimov’s absence, with Tanner Kero centering Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin for a majority of those games. But the chemistry between the two wings and Anisimov has always been strong, and it should be rekindled quickly.

“It was good to see him back on the ice,” Kane said. “We know he hasn’t played in a while, so I think for us just keep it simple and for him, he does a lot of simple things on the ice anyways. So, it’ll be good to get him going back to the front of the net, and hopefully we’ll be shooting pucks there and get some bounces. But it’s great to have him back. Obviously we missed him, and it’ll be huge going down the stretch here to have him in the lineup.”

There will probably be a little rust, regardless of how good Anisimov feels. Game action hard to replicate in a practice and conditioning work, let alone playoff game action. But Anisimov feels great, and whatever rust there will be, he expects to shed it relatively fast.

“It’s a little bit of pressure. I think after the first shift it’s going to go away,” Anisimov said. “It’s going to be the feeling of the game again and it’ll come back after the first shift.”

Briefly:

  • Niklas Hjalmarsson also returned to practice on Tuesday. He and his wife welcomed their second child a few days ago.
     
  • Michal Rozsival, who was injured when Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie punched him in last Thursday’s game against the Ducks, underwent surgery to repair facial fractures on Tuesday. Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement, “surgery went well and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
  • Andrew Desjardins is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained against the Ducks.

Blackhawks record 500th consecutive sellout at United Center

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USA Today

Blackhawks record 500th consecutive sellout at United Center

The Blackhawks have had many ups over the last decade-plus, highlighted by three Stanley Cups. They've also had some downs recently, missing the playoffs for two seasons in a row after nine straight appearances.

But the fan support hasn't wavered.

On Monday against the Edmonton Oilers, the Blackhawks announced a crowd of 21,260, which became their 500th consecutive sellout at the United Center (436 regular season, 64 postseason). The NHL record is held by the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are at 572 games and counting. 

The Blackhawks have led the league in attendance for 11 straight seasons, which started during the 2008-09 campaign.

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Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

Blackhawks not going to 'freak out' about 0-2-1 start

The Blackhawks wanted to get off to a strong start this season because they know how hard it is to climb out of a hole in the Central Division. Last season was proof of that.

Well, they've picked up only one out of a possible six points through three games and are one of three teams still searching for their first victory of the season. But they're not going into panic mode just yet.

"We know there's things we have to improve upon," Jonathan Toews said. "Jeremy [Colliton] always talks about doing the right thing and over time eventually you're going to get results. I don't know if we can say we're doing things the right things that we want to and we're playing complete games right now, so even having said that, midway through the San Jose game and even against Winnipeg we were in a position to take control of the game going into the third period and we let teams back in. So I think there's a lot of ways we can play better.

"But having said that we're in those games and giving ourselves a chance to win. Obviously that's not good enough, but we're not going to freak out and say, 'we've got to start winning games.' Of course that's the goal, we wanted to get two points the other night."

The quest to pick up their first two points of the season doesn't get any easier for the Blackhawks on Monday night. The Edmonton Oilers are coming to town with a 5-0-0 record, and they're clicking on all cylinders. They have the second-best power play unit (41.2 percent), second-best penalty kill percentage (94.1), the NHL's leading point-getter in Connor McDavid (12) and leading goal scorer in James Neal (seven).

The Blackhawks know at some point they have to start stringing together some wins, but they're not living and dying by the standings right now because everything looks out of proportion. They're focused on the process and putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"It's always magnified at the start of the year," Colliton said. "Your special teams, you got [teams] with 100 percent PK, you got [teams] with 40 percent power play, and all the little things they look way bigger than they are. Would be nice for us to get a win, get some positive feelings but any three-game window among the 82, it's not going to be looked upon as closely as this one.

"So again, we've just got to focus on playing hard, playing the game the right way, do the right thing time and time again and we'll get the results." 

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