Blackhawks

Blackhawks acquire Morrison from Flames

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Blackhawks acquire Morrison from Flames

OTTAWA, Ontario The Chicago Blackhawks were looking to get some experience at center. Now they have it.

The Blackhawks acquired center Brendan Morrison from the Calgary Flames on Friday night, in exchange for defenseman Brian Connelly. It was a move that Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman had been looking at for a while. And its one that gives the team more experience at a position where they dont have a lot of it.

Were not a strong team in terms of NHL experience at center, Bowman said on a conference call Friday night. I like our depth with whats coming (Brandon Pirri, Marcus Kruger). Toews and Bolland are established. And now we have another established, legitimate center.

Bowman added that this move had nothing to do with the fact that Jonathan Toews is injured. He reiterated what coach Joel Quenneville has said all along: Toews injury isnt serious, and Bowman said the captain is targeted to return Tuesday against Vancouver.

The 36-year-old Morrison, who spent eight seasons with the Canucks, will make his Blackhawks debut against them on Tuesday. He has 200 goals and 601 points in his NHL career. More important, the veteran has gone to the playoffs nine times during his career. He said he was ecstatic to join the Blackhawks.

This team has as good a chance as any to compete for the Cup, Morrison said. Im going to come in and be a guy whos a leader when I can and be helpful wherever I can: special teams, 5 on 5, any situation. Im excited about core of this team.

When healthy, Morrison is a dependable player. Hes centered some great wingers, including the Flames Jarome Iginla. Morrison tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee last March against the Chicago Blackhawks, and had surgery on it about a month later -- he had the same injury and surgery to the right knee three years prior to that. But Morrison said the knee is fine.

I forced myself back into action sooner than anticipated (early this season). But theres no issue as far as re-injuring the knee. I know its fine, he said. Ive been playing for past few months. Its solid and strong.

Morrison said some Blackhawks were taunting him as he skated off with that injury last March. The culprit was never identified. Morrison said hes not revisiting it.

To me thats a dead issue, he said. Ive turned the page from that. I have no issues with that at all moving forward.

As for more deals, Bowman wouldnt say he was finished. Hes said several times that hes still looking for a defenseman, and that hasnt changed. The trade deadline is Feb. 27, so Bowman still has plenty of time and cap space to get what he wants.

(This move) obviously doesnt impact defense. That hasnt changed, Bowman said. Were still a month away from the deadline. Im not going to rule out anything.

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

What adjustments Blackhawks could make against Oilers for Game 3

The Blackhawks set the tone in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers by dominating at even strength and potting three power-play goals against the second-ranked penalty kill.

The Edmonton Oilers flipped the script and made the correct adjustments in Game 2, scoring 19 seconds into the game and never giving up control of it.

It's the Blackhawks' turn to counter in Game 3.

As the home team for Games 3 and 4, head coach Jeremy Colliton and his staff will have the luxury of last line change. That means the Blackhawks can decide which trio goes up against Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, who netted a hat trick on Monday.

But before getting into lineup adjustments, the first emphasis for the Blackhawks should be scoring the first goal. Well, it always should be.

"I'm pretty sure it's important to score the first goal no matter what, who you're playing," Duncan Keith said after practice on Tuesday. "That would help to try and win the game." 

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In Game 1, the Blackhawks fell behind 1-0 just 2:34 into the opening frame. In Game 2, they trailed 2-0 in the first 4:05. 

Only two teams had more wins during the regular season when scoring first than the Oilers (29). On the contrary, the Oilers had the sixth-worst points percentage (.250) when giving up the first goal. 

Scoring first is always crucial, but it feels even more significant against a high-powered offense like the Oilers.

"It’s two games in a row where we have to come from behind," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It’s not a position we want to be in. I think we had a good start in Game 1, they score on the power play. Big difference from our start in Game 2.

"From our perspective we want to do the right things right from the puck drop. Sometimes a bounce goes for or against you but more so it’s how we perform shift to shift that gives us a chance to win the game. Hopefully results in the first goal, but if it doesn’t, we have a high level of play we’ve got to believe we’ll come back."

The Blackhawks were without Drake Caggiula in Game 2 after an illegal check to the head on Oilers forward Tyler Ennis in Game 1 resulted in a one-game suspension. John Quenneville took his spot in the lineup, but the Blackhawks were ultimately forced to double-shift Patrick Kane throughout the course of the game after falling behind quickly, which disrupted the line flow.

The Blackhawks will likely go back to their Game 1 rotation, and they should, even though things clicked immediately when Kane was put on a line with Kirby Dach and Alex DeBrincat. But it will be interesting to see how Colliton matches his group against the Oilers.

In Game 1, Dave Tippett and his staff tried exploiting the Blackhawks' fourth line of Ryan Carpenter, David Kampf and Matthew Highmore by making them defend McDavid, who was a non-factor at even strength. Leon Draisaitl's line, mainly, went up against the Blackhawks' third line of Caggiula, Dach and DeBrincat.

Will the Blackhawks try freeing up Kane and Jonathan Toews offensively by using the same tactic or does it make more sense to match the first two lines against Edmonton’s top guns as much as possible? There's a case to be made for both sides.

Exactly one week before the NHL put its season on pause, the Blackhawks played the Oilers at the United Center and beat them 4-3. Toews' line drew the McDavid matchup and Kane's line went up against Draisaitl, so perhaps we could see that again, at least to start.

It’s a game of chess, and the Blackhawks must use having the last move to their advantage.

When Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox owned part of Russian hockey team

When Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox owned part of Russian hockey team

In the early 90s, after the fall of the Soviet Union, a group of investors including two owners of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Mario Lemieux and Michael J. Fox took ownership of 50 percent of the then struggling Russian national hockey team.

"You can't really call it owning because it's the Russian government, but we basically stepped in and took over the financial interests of the central Red Army hockey team in Moscow, in Russia," Fox said on CNN's "Larry King Live" during a clip shown in director Gabe Polsky's new documentary, "Red Penguins".

"Red Penguins" is a more-than-worthy follow up to Polsky's well-received "Red Army" released in 2014.

His latest doc zeroes in on what happens when Pittsburgh Penguins owners Howard Baldwin and Tom Ruta, along with their other investors, try to save the once proud hockey club that had a previous relationship with the Soviet armed forces and name it the Russian Penguins.

"At the beginning, we didn't understand the risk. We didn't understand what the country was like and what have you," Ruta says early in the film. As the movie plays out, that statement becomes more and more true.

Marketing wiz Steven Warshaw, hired by Baldwin and Ruta and sent to Moscow, achieves success in coming up with promotions such as free beer nights to fill the Russian Penguins' arena. The success from the Americans' involvement in the team also attracted Disney's interest according to Warshaw.

Things go south when the Russian mafia gets involved. Not even Warshaw's comic relief in the film softens the destruction and violence done by the criminal organization as the partnership falls apart.

"Red Penguins" is available Tuesday on iTunes, Amazon, On Demand and all other video platforms.

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