Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Crawford in net, Mashinter returns to lineup vs. Avalanche

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Blackhawks: Crawford in net, Mashinter returns to lineup vs. Avalanche

Corey Crawford starts and Brandon Mashinter is back in the lineup when the Blackhawks host the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the United Center.

The Blackhawks’ top three lines have been playing well lately, whether scoring chances have gone in or not. The fourth line – which has been Bickell, Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Garbutt these past few games – has sputtered, playing few minutes. Coach Joel Quenneville wants to get that line going again.

“That line, just change it up a little bit. That’s the one line that hasn’t played much, been moving some pieces around on that line as we’ve gone along here,” Quenneville said. “We’ve been pretty consistent throughout our lineup, that’s the one line we’re looking for a little bit more balance.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

For Mashinter, it’s just been about being ready for whenever that call does come.

“I think guys in my situation, they’re all pros and it’s a job, so you have to come in and work every day,” he said. “This is my longest time being in the NHL and, as I said when I first got called up here, I’m trying to make the most of it and trying not to take anything for granted.”

With Mashinter’s reinsertion, it looks like Bryan Bickell will once again be a healthy scratch. It’s another tough day in a season that’s been filled with them for the forward.

“Mentally it’s frustrating but we’re on a six-game winning streak, so what can you say,” he said. “We’re winning. That’s the most important thing.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”