Blackhawks end Circus Trip with bitter taste


Blackhawks end Circus Trip with bitter taste

LOS ANGELES – The Blackhawks had played a so-so game on Friday, got down 2-0, yet stormed back to beat the Anaheim Ducks in late regulation/overtime.

On Saturday, they got it handed right back to them by the Los Angeles Kings, a team that’s erased a few Blackhawks leads in past postseason outings.

Patrick Kane scored a power-play goal to set a new point streak for U.S.-born players, but Marian Gaborik scored twice, including the overtime winner, in the Kings’ 3-2 decision over the Blackhawks on Saturday night. The Blackhawks ended their Circus Trip with a 3-1-2 mark, but were just a period away from making that 4-1-1. The Kings, however, had other ideas.

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“Same exact game, opposite way,” said Kane, who now has a 19-game point streak. “It seemed like we wanted to sit back and play it safe, and obviously that doesn’t work in this league. Frustrating when that happens. It would’ve ben nice to get another insurance marker and build off that, but we sat back there and they took it to us.”

The Blackhawks built a 2-0 lead on Kane’s early goal and a second-period score from Niklas Hjalmarsson, who recorded his first goal of the season. But outside of that, this game looked a lot like Friday’s in Anaheim: the home team outplaying the Blackhawks through a good deal of it.

Scott Darling was strong through the first two periods, stopping the Kings’ 20 shots through 40 minutes. But in the third, the Kings finally broke through. Jeff Carter scored 52 seconds into the period and Gaborik tied it with 5:55 remaining.

“It sucks,” said Brent Seabrook, whose turnover led to Gaborik’s first goal. “I thought we played well, played well enough to win. Tough bounce at the end of the third and a lot of chances in overtime; that’s sort of the way the game went.”

Overtime was its usual 3-on-3 frenzied best. Both teams had their grade-A opportunities, with Gaborik breaking away for the winner 2:04 into overtime.

Lost in all of the craziness was Kane setting a new point streak for a U.S.-born player. He shared the previous record of 18 with Eddie Olczyk and Phil Kessel for just one day.

“Yeah, we congratulated him as soon as that happened,” Marian Hossa said. “It’s unique to be part of something special like this. He’s a special player and he’s got the big numbers in front of him.”

[RELATED - Blackhawks: Patrick Kane sets NHL record]

The Blackhawks didn’t end this trip exactly how they wanted. They got eight points out of a possible 12. But they were close to getting that ninth and finishing that much better. They just played too conservative with that lead which, against the Kings, hasn’t been safe in the past.

“I guess it’s natural to do that,” Kane said about sitting back on a lead. “At the same time, a lot of guys have played a lot of games in this league to know that’s not the recipe for success, the way games can turn on a dime. It’s pretty frustrating because going into the third up 2-0, looking like the trip’s going to end on a good note, and couldn’t follow it through.”

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers


Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers


Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.