Blackhawks

Blackhawks fairly happy with how Circus Trip turned out

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Blackhawks fairly happy with how Circus Trip turned out

PHOENIX — The Blackhawks headed back to town on Sunday after being gone for nearly two weeks.

The Circus Trip usually treats them right. And while they would’ve liked a better finish in Saturday night’s trip finale against the Los Angeles Kings, they were pretty happy with how it all went.

The Blackhawks went 3-1-2 on their trip, one more season in which they finished with a positive record on that lengthy excursion. As of Sunday, the Blackhawks are third in the Central Division with 29 points. Dallas leads the division with 38 points, St. Louis is second with 33 and Nashville trails the Blackhawks by one point.

“A win tonight would’ve made it real good,” Brent Seabrook said after Saturday’s game. “We played well in parts and didn’t play as well in some parts. We got some points so that’s good.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Blackhawks end Circus Trip with bitter taste]

Let’s go beyond just this trip. If you want to compare this season to last — though as coach Joel Quenneville always says, it’s tough to truly compare from year to year — the Blackhawks are currently 13-8-3 through 24 games while they were 15-8-1 through the same stretch last season.

Obviously the Blackhawks were still working things out at the start of last season, too. But will they be working things out at the same pace this season? The second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane — especially Kane — has still accounted for the bulk of the scoring. The offense has improved thanks to Duncan Keith, who has eight points in as many games since returning from knee surgery. Seabrook had a tough finish on Saturday, but he’s otherwise been strong, especially offensively — he’s third on the team with 19 points.

But there’s still a steep scoring drop-off among the forwards after the second line and Jonathan Toews, who has eight goals and seven assists. One of the Blackhawks’ strengths the past few seasons has been balance among the lines, a strong four-line rotation they could roll most games. They still haven’t found that consistently.

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On the trip the Blackhawks lost games they thought they played well in (vs. Vancouver), played some of their best hockey (vs. San Jose), won games they probably should have lost (vs. Anaheim) and squandered a lead and a point (vs. L.A.).

“It feels like those games kind of even out, the ones you’re supposed to win and (the ones) you let go,” Corey Crawford said. “Hopefully we have more of the ones where we come back and get those points. We definitely need them throughout the season.”

The Blackhawks’ trip pretty much summed up their season thus far: some good, some bad and the search for consistency continues. They certainly improved their road game from the start of this season. Now they’ll play seven of their next 10 at home, where they’ve been a strong 8-2-1 so far this season. The Central is going to stay tough; the Blackhawks know they need to keep pace, and the trip helped them do that.

“I think it was a pretty decent road trip,” Marian Hossa said. “Obviously we would have liked to end up with a win (on Saturday); that would be perfect for us. It’s a tough loss, but I think we did a lot of good things.”

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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