Blackhawks

Blackhawks have to build on what progress they’re making on PK

Blackhawks have to build on what progress they’re making on PK

Coach Joel Quenneville gave a bit of a grin and a laugh when asked about the penalty kill, which has, if you’re looking for positives, killed off six of its last seven penalties.

It’s progress, right? Especially when those successful kills have come at the end of the Blackhawks’ last two games, leading to three of four points?

“It was a big chance to kill it down a goal, and have to kill one at that stage of the game, certainly gave us a chance. [Brent Seabrook] makes a big block on a 2-on-1 and we get a chance to score and tie it up. We were fortunate at the end of the day,” said Quenneville, speaking specifically of the Blackhawks’ late kill against the New Jersey Devils, who they came back to beat on Saturday. “But I still think there are some areas we have to be better at and look to build on the positives we’ve achieved.”

That last part is important. The Blackhawks still haven’t gotten through a game where they’ve been perfect on the penalty kill but they’ve been better the last few games.

As Marcus Kruger said, “we have to start somewhere.”

“It’s more about us being on the same page, being in shooting lanes, blocked shots. We need all of that. It’s not just one thing,” Kruger said. “It’s been a little bit better here. Every day we talk about it and learn from previous games. It would be nice to have a game where we kill all of them off.”

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So why have recent late-game kills been successful? Is the urgency that much higher in the third periods?

“I think urgency right now is, from the get-go, pretty much there,” Kruger said with a grin. “Some of those kills have been late in games, and maybe we’ve been a little bit sharper. I don’t know. But we want to do the same thing every game, every penalty kill.

“I don’t think it’s the urgency, really,” Kruger continued. “But it can give us confidence, killing them off late in games and getting a chance to tie it like we did last night.”

As a whole, this season is more of an early work-in-progress early than the Blackhawks have experienced the last few years. The kill just happens to be part of that.

“As a group, let’s take pride in working together, let’s make sure we’re getting good pressure up ice, good pressure on entries, good clears, [get in] shooting lanes, all the things that have an effect on a penalty killing unit,” Quenneville said. “Let’s think of getting good rotations where we’re going short, and it gets energy among the whole group.”

Forsling improving

Defenseman Gustav Forsling, who suffered an upper-body injury against Calgary on Monday, returned to practice on Saturday. While Quenneville originally said Forsling could come back Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Kings, he’s now targeting Forsling’s return for Tuesday against the Flames.

“I’m feeling better and better every day. It’s progress with practice today and I’ll try to get back as soon as possible,” said Forsling. “I want to be good when I’m back.”

Briefly

- Marian Hossa did not practice on Saturday (maintenance day) but is expected to play on Sunday.

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Kings.

- Vinnie Hinostroza is expected to play against the Kings. He was a healthy scratch the previous four games.

- Andrew Desjardins (lower body) skated prior to the Blackhawks’ practice on Saturday. Said Quenneville, “we’ll get a better indication, see how he progresses, from [Saturday] to [Sunday.]”

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup champion Michal Handzus to retire from professional hockey

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AP

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup champion Michal Handzus to retire from professional hockey

Michal Handzus, who helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2013 as the second-line center, is officially hanging up the skates.

The 41-year-old forward hasn't played in the NHL since the 2013-14 season but spent the last three years with Banska Bystrica HC 05 in Slovakia, where he was a part of the championship-winning team in 2016-17. He sat out the 2017-18 campaign and has decided to call it quits for good.

Handzus played with six teams in his first 13 NHL seasons, including eight games with the Blackhawks in 2006-07, before getting reacquired by Chicago in 2013 at the trade deadline for a fourth-round draft pick and it turned out to be one of the more underrated acquisitions in the league that year. He had one goal and five assists in 11 regular-season games, then accumulated 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 23 postseason contests and found himself in the center of all the big moments.

In Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings, with the Blackhawks trailing the series 3-2, Handzus scored a crucial goal on the road in the opening minute of the third period to tie it up at 2-2, a game the Blackhawks went on to win to force a Game 7 back in Chicago. (We all know what the final result was in that one).

In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, with the Blackhawks trailing the series again 2-1, Handzus set the tone early on the road by scoring the game's first goal shorthanded when he buried a feed from Brandon Saad before taking a hard spill into the boards in an eventual 6-5 victory:

And then of course in Game 6, Handzus was the extra attacker for the first of two goals scored 17 seconds apart in Boston as the Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in four years:

It was the first Stanley Cup win of Handzus' career, so naturally, he was the first player to receive Lord Stanley from captain Jonathan Toews:

That's not all.

Handzus re-signed with the Blackhawks on a one-year deal for the 2013-14 season, which would be his last in the NHL, and gave Chicago this double-overtime goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final to keep the Blackhawks' hopes alive:

Handzus isn't the name who jumps out when you think of the three titles in six years run but he's a player that certainly made strong contributions in a Blackhawks sweater and delivered in key playoff moments.

Chris Chelios joins Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field to honor Stan Mikita

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AP

Chris Chelios joins Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field to honor Stan Mikita

The city of Chicago lost a sports icon earlier this month when Stan Mikita died at the age of 78 after a long illness. He's the all-time leading scorer in Blackhawks history with 1,467 points, but perhaps more importantly made as much of an impact off the ice as he did on it.

Former Blackhawks defenseman and current team ambassador Chris Chelios joined Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field on Monday night, holding up a red No. 21 Mikita sweater to pay tribute to a Chicago legend.

Lead vocalist Eddie Vedder even dedicated the song "Come Back" to Mikita and his family, with the help of thousands of fans who paid homage by holding up their cell phones:

A touching moment.