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.”
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.”
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.”
- 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.]”