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.]”

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

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AP

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

The youth movement is underway in Chicago and it's happening quicker than expected.

Adam Boqvist played in his 10th NHL game of the season on Sunday, officially triggering the first year of his entry-level contract. That means he will become a restricted free agent at end of the 2021-22 season. If he appeared in nine games or fewer, his contract wouldn't have kicked in until next season, which would've bought the Blackhawks an extra year of Boqvist playing at a cap hit of $894,167.

"Maybe that was a discussion very early on but as far as coach perspective, we like him," head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he and GM Stan Bowman had conversations about burning Boqvist's first year. "I think he's played well and it's an opportunity with some injuries to give him some ice time. He's handled it well so far."

Boqvist is the second rookie on the Blackhawks this season to burn their first year, joining No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach. Whether the decisions were dictated by circumstances or not, the Blackhawks have seen enough of both of them to feel they can have an impact on the team in the short term without hindering their developments in the long term.

The number to watch now is 40. Like Dach, if Boqvist appears in 40 or more games this season, it will count as a full season and bring him one year closer to unrestricted free agency. Any player that's accrued seven full seasons or is at least 27 years old as of June 30 of that respective year can become an unrestricted free agent.

Boqvist appeared in six games for the Blackhawks during the month of November before getting reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14 when Connor Murphy was ready to return from his groin injury.

But with Calvin de Haan (shoulder) expected to be out long term and Duncan Keith still out with a groin injury, the Blackhawks called up Boqvist for insurance and because they lacked defensemen with offensive upside. It appears he will remain with the big club for the time being and it serves as a chance for their No. 8 overall pick in 2018 to prove he can handle NHL minutes on a consistent basis during a desperate time for the Blackhawks.

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Patrick Kane's hat trick propels Blackhawks over Wild

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USA TODAY

Patrick Kane's hat trick propels Blackhawks over Wild

As things seemingly spiraled out of control for the Blackhawks, who had lost four straight games - being outscored 14-6 in their past three - and going 3-8-2 in their past 13, they needed their top player to step up. Step up is exactly what Patrick Kane did Sunday night against a hot Minnesota Wild team. 

The three-time Stanley Cup champ and 2013 Conn Smythe trophy winner scored two goals early in the first period before throwing the puck into the Wild's empy net for the 5-3 final score with a little over one minute remaining in regulation.

"It was nice to get one," Kane said of snagging his sixth career regular season hat trick. "You get two early on, you think, 'Maybe I have a chance at one.' Obviously it came a little bit later in the game, but huge fourth goal for us (from Brandon Saad) and I was able to finish it off with an empty net. Obviously that's a big win for us."

Kane made a wraparound attempt at 7:42 of the first period and the Minnesota Wild's Kaapo Kahkonen seemingly denied him with his left pad. However, the United Center crowd went crazy when they saw the replay of the attempt on the jumbotron. After a video review officials determined the puck completely crossed the goal line and the Hawks were up 1-0.

Kane recorded his second goal of the game, putting the Hawks up 2-0 at 11:33 of the first, scoring from the slot off a give-and-go with Jonathan Toews on Chicago's first power play of the game. 

"Showtime" scored into the Wild's empty net at 18:57 of the third period to complete the hat trick. It was his 18th goal of the season.

"He’s such a well-rounded player," Robin Lehner said of Kane. "I think as a goalie, going in practice every day against him, he has such patience with the puck and he’s so accurate with his shot. 

"He doesn’t shoot in the conventional — just go high or try to go bar and in. He goes between the arms, between the legs, over the pads, you know it’s very hard as a goalie to get a read. 

"He waits you out and then it’s in. He had a hell of a game today. He’s one of our leaders and he stepped up and helped turn this around for us."

Kane felt he's been in a rut and knows when he's able to produce, it can give the team a lift.

"I don't think I've been playing as well the past 10 games or so," he said. "Want to start playing better for the team. If I play better it's obviously going to bring more to the group and (there's) a better chance for us to win. That's something we're all trying to do in here is take pride and ownership."

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