Blackhawks' health returning at the perfect time

Blackhawks' health returning at the perfect time

Andrew Shaw summarized his feelings succinctly after Monday’s practice.

“I feel great, energized,” he said. “Ready to get this started.”

He’d probably feel that way regardless. It is, after all, that postseason time of year, and it’s never difficult for these guys to get up for a series with the St. Louis Blues. But for he and a few other injured Blackhawks the energized level may be that much higher.

Shaw will be good to go for Game 1, as will Marian Hossa and Artem Anisimov, when the Blackhawks face the Blues on Wednesday night. Those three, who missed the last few games with injuries – Shaw and Anisimov were upper body while Hossa was lower – practiced on Monday. Andrew Ladd did not but coach Joel Quenneville said he was fine and would practice on Tuesday.

For the Blackhawks overall, entering this series healthy is critical. The break benefits those individuals, too.

“It definitely helps, especially obviously what I had, definitely the pause was good for me. Now I feel like I did before,” Hossa said. “Obviously, the good thing after the first time I injured myself, I play I think around eight games. So I didn’t miss that many games this time and I can be ready to go.”

[MORE: Patrick Kane wins Art Ross Trophy]

Corey Crawford played his first game in nearly a month on Saturday night. While he gave up five goals, it was nevertheless a good opportunity to shake off some of the rust he had during his upper-body injury. Crawford said he’s felt better with each passing day.

“Today was a big step in practice,” he said. “That game was a big step. I mean, numbers-wise it didn’t look so good, but just getting in there and getting a feel for the speed – little details, stuff you don’t see in practice – was definitely important.”

Quenneville said Crawford looked even better Monday.

“I thought he did a good job in the last game, but I thought he was outstanding here today,” he said. “He looked like he hasn’t missed a beat. It’s the best we’ve seen him on the ice. He looked like he was himself.”

When facing the Blues, the Blackhawks don’t need much more reason to be motivated. Getting healthy at the right time, however, is a wonderful incentive.

“It’s nice to get a little extra rest, makes me more hungry to get things started,” Shaw said. “I’m just excited for Wednesday.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Predicting who Blackhawks will take at No. 3 overall


Hawks Talk Podcast: Predicting who Blackhawks will take at No. 3 overall

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Slavko Bekovic and Charlie Roumeliotis react to the Olli Maatta trade and how this impacts the Blackhawks' defensive group. Is this the first of more moves to come?

The guys then break down their top-three candidates for the Blackhawks at No. 3 overall and predict who the pick will be on Friday. They also discuss how the Blackhawks' selection may impact the offseason and the big picture going forward.

0:40 – Initial reaction to the Olli Maatta trade

3:45 – How Maatta fits with the Blackhawks

7:45 – Filling Dominik Kahun’s spot

10:00 – Maatta’s contract situation

11:00 – Our top-3 draft predictions

18:30 – Official predictions on who the Blackhawks will pick

24:30 – Is there a wrong pick in the top 10?

27:30 – If the Blackhawks don’t pick D, the forward is…?

29:30 – How the Blackhawks selections shape the offseason

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

Blackhawks Talk Podcast


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How Erik Karlsson’s extension with Sharks impacts Blackhawks, Western Conference


How Erik Karlsson’s extension with Sharks impacts Blackhawks, Western Conference

The 2019 NHL free agent class — both restricted and unrestricted — is absolutely loaded. But perhaps the biggest fish of them all has already been taken off the board.

Erik Karlsson and the San Jose Sharks have agreed to an eight-year extension worth $11.5 million per year, according to Cap Friendly, becoming the highest-paid defenseman in league history. It’s a significant move for the Sharks, who are looking to keep the band together and take a few more stabs at a Stanley Cup before their window starts to close — Joe Thornton is 39, Joe Pavelski turns 35 in July, Brent Burns is 34, Marc-Edouard Vlasic is 32 and Logan Couture is 30.

How the Sharks make the math work going forward will be fascinating to monitor. Thornton, if he doesn't decide to hang up the skates, is a UFA. Same with Pavelski, who is coming off one of the most productive seasons of his career. Both of those players have become part of the Sharks identity, but their futures aren't guaranteed. And then there are guys like Kevin Labanc and Timo Meier, both of whom are RFAs and due big raises.

So how does the Karlsson extension impact the Blackhawks and the rest of the Western Conference?

For starters, the UFA defensemen class just got thinner and that could lead to overpayment across the board from teams looking for impact-type blue-liners because general managers that are looking to make a splash don’t want to come away empty-handed. The Blackhawks were never going to be in on Karlsson, but his contract set the market for this year's class and the fact the signing came before the NHL Draft now gives teams that would've been in on Karlsson an opportunity to refocus ahead of the negotiating period.

In the bigger picture, the Sharks just solidified themselves as legitimate Stanley Cup contenders for at least the next couple seasons. While the Karlsson contract may not look the greatest on the back half, given his durability issues, the Sharks had no choice but to offer him a blank check. When healthy, he is a game-changer and a two-time Norris Trophy winner who's still in his prime, and if the Sharks win a title in the next couple years then it was well worth it. You don't let players like him walk.

The Blackhawks are expected to be aggressive over the next several weeks, particularly in free agency but also continuing to explore the trade market. We already saw that when they acquired defenseman Olli Maatta from the Pittsburgh Penguins, a move that could only be the first of many this offseason. The West might be top heavy, but this past season proved that any team can turn it around quickly and the Blackhawks need to do everything in their power to make sure they're one of those teams.

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