Blackhawks

Blackhawks juggle lines to find consistency, production

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Blackhawks juggle lines to find consistency, production

The changes were evident on Tuesday morning, the product of lines that have gone quiet once again. Even the second line was no longer intact.

And while it’ll take until Wednesday morning to see how many changes are truly implemented, there’s no doubt the Blackhawks need to do something to spark production and more of a four-line rotation.

Tomas Fleischmann and Patrick Kane joined Jonathan Toews on the top line while Marian Hossa skated with Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov during Tuesday’s practice. Andrew Ladd was on the third line with Dennis Rasmussen and Andrew Shaw (Shaw was at right wing) and Brandon Mashinter, Andrew Desjardins and Dale Weise made up the fourth line.

Teuvo Teravainen missed Tuesday’s practice due to illness but coach Joel Quenneville said the center could play on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. So keep that in mind with those lines. Still, for a team that’s struggled to find consistent contributions from lines outside of the second one, it was a different look.

[MORE HAWKS: Can Blackhawks rise above line inconsistency?]

“Well, we’re looking for balance right now. We’re looking for defensive responsibility and we’re looking for consistency in the four-line rotation. We haven’t been very good in that area the last few games and playing major-league catch-up is not productive hockey,” Quenneville said. “We’ve got to find a way what got us into those areas or ways and we tried balancing it out with the lines here and changing it up on a couple of guys. The one line’s been together all year and there was probably never a need to change it. But I feel right now that a different look can help everyone and give us more balance throughout the lineup."

There have been times here or there this season when other lines have been productive, but it hasn’t been nearly as long as the second line. The Blackhawks’ 5-on-5 scoring overall is down this season. They have 109 5-on-5 goals through 70 games; they had 150 5-on-5 goals through 82 games last season.

“You definitely want to be more consistent with that. But also, sometimes it’s the way it works,” Desjardins said. “Hockey’s one of those things where you get hot, then those points go away and then you get hot again. Sometimes it’s the way it goes. It’s a little bit of a roller coaster.”

The Blackhawks’ roller coaster has been in the dip portion lately. They’re 1-3-1 in their last five games; despite a great start in the opening minutes against Los Angeles on Monday, they were staring up at a 2-0 deficit less than a minute after their first power play ended.

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There are 12 games remaining in the regular season. The Blackhawks have gone through late-season lulls before and have usually righted the ship come playoff time. But they know they can’t wait too long before getting things together. Changes were made on Tuesday that could likely be implemented on Wednesday. The Blackhawks want to see that chemistry and increased production now.

“You need that secondary scoring. It’s what makes the team successful and allows teams to go far in the playoffs. Juggling the lines here, hopefully we can find some chemistry and get that going,” said Shaw. “I mean, you have your ups and downs every season. It’s a lot of games; 82 games can wear on you mentally and physically. We just have to get out of this little slump we’re in and push forward.”

BRIEFLY

- Duncan Keith did not practice on Tuesday. Asked if Keith was 100 percent, Quenneville said the defenseman was “fine.”

- Scott Darling will start vs. the Flyers. Quenneville said he wanted to give Darling a home start, and he had anticipated Darling starting this game.

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

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AP

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: