Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Kimmo Timonen hoping for another chance

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Blackhawks: Kimmo Timonen hoping for another chance

TAMPA, Fla. — Kimmo Timonen’s trip to the Stanley Cup Final is a bittersweet one.

This is why he came back to the game, why he worked so hard to overcome blood-clot issues last summer and play once more for a shot at the Cup. But as of now, the Blackhawks defenseman is not playing. He was a healthy scratch in the last two games against the Anaheim Ducks and looks to be the same when the Blackhawks face the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 1 on Wednesday night.

As disappointed as he is, Timonen said he puts the emotions aside and waits for a chance to play again.

[MORE: Blackhawks: Toews blown away by high compliment from Yzerman]

“To be honest, it’s been a long process to get to this point,” Timonen said. “Am I frustrated? Kind of surprised? Mad? Yeah. But this is not about me. This is about the team and winning the Stanley Cup and I’m going to do everything I can to help this team moving forward.”

Timonen played limited minutes in his 19 regular-season games with the Blackhawks. That didn’t change in the postseason despite Michal Rozsival going down with a fractured left ankle. Coach Joel Quenneville, as expected, leaned heavily on his top-four defensemen. Timonen’s highest ice time came in the Blackhawks’ triple-overtime Game 2 victory over Anaheim, and even that was just 16 minutes, 45 seconds; his lowest was 5:15 in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final. Perhaps age and last summer’s health issues caught up with the 40-year-old Timonen, but his play, and lack of it, was frustrating.

“I knew coming in, these four are going to play a lot and they’ve been playing really well. I was hoping to play better but it just didn’t happen. I was hoping to be 10 years younger but that didn’t happen, either,” Timonen said with a laugh. “I don’t want to look back. Maybe when the season’s over I’ll talk more about it but right now I’m focused on this team and helping any way I can.”

[RELATED: Brad Richards ready to make new Cup memories with Blackhawks]

Timonen’s trip to the Cup hasn’t turned out exactly as he planned it. He’s here, but he’s not playing and he struggled when he did. Still, the defenseman will prepare as he always does and if he gets the call again, he’ll be ready.

“I could show up and be mad, be whiny and that kind of thing, but I won’t do that,” he said. “Would I like to be playing? Sure. Anyone would say that. I just want to stay positive, stay loose and if I get back into the lineup, I’m happy to do that.”

BRIEFLY

  • Trevor van Riemsdyk practiced with the Blackhawks on Tuesday but, based on defensive pairings in drills, it doesn’t look like he’ll play in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The top three pairs were the same on Tuesday as they were Games 6 and 7 against Anaheim: Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Kyle Cumiskey-Brent Seabrook and Johnny Oduya-David Rundblad.

[NBC SPORTS SHOP: Get your Western Conference Champs gear here]

  • Cumiskey was nervous when he made his 2015 postseason debut in the Western Conference Final. But that experience, he said, if he ends up playing against the Lightning. “I’m definitely glad I got to play the series before,” he said. “I’m sure I’ll be nervous when I first step on the ice but hopefully I’ll calm down.”

  • Crawford got a big smile on his face when talking about Tampa Bay goaltending coach Frantz Jean, who guided Crawford when the Blackhawks goaltender played with the Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL). “Frantz was great in Moncton,” Crawford said. “It was a stepping stone for me as a goalie and as a person, going into pro hockey. I spent a few great years with him. I really learned a lot and I’m happy to see him here and be playing against him.”

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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