Blackhawks

Blackhawks mixing up power play lines

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Blackhawks mixing up power play lines

The power-play combinations were different when the Chicago Blackhawks hit the ice on Tuesday morning. Different combinations put together in the hopes for different results.

The Blackhawks power play is struggling once again, so coach Joel Quenneville was switching up the units on Tuesday to try and spark it. The top unit was Andrew Brunette, Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp. The second unit featured Brent Seabrook, Nick Leddy, Patrick Kane, Dave Bolland and rookie Jimmy Hayes.

Its another experiment, one the Blackhawks hope shake them from their 1-for-22 power play skid.

I think thereve been games where had chances and didnt score, and others where it hasnt been as good as it could be, defenseman Duncan Keith said. We had a good practice today on it. Both units looked good, so well give it our best (shot) next game.

For the most part, the Blackhawks have overcome their power-play issues lately. But last night it hurt them. They had three opportunities in the last 11 minutes of the game -- including a four-minute effort when Toews was high-sticked -- and came up empty. They were down just one goal on their final power-play attempt.

Marian Hossa said its sometimes been a mix of tough luck and poor planning.

I think some nights we had pretty good looks but the puck didnt go in, and on some nights we werent on the same page. We need to know what were going to do before we get on the ice, he said. Maybe an ugly goal gets us going again.

The Blackhawks will take any type of goal on that power play. They liked how the experiment was working on Tuesday -- the 6-foot-6 Hayes, who scored his first NHL goal on Monday, is a pretty good option in front of the net. But scoring them in practice is one thing. Getting them in a game is another.

Thats what you look for: just get one (goal) and you get more confidence, more puck awareness and patience. Suddenly everybody has more cohesiveness, coach Joel Quenneville said. But last night we miss an empty net or two and now it gets worse. You have to change it up when its not going well. Lets try to get a fresher look and maybe get one of those ugly ones and kick-start it.

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!