Blackhawks

Blackhawks plan practice, rest during slow week

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Blackhawks plan practice, rest during slow week

When the Blackhawks hit the ice this week, they’ll be doing it more for practices than for games.

Such is the NHL schedule: after going at a breakneck pace through December and January, the Blackhawks face a very quiet week. So will they be watching what’s going on with the busier teams in the Central Division?

“Not a lot,” Andrew Shaw said. “I mean you want to seal your own fate. You want to go out there and win every game; you don’t want to worry on another team losing games. You just do what you can to win your games.”

Yes, but the Blackhawks won’t have many opportunities to win or lose this week. After a busy schedule, the Blackhawks will play just two games between now and next Tuesday (they host the Nashville Predators on Thursday and the Washington Capitals on Sunday morning). The Dallas Stars, who are one point behind the Blackhawks in the Central Division, will play five. That busy Stars' schedule begins tonight when they’re at the Winnipeg Jets and ends next Tuesday when they face the Predators.

So how does a team that does so well when it’s busy handle a very quiet week?

“It’s always a key when you have these days off – they seem pretty rare – to make the most of them. Whether it’s rest or recovery, whatever you need, capitalize on that because obviously down the stretch it’s going to be pretty intense,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said. “There are a lot of really meaningful games so you have to be prepared for that. Any extra days off, you should focus on making the most of them, controlling what you can.”

[ROAD AHEAD: What should the Blackhawks do at the trade deadline?]

The Blackhawks are having a week similar to what the Stars had in early January, when Dallas had five days off (Jan. 10-14) between games. At that time, the Blackhawks were in the midst of a hot streak, eventually winning a franchise-record 12 consecutive games. Their winning streak, coupled with the Stars’ struggles at the time, catapulted the Blackhawks into first place in the Central Division. Will the Stars return the favor in this latest stretch? Maybe, maybe not, but the Blackhawks don’t plan on getting too caught up in what the Stars are doing this week.

“Some days you want to let your mind rest. Other times you want to watch and see how they’re doing,” van Riemsdyk said. “It’s just a daily thing; probably tune in here and there and other days make the most of the rest and take advantage of that.”

The Blackhawks have long been good about concentrating on their game and their needs instead of other teams. They’ll glance at the standings, they’ll make note of who’s doing what around them. But ultimately they need to worry about themselves and about playing well – when they do play this week.

“You always know where we’re at. We just try to focus on our game,” Teuvo Teravainen said. “That’s what we can really focus on, getting better and we’ll see what the other team’s doing.”

BRIEFLY

  • Patrick Kane and Niklas Hjalmarsson had maintenance days on Tuesday. Both are expected to play on Thursday vs. the Nashville Predators.
  • Erik Gustafsson, a healthy scratch on Sunday, should play Thursday against Nashville.
  • Marian Hossa (lower body) should start skating later this week, coach Joel Quenneville said. Quenneville added that it was“tough to say” if Hossa would be ready for the Blackhawks’ Detroit/Boston back-to-back in early March.
  • Marcus Kruger (wrist) skated on Tuesday but his timeline hasn’t change; he’s still not expected back until around the postseason’s start. Said Quenneville, “we know that his legs aren’t the problem. He’s still a ways away.”

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!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.