Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Quenneville could put Toews, Kane on separate lines

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Blackhawks: Quenneville could put Toews, Kane on separate lines

It was after Game 4 against the Anaheim Ducks that Jonathan Toews talked of the pressure to score, a pressure he always feels and a pressure that’s mainly self-imposed.

Teammate and sometimes line mate Patrick Kane feels the same.

“I mean, as an offensive guy, you want to be helping produce, especially at this time of year,” said Kane, who had three assists in Game 7 vs. the Ducks but has gone point-less in the first two Stanley Cup Final games vs. the Tampa Bay Lightning. “But, you know, we said all along with our team, we don't really care where the goals come from, as long as they're coming from our team.”

We’re not calling two point-free games a slump, because that would be ridiculous. What is eye opening, however, is how the Lightning have contained Toews and Kane, especially Kane, through the first two games. Kane didn’t have a shot on goal in Game 2. So to free up his two stars, coach Joel Quenneville separated them to start the third period. And Toews and Kane will likely be on the first and second lines, respectively, again when the Blackhawks host the Lightning in Game 3 on Monday night.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Their team defense is aggressive. There's not a lot of room and time,” Quenneville said. “I think that maybe changing those two guys on different lines will get us a little bit more depth and a little bit more balance, see how they can defend it.”

Toews and Kane combined usually yields great results but in Tampa they dealt with Cedric Paquette’s line, the Lightning’s top checking trio. In Chicago the Blackhawks could get away from that matchup, certainly; but two lines with a scoring threat is always better than one.

“Certainly, I think splitting those two up gives you a little bit more freedom as far as whether it’s room or something for them to be concerned with,” Quenneville said. “I think a little bit more balance to our offense is why we usually keep them apart. We’ll see how that progresses.”

[MORE: Penalties kill Blackhawks in Game 2]

Toews talked of goal-scoring pressure after Game 4 of the Western Conference Final, when he scored his first goal since Game 2 of the second round. He would score four more over the next three games. The goal scorers have their slumps or, in Kane’s case, their blips. They usually break out of them quick, too.

“You know, I think I can help in that area obviously. That's one of my jobs here, is to try to produce offense,” Kane said. “Hopefully [I] start that up next game.”

UPDATES

- Trevor van Riemsdyk “could” play against Tampa Bay in Game 3, Quenneville said on Sunday. Quenneville said the same thing heading into Game 2 but stayed with the same six defensemen from Game 1. Still with Blackhawks getting the matchups they want in a home game, this may be the best time to bring van Riemsdyk back into the fold.

- Bryan Bickell could also play on Monday night. Bickell has missed the last two games with an upper-body injury but Quenneville said, “I think he’s healthy.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”