Blackhawks

Blackhawks return from holiday break with another busy stretch ahead

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Blackhawks return from holiday break with another busy stretch ahead

Being busy. It can have a bad connotation at times, bringing about a feeling of being overwhelmed or having too much on your plate.

For the Blackhawks, however, being busy usually brings out their best. That’s good, because after competing a busy stretch prior to the Christmas break, they’re going right into another one coming out of it.

The Blackhawks have 17 games – including three back-to-backs – over the next 31 days, beginning with Sunday’s game at the United Center. That means a lot of busy nights and very few practices – if you listen carefully, you can hear the players cheer that last part. It’s going to be an incredibly busy stretch, and the Blackhawks will have to be ready for it.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

But busy doesn’t seem to bother the Blackhawks much. No matter the year, they’ve usually taken hectic stretches and gotten into a rhythm. It happened this season. In a 10-game, 17-day stretch heading into Christmas, the Blackhawks went 7-3-0. You could argue they started finding their niche, their chemistry with each other on the lines.

Corey Crawford was also playing at his best, mainly because he was as busy during games as he was starting them. In his last nine starts, of which he won seven, Crawford faced an average of 30.8 shots per game. Crawford has admitted in the past that, when he doesn’t see shots on a consistent basis, he can lose focus. He didn’t have time to lose focus on that latest run, and he wouldn’t.

The Blackhawks will enter Sunday’s game third in the Central Division. Dallas and St. Louis play on Saturday night but no matter who wins or loses, it won’t change where the Stars (first) or the Blues (second) fall in the division. The Blackhawks could be getting Marian Hossa back; Hossa missed the final two games prior to the break with an upper-body injury. It’s unknown whether or not Rob Scuderi, who took a redirected puck to the mouth, will be ready for Sunday’s game.

[MORE: Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks]

It took a while for the Blackhawks to find some rhythm and some lines – outside of the second one – that could play together for several games. They should exit this break with confidence, knowing that they no longer have to figure out the four-line puzzle that was an issue for some time early this season.

Right now the Blackhawks just need to keep pace. If they’ve learned anything from these long postseason runs it’s that you get in and go from there. It’s not about catching the Stars right now; it’s about gathering up as many points as possible and keeping pace in a very competitive Central Division.

The Blackhawks are going to be busy again starting on Sunday. A nonstop schedule has usually benefitted them. It has to again now.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Blackhawks handle Kirby Dach's future?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Blackhawks handle Kirby Dach's future?

Should Kirby Dach see more ice time? What should the Blackhawks do with Erik Gustafsson? Has Robin Lehner separated himself in the goalie tandem?

Patrick Sharp and Charlie Roumeliotis join Pat Boyle to discuss that and much more on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast. Plus, you'll hear Robin Lehner's postgame comments after the loss to the Golden Knights and why he thinks the Blackhawks are "really close" to putting it all together.

1:08 - Blackhawks come up with best defensive effort of the season

2:52 - Changes made to the power play units

4:14 - Evaluating Erik Gustafsson's play so far

6:04 - Who fills in after the Connor Murphy injury

7:49 - Patrick Sharp remembers Patrick Kane rookie season

9:08 - What does the future hold for Kirby Dach?

12:04 - Struggles of the Blackhawks' top-six

14:44 - Another strong performance by Robin Lehner

16:33 - Lehner's strong post-game comments after Vegas loss

20:07 - How to handle the goalie-split going forward

23:25 - Biggest thing the Blackhawks need to improve upon

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Blackhawks expected to be without Connor Murphy (groin injury) for 'a couple weeks'

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AP

Blackhawks expected to be without Connor Murphy (groin injury) for 'a couple weeks'

The Blackhawks are expected to be without defenseman Connor Murphy for "a couple weeks" after he left in the second period of Tuesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Vegas Golden Knights because of a groin injury, coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after the game.

It's the same injury that sidelined Murphy for the season opener in Prague, which is unfortunate given his promotion to the top pairing with Duncan Keith has provided some stability on all three pairings. 

"Obviously that's a blow for us," Colliton said. "It's an opportunity for other guys. We think we need to continue to build depth. That's what we're going to need. We can't just play with six D or seven D all year. You're going to need more than that. That'll be an opportunity for other guys to grow."

Slater Koekkoek is serving as the seventh defenseman right now and he's the likely candidate to slide into Murphy's spot in the lineup. But the Blackhawks might be inclined to make a call-up from Rockford as insurance.

Dennis Gilbert started the season with the Blackhawks because Murphy and Calvin de Haan were not cleared to play overseas, so he's a potential candidate to be brought back up.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.