Blackhawks

Blackhawks stay hot, beat Jets for fourth straight win

Blackhawks stay hot, beat Jets for fourth straight win

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Blackhawks came into the back half of this Ice Show trip knowing some of their opponents had had their way with them this season. On Wednesday, the Blackhawks exacted some measure of regular-season revenge against the Minnesota Wild.

On Friday, they did it to the Winnipeg Jets.

Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 30 shots and Duncan Keith's goal proved to be the game winner as the Blackhawks beat the Jets 5-2 at MTS Centre. The Blackhawks remain in second place in the Central Division but still trail the Minnesota Wild by five points. The Wild beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout on Friday.

Patrick Kane scored his 269th career goal, moving him to sixth place all-time among Blackhawks goal scorers. He's also now the team's leading U.S.-born goal scorer. Artem Anisimov scored his 19th goal of the season. Keith, Kane and Anisimov all had two-point nights while Artemi Panarin turned in a three-point game.

As much as the Blackhawks would've loved to gain some ground on the Wild, this trip has been about snapping losing streaks against some of their foes and improving their overall game. So far, they've done both.

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"I liked our game, I liked our trip here. I think each game we've done a lot of good things, may have been our most complete game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Crow was good in the net and made some big, timely saves for us. We've always been chasing the game against them. Last game we got ahead of them late but couldn't hold on. Tonight I like how we finished it."

The finish came in the form of late empty-net goals, first from Marian Hossa for his team-leading 20th goal of the season, then from Artemi Panarin. But from defense to offense to goaltending, the Blackhawks played well. Crawford nullified the Jets' prime opportunities. Brent Seabrook's late second-period save kept the momentum – and the lead – for the Blackhawks. And the late third-period offense stymied any last-second comeback chance the Jets hoped to have.

"We did what we had to," Kane said of the third period. "We were not generating much throughout the first 17-18 minutes there but we didn't give up much, either. You get a [Keith] shot through you get a goal, all of a sudden it's 3-1 and a couple of empty netters and it looks like a good third for us."

Kane also noted the Blackhawks' start, which was also strong. His goal gave them a 1-0 lead and the Blackhawks dominated the Jets in the first 20 minutes, outshooting them 16-9. One of the Blackhawks' big problems in previous games vs. the Jets was not getting enough shots or traffic around Winnipeg's goaltending. They did both on Friday.

The Blackhawks will be going into a break soon. During that time other teams, including the Wild, will catch up to them on games. The Wild could pull ahead more. The Blackhawks can't control what happens during their bye week but they can finish this trip positively in Edmonton on Saturday night. So far, they've been trending the right way in just about every facet of their game.

"Just a solid game from us," Crawford said. "We've gotta keep rolling here, build more momentum. That could be one of our best games here. We have to keep playing like that."

Report: Blackhawks will head to Edmonton in NHL's Return to Play plan

Report: Blackhawks will head to Edmonton in NHL's Return to Play plan

The NHL and NHL Players' Association worked diligently into the late hours on Tuesday and reportedly made significant progress as the two sides look to come to an overall agreement on the protocols and safety measures for Phase 3 and 4, transition rules and a Collective Bargaining Agreement extension. 

Nothing is official until the entire deal is ratified — the voting could take place Friday or Saturday — but, barring any last-minute breakdowns, Edmonton and Toronto are expected to be named the two hub cities for the league's 24-team Return to Play plan, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. Chicago was among the four finalists from a field that started with 10 candidates.

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Vegas was a clear frontrunner from the beginning because of its appealing and tight bubble environment, but the NHL and NHLPA were forced to shift its attention elsewhere after an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.

It was originally believed that the league would put each conference in opposite regions to eliminate any sort of competitive advantage, but that no longer appears to be the case. The Western Conference is expected to play in Edmonton while the Eastern Conference will go to Toronto, which means the Blackhawks will head to Edmonton if or when hockey officially returns.

Both hub cities will host exhibition games, the qualifying round and Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs, but only one of them will host the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final. It's unclear which city will host the latter.

Report: Blackhawks' Ian Mitchell not expected to play in NHL's 24-team playoff

Report: Blackhawks' Ian Mitchell not expected to play in NHL's 24-team playoff

When the NHL's Return To Play plan and 24-team playoff format were originally being hashed out, there was some hope that the Blackhawks could receive some much-needed defensive depth from Ian Mitchell. But that may not be the case.

Chicago could use all the help they can get in their potential best-of-5 play-in series against the Oilers under the league's format.

Mitchell, 21, was drafted by the Hawks in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He spent the past three seasons at the University of Denver, captaining the Pioneers this past year and setting a career high in goals (10) and points (32) through 36 games.

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The promising defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract with Chicago in April after the NHL paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11.

Wednesday morning, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported players in a similar boat to Mitchell who signed during the pause, as well as unsigned draft picks, are not expected to be eligible if and when the NHL resumes to finish the 2019-20 season.