Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen liking progress at center

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Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen liking progress at center

ST. LOUIS – Teuvo Teravainen wasn’t worried about moving back to center.

The Blackhawks forward said earlier in camp that he had played there in his “young years,” which sounds funny coming from a 21-year-old. But you get the gist: it wasn’t going to take him long to readjust. And thus far, it doesn’t look like it has.

[MORE: Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin could play vs. Stars in preseason finale]

Teravainen is getting acclimated to the center role again. He had a big test with it on Thursday night, facing a big, brawny St. Louis Blues team in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 loss. Obviously this wasn’t the first night Teravainen’s faced a sizeable Central Division foe, but it’s a little different at center. Still, he looked poised and said the return to center has been a good one.

“I feel good,” he said. “I think I’m getting better all the time. It’s just a lot of experience from last year, so I feel more comfortable on and off the ice.”

Coach Joel Quenneville talked Wednesday of the Blackhawks being set at center, especially with Teravainen now in the mix. He’s liked what Teravainen’s done from the start of camp until now.

“I think he’s had a good camp,” Quenneville said. “He gives us a lot of options, playing left, center and right. He’s positionally aware and has the puck a lot. Tonight we didn’t have a good game across the board but I still think he does a lot of good things.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the 2015-16 Blackhawks season!]

The good things could happen on the power play, too. Teravainen got some time on it at the end of last season and should play plenty on it again this season.

“We practice this week with him on the power play with some high-skilled guys. Whether it’s his patience, play recognition or entries, there’ll be some lanes and shot opportunities,” Quenneville said. “When he starts thinking shot, he becomes more dangerous.”

Teravainen figured he’d adjust to center fast. It appears he has, and he wants to keep improving from here.

“I want to get better every day, I want to learn every day. I think I can do a better job about everything in my game, of course,” he said. “I’m getting there. I just have to be confident, stay positive and just try to have fun out there. Right now I’m feeling good so I just have to keep going.”

BRIEFLY

— Brandon Mashinter, who was recalled on Thursday morning, scored for the Blackhawks. Dennis Rasmussen also scored. Scott Darling stopped 19 of 24 shots.

— Marcus Kruger played his first preseason game on Thursday night. Quenneville said he’s not worried about Kruger, who just got back to Chicago last Friday, getting up to speed – “he’ll find a way to be ready next Wednesday.”

— Thursday’s game was likely the last for some prospects looking to show the Blackhawks what they can do. Quenneville said Saturday’s lineup against the Dallas Stars will feature most of the regulars. “We don’t have a lot of time left,” Quenneville said. “We had a real good week of practice; guys showed a lot as far as pace and showed they can get an opportunity to play when called upon. It looks like they’d love to get that chance. One more opportunity here, but that was a productive week.”

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."