Blackhawks

Blackhawks try to avoid third straight loss on CSN

389016.jpg

Blackhawks try to avoid third straight loss on CSN

Wednesday Feb. 16, 2011
10:19 a.m.
Associated Press
With desperation about to set in, the Chicago Blackhawks believe now is the time to string together some wins.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions can start by trying to beat a team they're chasing in the Western Conference standings.

The Blackhawks return from a disappointing trip trying to avoid a third straight loss overall and at the United Center on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

With less than two months remaining in the regular season, Chicago (28-22-6) has no choice but to get hot in order to defend its Cup title. The Blackhawks are 11th in the West, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 26 games left.

"We're looking for our own run," coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks' official website. "Every game is huge, every game is important."

The Blackhawks, who suffered shootout losses at Dallas and Phoenix to conclude a 2-2-2 road swing, have lost six of eight. They're returning to the United Center for the first time since falling 4-2 to Minnesota on Jan. 25.

"We have a lot of character," rookie goaltender Corey Crawford said. "We need the points."

After Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Vancouver, the Wild (30-21-5) remained ninth in the conference. They are three points ahead of Chicago and one behind eighth-place Calgary.

Minnesota overcame a 2-1 first-period deficit last month to drop Chicago to 16-13-0 at home. The Blackhawks were 29-8-4 at the United Center in 2009-10.

The Wild, meanwhile, have won 12 of 17 on the road.

"They are playing very well right now," said Quenneville, whose club plays six of the next nine at home. "It's a very meaningful game."

Chicago has been outscored 8-3 in its last two home contests. The challenge in the offensive zone could get tougher if Patrick Kane is unable to play after dealing with the flu this week.

Though Kane didn't score in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Coyotes, he had four goals and three assists the previous three games. Kane has two goals with six assists his last seven versus Minnesota.

Despite losing four of five, Crawford is expected to start Wednesday. He stopped just 18 of 22 shots last month in his first career start against the Wild.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a goal with an assist and ex-Blackhawk Martin Havlat scored for the Wild at Chicago in January.

Havlat has that goal and three assists in six games versus Chicago since leaving as a free agent in 2009. However, he was held without a point for the second straight contest Tuesday as the Wild had their three-game winning streak snapped with their third loss in 12 games.

"We had a nice little winning streak and now we lost," coach Todd Richards said. "We have to regroup and come out (Wednesday) and try to start another winning streak."

Though Minnesota outshot the Canucks 29-14, it was stymied after totaling 11 goals the previous three games.

"It's definitely frustrating. We've been playing so well," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said.

Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck scored Tuesday, giving him four goals in three games.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

9-20_anton_forsberg_ap.jpg
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

blackhawks_defense_issues_usa_today.jpg
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."