Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Who will step up in Marian Hossa's absence?

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Blackhawks: Who will step up in Marian Hossa's absence?

During the first couple months of the season, the Blackhawks auditioned multiple players for that top-line left winger to complement Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Andrew Shaw seized that opportunity in December and hasn't looked back since.

Now, the Blackhawks will need someone else to step up, the same way Shaw did, in Hossa's absence after he left Saturday's game against the Anaheim Ducks early due to an apparent left leg injury that was officially described as a lower-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville sounded optimistic that the injury wouldn't keep him out long-term, but admitted Hossa "could miss some time."

The door has sprung open, but it won't be easy shoes to fill.

"Important minutes, special teams, quality ice time," Quenneville said of Hossa's impact on the ice. "You definitely miss (Hossa) playing the right way, but (it) definitely creates some opportunities for some guys that haven't done much recently that should look forward to getting a great chance."

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Reading between the lines, the immediate player that comes to mind is Teuvo Teravainen, who was demoted to the fourth line on Saturday night.

Whether it was a tactic to exploit matchups or send a message is unknown, but perhaps it was made more clear following Quenneville's postgame press conference when he didn't hesitate to respond whether Teravainen would get the first crack at an expanded roll as Hossa's fill-in on the first line.

"Well, the opportunity's been there," a seemingly frustrated Quenneville said. "Just grab it."

When Teravainen is on the ice with Toews, the Blackhawks control 52.5 percent of even-strength shot attempts, according to hockeyanalysis.com. When Teravainen is apart from Toews, that number slips to 50.8 percent. Still solid, but the possession numbers increase when they're together, which means the drop-off shouldn't be too significant if that's the direction they choose to go — although Hossa certainly has had a hand in those numbers playing across from Teravainen.

On top of that, Teravainen would be slotted in at right wing, a position he's been more comfortable in, rather than left wing on the top unit, where he's had the chance to play previously.

[MORE: Blackhawks lose Marian Hossa in OT loss to Ducks]

But it's Hossa's ability to impact the game on a nightly basis that will be difficult to replace.

"Just his consistency," Toews said when asked about Hossa's leadership on and off the ice. "I think you've seen him, he's working his tail off all year, maybe not getting the results he wants to offensively but he's still there taking up minutes, killing penalties, filling in on the power play, playing against top lines and top defensemen all the time.

"Sometimes even if he's not scoring the way he knows he can, you don't realize how much you'll miss a guy like that until he's not in your lineup."

Even before Hossa's injury, acquiring a top-six forward has been a hot topic of discussion as the Blackhawks approach the trade deadline on Feb. 29. An emergence from Teravainen would help lessen the blow of Hossa, and it also might earn himself a permanent spot somewhere in the top-six spot if he takes advantage of that opportunity.

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.