Blackhawks

Boden: The hot line shouldn't be interrupted

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Boden: The hot line shouldn't be interrupted

Friday, March 4, 2011
12:30 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

One glance out at the United Center ice at this morning's game-day skate brought a sense of...Hmmm. If not, "Uh-oh."

The league's hottest player right now, Jonathan Toews, and the left wing on the league's hottest line, Patrick Sharp, were nowhere to be found. Patrick Kane skated with whomever would take him along.

Not to worry, however. Head Coach Joel Quenneville indicated afterward that both, along with defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, were just nursing some aches and pains and are expected to face the Carolina Hurricanes tonight.

"Both of them are just taking a rest from practice, nursing some things," Kane said. "I expect 'em both to be back and be in there."

Corey Crawford will make his NHL career-high 10th consecutive start, though Quenneville admits with three back-to-backs over the next seven games, his workload will be something that's addressed game-by-game.

It's also the beginning of a five-game stretch against the East after playing the last five weeks exclusively against the West, except for one game. The Hurricanes come to town following an emotional home overtime win against Buffalo, which inched them up to 7th in that conference. Tomorrow night, the Hawks open a four-game trip versus a Toronto team that's surged back into contention by going 10-2-4 since the All-Star break. Since the Hawks haven't faced the Canes since last January, when goalie Cam Ward stood on his head against them, newcomer Chris Campoli faced them three times this season with Ottawa.

"It's a young team, high-paced, aggressive. They come at you in waves and you definitely can't take them lightly. This game's just as big for them as it is for us. They've got some guys to key on. If we give them low-percentage chances we'll have success."

"Look at the standings," Campoli's defensive partner, Brian Campbell, said. "We've won six in a row and two points up in the playoffs and we know how quickly it can be taken away. Obviously Carolina's fighting for the playoffs too, so it's a big contest for us.."

"It's a different style out there in the East," Kane added. "A little bit different than what we're used to here in the West. Carolina needs to win, we need to win. It comes down to getting two points."

That's the message Quenneville hopes everyone in his locker room understands.

"You look at where they're at - the same boat. It's a fast team with guys who make plays and score goals. The approach has to be the same as the last four games - the same intensity and attitude. These other teams have a lot at stake as well."

Eighteen-year-old Jeff Skinner leads all rookies in scoring with 48 points, including 22 goals. The 7th overall draft pick last June is tied for the league lead in rookie power play points with 16.

One Week from Today

The Blackhawks will be hanging with President Obama next Friday after the official announcement came down yesterday.

"It's pretty cool," Campbell said. "We're all excited about it and getting to shake hands with the President will be something special. I've got a picture with President Clinton and I want to add to the collection, so I'm looking forward to it."

Kane will be reunited with an old friend.

"For some reason he wanted to talk to me after the (Stanley Cup-clinching) game, and I remember we were doing our team photo with the Cup (at the United Center two days later), and we had to interrupt it for about two minutes. It's pretty exciting. I'll probably bring my FlipCam and take it all in. We should have some good memories."

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

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."