Blackhawks

Boden: Penguins' pain threshold

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Boden: Penguins' pain threshold

A year ago, the Blackhawks had 144 man games lost to injury. This year, they've had all of 22. Pittsburgh had well over 300 a year ago. They've had more than 160 this year.

Brent Seabrook, who suffered a nasty, illegal hit at the hands of Rene Bourque during Sunday night's game, did travel with the Blackhawks to Pittsburgh but it's unknown if he will play Tuesday. Bourque received a two-game suspension from the NHL on Monday.

Even with this injury, the Blackhawks can count their blessings with how healthy they've been. But they can also look across the ice Tuesday night and see the team that's been best at handling health issues. Sidney Crosby has missed 25 games and still has only faced the Hawks just twice in his career (none in the past five seasons). All-Star defenseman Kris Letang's missed 11 games total, and hasn't played since Thanksgiving weekend. Same goes for fellow blueliner Zbynek Michalek. Evgeni Malkin missed seven games earlier. There are others. Those are just the bigger names. But the Penguins came into Monday tied for the fourth-best point total in the East -- after losing four of their last six. They lost those 300-plus man-games a year ago, and Dan Bylsma amazingly led them to the second-highest point total in the East before exiting in the first round of the playoffs. Think of the Hawks playing without Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane a year ago.

"They've learned how to play without their star players and it shows that they don't give anybody easy games," said Toews. "When it comes to playing Eastern Conference teams we're not used to seeing it comes down to us and our preparation. We've been playing much better, getting the starts we need, we've been (penalty-) killing better and paying better attention to detail. When we do that, our skill takes over."

"They're right at the top of their conference and play well with whoever they have in their lineup," added Duncan Keith. "We know it's gonna be a tough game. It'll be exciting to go into Pittsburgh and play our first game in their new building."

Joel Quenneville, who reached the 600-coaching-win mark Sunday night quicker than anyone in NHL history except for the legendary Scotty Bowman, speaks of highly of what Bylsma's been able to pull off.

"You gotta commend them with how well they play their team game and their commitment for doing the right things all over the ice. They play hard and play a physical brand and don't give you a lot of time or space. Everybody's kind of stepped up to the challenge of missing key guys and finding ways to win. It's not easy to do over long periods of time even though I think initially you might get a little jolt out of it, but you have to commend them over sustaining it over time."

But the Hawks who've been playing for Quenneville almost 3-12 seasons -- particularly two of the guys who have letters on the front of their jerseys -- know what they have in their leader after they helped him reach that milestone Sunday.

"You don't get to that point without knowing a thing or two about hockey," said Toews. "He's done nothing but good things since coming into this locker room. I think for the guys in here, you take satisfaction in getting wins like (Sunday's) for your coach, knowing what he puts into our team every single day."

Said Keith: "He's been huge, coming in here and settling down our team. He really gave us that experience and leadership and capped it off with the Cup. 600 wins is a lot of wins. It's impressive, and I don't think it's a coincidence when you get that many."

If you think about it, Quenneville just turned 53 in September. Would he coach, say, another ten years? While appearing to handle the stress of the job quite well on the exterior, who knows what toll it takes (see last year's missed time that seemed to surprise everyone). But he's been at this awhile. Every coach in every sport has a "shelf life," but with this Blackhawks core in place the next few years, how high can his win total go? The 21 victories this year put him fourth in club history with 159, three behind Rudy Pilous, and 23 behind Bob Pulford, so he very well could become the second-winningest coach in franchise history before the season is out. Billy Reay's 516 victories tops the organization.

NHL to potentially discuss emergency goalie rules at general managers meetings

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USA Today

NHL to potentially discuss emergency goalie rules at general managers meetings

The NHL general managers meetings are set to begin next week and one of the topics on the docket to be discussed may be emergency backup goalie (EBUG) procedures. The recent interest in reevaluating EBUG rules come after 42-year-old David Ayres suited up to play for the Carolina Hurricanes in their 6-3 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs this past weekend.

The issue of EBUGs comes up so rarely that NHL GMs don’t typically give it much thought. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly spoke about EBUGs this Tuesday during the Washington Capitals and Winnipeg Jets game.

“It's something we've given some consideration to over the years. As recently as last year, we discussed [it] with the general managers. It happens very, very rarely, but when it happens, it obviously raises everybody's attention to the issue and whether there are fixes that need to be made to that particular issue,” he explained. “We have to work with the [NHL] Players' Association. Who's a player? Who's not a player? What qualifies all of that? But obviously we want what's best for the game, and we want to make sure people aren't putting themselves in danger by playing goal in a National Hockey League game. ... So that's obviously something we have to continue to work through."

Currently, the 2019-20 NHL official rules state, “if both listed goalkeepers are incapacitated, that team shall be entitled to dress and play any available goalkeeper who is eligible."

Ayres drives the Zamboni at the Mattamy Athletic Center in Toronto and frequently practices with the Leafs. Ayres stepped in the net after Hurricanes goalies James Reimer and Petr Mrazek were both injured. He made eight saves and is the oldest goalie in NHL history to make his regular season debut.

The Blackhawks had their own instance of needing an EBUG in 2018 against the Winnipeg Jets. Scott Foster, a then-36-year-old accountant stepped in the net at the United Center after Corey Crawford and Collin Delia were sidelined by injury. Foster saved all seven shots on goal, making him the first EBUG to make a save and a hometown hero in Chicago. 

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How Blackhawks are trying to stay upbeat despite roster subtractions

How Blackhawks are trying to stay upbeat despite roster subtractions

ST. LOUIS — The NHL trade deadline is a unique time of year for fans because it serves as a chance to get a read on what the management group feels about your respective team's current state.

There are the buyers who feel they're good enough to make a deep postseason run, the sellers who admit they're looking more towards the future and the ones who stand pat because they're somewhere in between. But to what degree is telling as well.

For example, the Columbus Blue Jackets went for it all last season by acquiring Matt Duchene, Ryan Dzingel and two other players in exchange for a roster player, three prospects and seven draft picks that included a pair of first- and second-rounders, fully knowing all four players could walk away for nothing in the summer. And they did.

Last season, the Blackhawks stood pat. They didn’t have many assets to sell, but they were knocking on the door of a playoff spot and decided to let it ride.

This season was a different story.

Erik Gustafsson and Robin Lehner were traded in separate deals for asset management purposes, and intentionally or not, the message was sent that the Blackhawks weren't good enough to keep the group together for a legitimate playoff push. Despite how deflating the roster subtractions could make them feel, the Blackhawks are trying to maintain a positive attitude for the remainder of the season.

"No letdown, no taking any steps back," Jonathan Toews said before Tuesday’s 6-5 loss to the Blues. "Stay on your routine, stay on your commitment, keeping that upbeat feel in the locker room and going out there having fun, working hard and putting your best foot forward [for] a win and getting two points every night, so that's all we can do."  

Head coach Jeremy Colliton commended his group for how they reacted to the outside distractions leading up to the trade deadline. He expects them to respond after it.

"It's our job to compete at the highest level," Colliton said. "I give the guys credit, those two games before the deadline we responded really well to the uncertainty. Pulling a player at the last second and they played hard, and that's what we expect going forward. The team-first priorities at all times and sticking together and playing to the end no matter what. If we do that, we'll get our results and let's see what happens."

It would take a miraculous run for the Blackhawks to make the playoffs at this point after falling below .500 based on points percentage following Tuesday's loss to the Blues. But they're not waving the white flag just yet, even though it would psychologically be easy to pack it in.

"You always want to be in the hunt and just fighting for a playoff spot," Patrick Kane said. "Obviously we'd have to go on a pretty big run to make the playoffs this year, but just take it a game at a time here. We've been playing pretty well as a team to be honest with you. I know the results haven't been there, but we've been playing pretty good, we've been playing some tough teams. I think if we continue on this turn we're probably going to get better results down the stretch."  

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