Blackhawks

Defense strikes, Emery shines in Blackhawks win

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Defense strikes, Emery shines in Blackhawks win

Ray Emery has just focused on improving his game in his short time with the Chicago Blackhawks. And on Friday, it culminated in his best game this season.

Emery stopped 24 of 25 and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook scored their first goals of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Calgary Flames 4-1.

The victory was the Blackhawks second in as many nights; it was also their seventh consecutive victory over the Flames at the United Center.

Emery was solid from start to finish, denying the Flames early when the Blackhawks, who played last night in Columbus, were committing some early mistakes. One of his biggest stops came on a Curtis Glencross breakaway, when the Blackhawks were holding a 2-0 lead in the second period.

We were joking with him; we thought hed be one of the stars of the game. We definitely thought he deserved it, captain Jonathan Toews said. But he stepped in there when we needed him to. He was a big help in the win tonight.

Emery said hes felt better as the season has gone on.

You want to get more comfortable in there and Im definitely working on things, said Emery, who wasnt upset when Olli Jokinens third-period goal denied him the shutout. You just want to win and they buzzed around a bit from the start. Its good when you get the early lead. You just want to keep the lead and limit the other teams chances.

Viktor Stalberg also scored for the Blackhawks; Patrick Kane added an empty-net goal with 3.4 seconds remaining in the third. Patrick Sharp had three assists and Marian Hossa had two.

Emery did his job in net, and once again the Blackhawks defensemen did theirs on the score sheet. Keith, playing in his 500th career NHL game, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. Seabrook added his, a power-play goal from the blue line, in the second.

Blackhawks defensemen now have 10 points in the last two games.

I think thats part of our game that needs to be there, Keith said. Its nice to get points and things like that, but the main thing is keeping plays alive, having good gaps and supporting our forwards.

The Blackhawks are back on the winning side. Theyre back atop the Western Conference standings and theyre getting that team game they know they need.

I thought that the whole team played great tonight, really fast paced out there on both sides, Keith said. It was nice to get the first (goal) and gather the momentum.

Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

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USA Today

Penalty kill improving, but Blackhawks struggling to stay out of the box

The Blackhawks' struggles on the penalty kill last season have been well-documented. They ranked dead last with a 72.7 percent kill rate, which was the worst percentage of any NHL team in the past 30 years.

And what made the number more alarming is the fact the Blackhawks committed the third-fewest minor penalties last season, so it's not like they were shooting themselves in the foot in that regard. They simply couldn't rely on their penalty kill in any situation.

"It felt like it didn't matter what we tried to do to turn things around," Jonathan Toews said. "It just kept snowballing in the wrong direction for us." 

That's changed this season, but the Blackhawks haven't been doing themselves any favors as of late.

Since Nov. 29, the Blackhawks have committed the most minor penalties (23) of any team for an average of 3.83 per game over the last six contests. They've also given up the most power-play goals (six) in that span. 

Before that, the Blackhawks had committed just 78 minor penalties across 24 games, which ranked ninth-fewest. They've killed off 79.6 percent of their penalties this season, good for 17th, but the Blackhawks have put their special teams in a difficult position in the last half dozen games and it’s costing them points.

"We have to keep it out of our net and obviously stay out of the box too," Alex DeBrincat said following a 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. "Two of their goals came on power plays, so if we stayed out of the box I think we win that in regulation."

The Blackhawks committed a season-high six minor penalties on Sunday and played 10:07 of the game shorthanded, which was by far their most of the season, according to Natural Stat Trick. Two games prior in Boston, they spent 8:00 of the game on the penalty kill, which tied their third-highest total of the season.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton is pleased with the progression of the penalty kill and how the Blackhawks are pressuring at the appropriate time, denying entries and making big saves. They got away from that a bit on Sunday, but you won’t win many hockey games if you commit six penalties.

Staying out of the box is something that’s the bigger issue.

"I think our PK has been very good," Colliton said. "If we just talk about the last game, we got to focus on getting the puck all the way down and getting our structure back. When we're trying to attack, it's fine. It's great to score, but when we're trying to attack and it doesn't go well, we lack numbers back. They scored off the rush. They entered clean on the second goal and created zone time. We need our numbers to defend the entries."

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Blackhawks make roster moves ahead of three-game road trip

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USA Today

Blackhawks make roster moves ahead of three-game road trip

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Adam Boqvist and forward Matthew Highmore from the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL on Monday morning before heading out on a three-game road trip. The Hawks also moved Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) to long term injured reserve, meaning he isn't eligible to return until after Christmas (Dec. 27). 

Duncan Keith (groin injury), Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol) and Shaw won't travel on the trip. Olli Maatta missed the last three games with flu-like symptoms but will go on the trip. When he gets in isn't certain.

The Blackhawks will take on the Golden Knights in Vegas on Tuesday before heading to Arizona for a Thursday rematch with the Coyotes (lost 4-3 in a shootout in Chicago on Sunday), then to St. Louis to take on the Western Conference leading and defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. 

The trip will prove to be a vital one with Hawks, 12-12-5, sitting in last place in the Central division, but only four points out of a wild card spot.

Call-ups

Boqvist has one goal in six games with Chicago this season and is excited about another stint with the Hawks.

"I think I kind of know how to play now," he said. "I got six games playing with Duncs (Duncan Keith) and Mats (Maatta). They helped me a lot as well. I know kind of what is going (on) out there now, so it's good."

The defenseman knows he'll have to contribute more offensively this time up. 

"I think I've come [back] more comfortable," Boqvist said. "I can't find the net, though, but it's good to help the team to win."

"He's done well down there," Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Reports have been good and I've had a chance to watch a couple games, too. I think he continues to get better so hopefully that process continues and can continue here."

Highmore has zero points in two games with the Hawks this year. 

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.