Blackhawks

Five Things: Blackhawks hit with rare call, Crawford excellent again

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Five Things: Blackhawks hit with rare call, Crawford excellent again

TAMPA — The Blackhawks weren’t thrilled with their team outing on Thursday, but they could take some comfort in knowing it was their first loss since Dec. 27.

Yes, the 12-game winning streak is over. It was a fun ride, one that catapulted the Blackhawks to the top of the Central Division standings. They’re still there, thanks to the cushion they’ve built. They also have no time to be disappointed in this one, given they’re playing the Florida Panthers, who had a 12-game winning streak of their own not too long ago, on Friday night.

So before we head to the other side of the state — it’s nice and warm over there, too — let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

1. Corey Crawford could’ve used some help. It was another night in which Crawford could’ve compiled a highlight reel of his saves. He did everything he could to keep the Blackhawks in this one, stopping 31 of 33 shots. “I thought he was great tonight,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He gave us a chance to be in the game the whole time.”

2. That odd infraction. There were a few people scratching their heads when Patrick Kane was called for interference when he played the puck before he was fully out of the penalty box in the second period. The rule is highlighted here. It was odd, it was costly — the Lightning scored the game-winning goal on that power play — but it was nonetheless legit. It was rarely called penalty night, though: Valtteri Filppula was whistled for a face-off violation to start the third.

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3. No generation. Artem Anisimov gave the Blackhawks the lead on their first shot on goal just 43 seconds into the game. It would take to the end of the second period for the Blackhawks to get another eight shots on Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop. Yeah, it’s been a while since the Blackhawks generated so little. They finished with 18 shots, their lowest total this season — the previous low was 19 against the Calgary Flames on Nov. 20. “It seemed like they had pretty good sticks and they closed the gap in their zone pretty fast,” Crawford said. “Just one of those games, I guess.”

4. A costly snooze. Richard Panik was settling in nicely with the Blackhawks. He found a place on the fourth line and scored two goals in as many games. But when he overslept on Thursday morning he made Quenneville one unhappy coach. Panik was benched, and the Blackhawks went with a seventh defenseman — Rob Scuderi, who played on the fourth line. Don’t know if Panik is in the lineup on Friday vs. the Panthers, but we’re guessing he learned his lesson.

5. A changing of the forward. Ryan Garbutt’s time here was brief, as he’s the latest to be shipped elsewhere. Jiri Sekac, who the Blackhawks acquired from the Anaheim Ducks, will likely make his debut on Friday against Florida. Garbutt’s energy was good for the Blackhawks, but the younger Sekac, who’s in the final season of his contract, might have more upside in the long haul.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

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 ECHL 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.