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Five Things: Blackhawks hit the wall vs. Panthers

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Five Things: Blackhawks hit the wall vs. Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. — That proverbial wall that’s spoken of sometimes? The Blackhawks might be close to hitting it.

After a tremendous 12-game winning streak, the Blackhawks have lost two in a row, including Friday night’s quiet 4-0 loss to the Florida Panthers. Well, that’s the way it goes sometimes. So before we all head home, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ loss to the Panthers.

1. It’s catching up to the Blackhawks. Since Dec. 27, the Blackhawks have played 14 games. That schedule has pretty much been a game every other day, and outside of these last two, those games all ended with victories. But as coach Joel Quenneville pointed out, the Blackhawks “lost a little enthusiasm” when the Lightning ended their 12-game winning streak on Thursday. Couple that with fatigue, which the Blackhawks have to be feeling whether they want to admit it or not, and the All-Star break can’t come soon enough.

2. Florida was better. There’s no getting around it tonight: the Panthers were strong at the start and never really let up against the Blackhawks. The Panthers, who had a 12-game winning streak of their own not too long ago, had energy and were swarming the Blackhawks from the start. It was just too much for the visiting team.

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3. Late goals hurt. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks were going to come back in this one, even if they trailed 1-0 or 2-0 at the end of the first — again, they were listless from the start. But Quinton Howden scoring with just 2.1 seconds remaining in the first period didn’t help. As Marian Hossa said, “usually goals at the end of the periods, whoever scores (them) gets the momentum.”

4. Pulling Scott Darling with eight minutes remaining. Yes, it looked bizarre, more so than any Patrick Roy pull ever has. But the Blackhawks were down 4-0, so why the heck not? Quenneville said, “you never know. You get one and then all of a sudden you get excited. It’s usually not my go-to move but you never know. It could happen one day where it works.”

5. Time to go home. The Blackhawks haven’t lost two consecutive games since December. But coming off a disappointing visit to Florida the Blackhawks head home, where they’ve worked plenty of magic this season. Couple that with a visit from their Central Division rivals, the St. Louis Blues, and the Blackhawks have everything they need to dredge up some pre-break energy. “We know it’s a big one. We know what to expect against that team, and we’re looking for a bounce-back from these two games,” Jonathan Toews said. “The motivation’s right there.”

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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