Five Things: Blackhawks slip to second in Central Division


Five Things: Blackhawks slip to second in Central Division

Five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night at the United Center.

1. Blackhawks slip to second in Central Division. A week ago, the Blackhawks appeared to be in comfortable control of the division lead after kicking down the Dallas Stars in their own building. Since then, the Blackhawks have taken just one of six points in three games while the Stars have collected six points in their last three. Both teams sit at 77 points, but Dallas owns the tiebreaker and has three games in hand.

2. Line changes didn't change much. Joel Quenneville tinkered with his bottom-six forward lines and defensive pairings on Saturday looking for some extra jump, but he didn't get it. The most notable adjustment was making Erik Gustafsson a healthy scratch in favor of Viktor Svedberg, who was called back up from Rockford on Friday. Perhaps this may have been a move to get Gustafsson re-ignited, but they could've used another possession-type player against a Ducks team that outshot the Blackhawks 44-23.

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3. Penalty kill unit bounces back. Entering Saturday's game, the Blackhawks had allowed three power play goals in their last three penalty kill attempts. Aside from the 4-on-3 overtime goal, the Blackhawks bounced back in a big way, killing off six of seven penalties in the loss. This area will be crucial going forward with one of the team's best penalty killers in Marian Hossa, who's expected to be out for a bit.

4. Marian Hossa 'could miss some time.' After having just played two games without Artemi Panarin due to an illness, the Blackhawks may be without another top player for the foreseeable future. Hossa left Saturday's game with an apparent leg injury, leaving the ice without putting much pressure on his left leg. When asked if it could be a long-term injury, Quenneville said "that's stretching it. Weeks. Not that long. ... We don't think it's serious, but (he) could miss some time."

5. Brent Seabrook sets career-high in goals scored. With two more goals on Saturday night, Seabrook established a new career-high in goals scored (10) after previously scoring nine goals in a season three times (2007-08, 2010-11, 2011-12). He's quietly having the best season of his career, and there are still 23 games left in the season.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?


Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”