Blackhawks

Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Panarin sticks up for Kane

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Wild: Panarin sticks up for Kane

The Blackhawks have been looking for consistency as much as they’ve been looking for points lately. And while they didn’t get the right start again on Sunday, they got enough to earn at least one point by the end of the night.

Hey, it’s not pretty right now but any points are crucial. The Blackhawks got the most out of their fourth line and goaltending and didn’t have any answers in the shootout. So you take what you can.

 

And as the Central Division plot thickens, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

1. The Andrew Shaw effect. The Blackhawks needed a spark in the second period after going down 2-0 and he provided that – and a much-needed goal. Shaw scored his 12th goal of the season and was around the net a few minutes later when line mate Richard Panik scored on a wraparound. Said coach Joel Quenneville of that fourth line, “that line was our most dangerous line tonight.”

2. Failed four-minutes of power-play time. The Blackhawks got a big opportunity early when Zach Parise was called for a double-minor high-sticking on Michal Rozsival. But four minutes later, all the Blackhawks had were two shots on goal. Credit the Wild’s kill for part of that, but the Blackhawks have gotten away from the shoot-first mentality that helped their power play click earlier this season.

3. A massive overtime penalty kill. Well, if the Blackhawks needed a confidence boost with that kill, which hasn’t been good this season, they got it in overtime on Sunday night. Facing a 4-on-3 after Artem Anisimov was whistled for goaltending interference, the Blackhawks kept the Wild from scoring in those two minutes. Yes, Parise hitting the side of a wide-open net helped, but the Blackhawks’ kill helped force the shootout.

[MORE: Blackhawks' rally falls short as Wild win in shootout]

4. Another good night for Scott Darling. No, it wasn’t a victory but Darling’s a big reason why the Blackhawks had a chance in overtime and the shootout. Darling stopped all 16 Wild shots he saw in the third period, when the Blackhawks managed just seven on the other end. Darling’s shootout loss was his first in four attempts – and Charlie Coyle’s shot was the first to get by him in those appearances. Darling is getting an opportunity due to Corey Crawford’s upper-body injury. No one likes to see someone hurt, but Darling is gaining much-needed confidence in these outings.

5. Artemi Panarin, pugilist? Yes, it was quite the surprise to see Artemi Panarin go after Matt Dumba in the third period. Panarin was ticked off after Dumba hit Patrick Kane, sending Kane to the dressing room for a few minutes. Panarin got a roughing call – the Blackhawks killed off the ensuing penalty. There won’t be any discipline for Dumba – the vice president of the Department of Player Safety sent out an explanation of Rule 48 (unavoidable head contact). But Quenneville appreciated Panarin’s reaction. “I loved the response,” Quenneville said. “Just like the crowd did.”

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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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.