Blackhawks

Former Blackhawks looking to spark Flames

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Former Blackhawks looking to spark Flames

CALGARY, Alberta – Brandon Bollig said he and former teammate Jonathan Toews almost dropped the gloves in their last meeting in Chicago.

Almost.

“I asked him last game, he said yes and I kind of backed down. I got scared. I didn’t want to get beat up by one of the best players in the league,” Bollig said to laughs. “Maybe tonight I’ll muster up the courage.”

All possible pugilist matchups aside, former Blackhawks' Bollig and Michael Frolik and the Flames are looking to fight their way back into the playoff picture. The Flames went to the second round of the playoffs last spring; the Anaheim Ducks ended their run in that round. But they have struggled for consistency this season; they've won just two of their first 10 games and have been playing catch-up ever since.

[MORE HAWKS: Marko Dano out vs. Flames]

So what gives?

“I definitely don’t have the answers as to what happened, or else I think we may be in a better spot,” said Bollig. “We surprised a lot of people, we flew under the radar of a lot of teams last year and had a lot of third-period comebacks and late goals that helped us out a lot. Making the playoffs, making the second round was a huge surprise for a lot of people. We knew what we had in this room. This year we were hoping to duplicate that with a good tart and obviously that hasn’t happened.”

Frolik was an offseason addition, the forward signing a five-year, $21.5-million contract as an unrestricted free agent over the summer. Frolik, who was an offensive-minded player in Florida before becoming a defensive/checking guy for the Blackhawks, is back to being more of a top-six forward. He has four goals this season but three of those came on Oct. 31 against the Edmonton Oilers. Frolik, who’s a dad now – his daughter is 11 months old – is enjoying his new team and surroundings.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“It’s obviously more fun when you get a little more ice time and the role is a little bit bigger. For sure it’s more fun and I tried to enjoy it. I’ve changed teams a few times so it’s always something new,” Frolik said. “I’m starting to settle down here and I think it’s been good so far.”

The Flames aren’t surprising anyone this season. Theirs is an uphill fight in the standings but they’re hoping to start putting things together.

“We’ve done a lot of positive things,” Bollig said. “Playing teams like the Hawks, we know in order to be successful we have to beat teams like this. So that’s a big key for us and there are plenty of positive things we’ve been doing. We just have to go out and get the results because ultimately that’s all that matters.”

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Thoughts on Corey Crawford's season debut

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Jamal Mayers and Charlie Roumeliotis recap Corey Crawford’s season debut after missing nearly 10 months with a concussion.

Mayers talks about the Kitty system that Niklas Hjalmarsson and Vinnie Hinostroza probably dealt with in their returns to Chicago.

The guys also discuss what’s next for Crawford, the upcoming matchup against Artemi Panarin and the Columbus Blue Jackets, and the Blackhawks’ biggest areas for improvement.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.