Blackhawks

Former Senators shine in Blackhawks' 'biggest win'

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Former Senators shine in Blackhawks' 'biggest win'

OTTAWA, Ontario The writing was on the wall as the Blackhawks embarked on their latest road trip. They havent been very good away from the United Center, and if they want to do anything in the postseason including get there that had to change.

They took a big stride there on Friday night.

Marian Hossa scored the game-winner for the second consecutive game and Ray Emery stopped 25 shots against his former team as the Blackhawks beat the Ottawa Senators 2-1 at ScotiaBank Place. The Blackhawks won their second in a row and remained in sixth place in the Western Conference.

The Blackhawks got everything they needed on Friday night, from strong goaltending to great defense to timely goals. They peppered Senators goaltender Robin Lehner with 39 shots, overcoming a 1-0 deficit in the process.

We said to the guys after the game, Thats our biggest win. Its exactly what we wanted, coach Joel Quenneville said. We had everybody going, we had short shifts, had good energy and purpose. We needed a great start to this trip and thats the type of game we wanted.

Patrick Kane, who didnt make the score sheet despite a tremendous game by him and fellow top-liners Andrew Brunette and Hossa, nevertheless loved the outcome.

Thats probably everything you can ask for as a team and we probably couldve scored a couple more goals, too, Kane said. Were shaping up to be a good team. We just have to stay focused.

The top line had plenty of that on Friday, and how they didnt end up with a couple of goals is credit to Lehner and, perhaps, some tough luck.

They missed some A-plus-plus-plus chances, but youve got to love their puck possession and threat off the rush, Quenneville said. It was a dangerous line two games in a row. The finish wasnt there but we loved the way they played.

While the skill was tallying the shots on one end the Blackhawks defense was stymying the Senators on the other. Between the checking line and defensemen, the Blackhawks kept the Senators at bay.

We put tons of pucks at their net, got our chances and did things the right way and really limited their chances, said Emery. We protected our lead well, really let them make their mistakes and still got chances. Its important we won but more important that we won the right way.

Emery took care of the rest, saving some of his biggest stops for the final few minutes when the Senators were looking for an equalizer. Emery felt a little sentimental in returning to Ottawa, but put those feelings aside once the game began.

I played here for a while and had some great times and I still have some good friends on the team, he said. But I realize it was a huge game for the team. Were in a tough spot as far as the playoff battle goes. You have to forget that stuff and focus on the game.

The Blackhawks got a little bit from everyone on Friday. Most important, they got the type of game theyre going to need this spring, especially on the road. On their last multi-game road trip of the regular season, it was an excellent start.

We expect better on the road, Emery said. And its a goal of ours, especially on this trip, to correct that and put that to rest.

Artemi Panarin and desperate Rangers set to face Blackhawks

Artemi Panarin and desperate Rangers set to face Blackhawks

When you see a highlight of Artemi Panarin making a dazzling play — usually that results in the puck finding the back of the net — you can't help but think, 'He'd really look good in a Hawks sweater... again.'

Alex DeBrincat struggling to one-time the puck from the left circle the way he used to on the man advantage is one of the factors giving the Hawks the NHL's worst power play. Artemi Panarin was the guy who used to do that for the Blackhawks, and he rarely missed. 

Alas, the man of bread is locked up for six more years after this one with the Rangers at an AAV north of $11.6 million and his contract has a no movement clause. 

In June 2017, the Blackhawks traded the dynamic winger to the Columbus Blue Jackets, along with forward Tyler Motte and a draft pick, to re-acquire Brandon Saad and get goalie Anton Forsberg and a pick. 

Panarin, now 28, had 151 points (61 goals, 90 assists) with Chicago in two seasons after signing a free agent contract on May 1, 2015. He previously played in the Kontinental Hockey League. 

The 2016 Calder Trophy winner had 169 points (55 goals, 114 assists) in two seasons with the Blue Jackets before signing with the Rangers as a free agent. 

This year, his 78 points (29 goals, 49 assists) are good for fifth in the league. 

Last year, Panarin returned to the United Center ahead of becoming a free agent and had a friendly competition with Patrick Kane to see who would be last of the ice following warmups. Kane isn't sure there will be time for pregame shenanigans with his pal before Wednesday's game.

"I think we got that faceoff tonight (40th anniversary of Miracle on Ice ceremonial puck drop with Jack O'Callahan), so it'll be interesting to see what comes of that," Kane said. "I always try to be the last on my team, not really worry about the other team, but he's having a great season. 

"Obviously an amazing player, a player that you'd pay to watch play the game. Still try to stay pretty close with him and stay in contact and just kind of catch up here and there throughout the season."

Panarin has meant a lot to a Rangers team desperate to claw back into the playoff picture while sitting eight points out, just like the Hawks.

"Unbelievable," New York center Ryan Strome (brother of Chicago center Dylan Strome) said of Panarin. "The way he controls the puck, the way he controls the play, you guys were lucky enough to see it for a few years here. 

"I think he's better now than he was then. His game's growing, he competes on pucks really hard and he's been a silent leader for us. I think everyone sees how hard he plays and how hard he works and we follow. He's been our catalyst and he's done everything we could ask of him, so he's been great."

Strome thinks the Bread Man should be in the MVP conversation as well.

"Yeah, especially if we get in the playoffs here," he said. "It would be hard not to consider him. His numbers are ridiculous. I've seen some stats about Jaromir Jagr and some ex-Rangers that have put up similar numbers to him. To be in that category is pretty special. 

"You guys have seen it firsthand, the way he acts and how much fun he has doing it I think just rubs off on everyone, too. In such a serious season and such a serious business we're in, I think to have a guy like him, he's doing his leg kick and he's lightening the mood a little bit, that stuff is contagious. That's part of his personality and part of what makes him a great player."

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Zack Smith feels fortunate after coming 'millimeter' away from season-ending injury

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USA Today

Zack Smith feels fortunate after coming 'millimeter' away from season-ending injury

Zack Smith knew immediately something was wrong. Not because of the pain but because of what happened.

In the final minute of the second period against Vancouver on Feb. 12, Smith had his left hand stepped on by a Canucks player. The television broadcast didn't pick it up, but Smith quickly threw his glove off and went straight to the locker room fearing the worst.

"It wasn't a very painful thing when it happened, it just happened and I was like, 'That's not good,'" Smith said. "You feel a skate blade step on your hand, you know it's not going to look good. The trainers said they couldn't believe there wasn't blood on the glove because I just threw it off right away and went to the bench. I was pretty worried there for a bit, and then right away doctors were able to tell me, 'It's going to be fine. Just a few stitches.' Just a short time of panic."

Smith did not return to the game, but that was the least of his worries. And the Blackhawks, who weren't exactly sure what happened.

"Yeah, scary thing," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I didn’t see it so when he came off I thought he broke his wrist or something, we didn’t really know in the moment. But when you hear what happened and see the cut, it’s not a good situation. So, obviously happy that it’s not too serious."

It could've been much worse for Smith, who practiced with the team at morning skate on Wednesday and is inching closer to a return. He was close to a potential long-term injury but is now back on the ice less than a week after the injury occurred.

"It was probably a millimeter away from being the end of my season," Smith said. "I got very lucky. A couple of stitches and a few days off is all it's taken."

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