Blackhawks

How the Blackhawks turned disaster into domination

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How the Blackhawks turned disaster into domination

The mood in the Blackhawks locker room after their 9-2 loss to Edmonton in November was understandably angry and frustrated.

It was an ugly loss in every sense, a big wake-up call for a Blackhawks team that was up and down through November. And its one that got the Blackhawks talking to their coaches and amongst themselves.

Apparently, those were some productive talks.

The Blackhawks head into Monday nights game against the Edmonton Oilers a much different and better team. They are 12-4-1 since that awful game and have the most points in the league with 52. The Blackhawks had several tough games in November, but the one in Edmonton set off the alarm bells.

Sometimes it takes a game like that where you take a step back and analyze things, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Our team games been great since then; weve played well. Sometimes games like that, they can just get out of hand. The next thing you know the scores bad. But we definitely took a lot of notice there.

Coach Joel Quenneville refers to that loss as a whatever-you-want-to-call-it type of game; the most negative word you use (to describe it).

The media questioned if the Blackhawks should still take their mid Circus-trip excursion to Las Vegas after such a loss. They did, and apparently the time away from the game and talking about the previous one helped.

Looking back, it was probably a good thing to talk about what was going on, Patrick Sharp said. I still think our best game of the season was that 1-0 loss to San Jose right after the Edmonton game. Maybe it was a good thing it happened.

The Blackhawks did seem to derive some lessons from that game. Their record since then proves they heeded them. The differences between the team in November and the team now are evident, and in a good way. The Blackhawks played with the team mentality the rest of that Circus Trip, going 2-1-0 on the back end of it. And they carried that into December, which was a very productive month for them.

We realized as a team that we needed to bring it every night, Jamal Mayers said. Were still a work in progress, still searching and we can still get better.

Perhaps it was a turning point. Maybe it was just the Blackhawks going through the November pains. Their travel schedule during that month was brutal and they were still integrating a couple of new players. That game was nevertheless a wakeup call, and the Blackhawks responded to it.

Were coming together as a team now, Keith said. I still think weve got a lot of room for improvement. But you can definitely feel it in the dressing room. Our chemistrys clicking now.

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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AP

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.