Blackhawks

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook return to Blackhawks lineup vs. Rangers

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook return to Blackhawks lineup vs. Rangers

NEW YORK – Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook will play when the Blackhawks face the New York Rangers on Tuesday night.

Toews (back), who missed nine games, was back on the Blackhawks’ top line, flanked by Ryan Hartman and Marian Hossa, at Tuesday morning’s skate. For Toews, it’s been a frustrating wait; he was hurt on Nov. 23, started skating early this month and then had to take time off before resuming skates again on Sunday morning.

“The last three days have been really good days where I really feel I got over the hump and feeling confident that I can go in and get contact in the game,” Toews said.

The Blackhawks went 5-2-2 in Toews’ absence, which didn’t surprise the captain.

“It’s always been one of the qualities that’s great about our team, resilience and guys are ready to step up and assume more responsibility,” Toews said. “Nice to see us get the goaltending, get the defensive play and win some of those tight games.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Coach Joel Quenneville said they’ll monitor Toews’ minutes, which will likely be down some.

“I don’t expect him to get 20 minutes like he’s accustomed to, but we’ll watch him on the special teams and see how that works out and how he’s handling it and how he’s playing, as well,” Quenneville said. “He’ll tell us basically how much he’s going to play tonight by how he’s doing.”

Seabrook (upper body) felt pretty good after skating on Sunday but still had to be cleared to play.

“This kind of injury, just gradually feeling better was the big thing and the last couple of days I felt really good,” said Seabrook. “I’ve been skating a few days. that wasn’t a problem. It was the other test I had to do and good to go.”

Scott Darling will start for the Blackhawks.

It’s the second time in five days the two teams have met. On Friday, former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta recorded a 1-0 shutout. Raanta, who was named the league’s No. 2 star for the week, has two consecutive shutouts and will start again on Tuesday.

 

BLACKHAWKS AT NEW YORK RANGERS

6 p.m.

TV: CSN

Live Stream: CSNChicago.com and NBC Sports app

Radio: WGN 720 AM

 

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Richard Panik

Andrew Desjardins-Vinnie Hinostroza-Tyler Motte

 

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Brian Campbell

Niklas Hjalmarsson-Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling-Trevor van Riemsdyk

 

Goaltender

Scott Darling

 

INJURIES: Jonathan Toews (back), Brent Seabrook (upper body), Corey Crawford (appendix).

New York Rangers (via New York Daily News)

Forward lines

Michael Grabner-Kevin Hayes-J.T. Miller

Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Mats Zuccarello

Marek Hrivik-Oscar Lindberg-Jesper Fast

Nicklas Jensen-Josh Jooris-Brandon Pirri

 

Defensive Pairs

Ryan McDonagh-Dan Girardi

Marc Staal-Nick Holden

Brady Skjei-Kevin Klein

 

Goaltender

Antti Raanta

 

INJURIES: Rick Nash (groin), Matt Puempel (concussion), Mika Zibanejad (broken fibula), Pavel Buchnevich (back).

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Why fixing penalty kill is crucial for Blackhawks in 2019-20

Just how important is special teams in the NHL?

Of the 16 teams that qualified for the postseason, 14 clubs had at least one special teams unit that was ranked in the top half of the league and 12 teams had at least one unit ranked in the top 10.

The Blackhawks finished the season with the 15th-ranked power play and 31st-ranked penalty kill. The Blackhawks' 72.7 percent kill rate is the lowest the league has seen in 30 years.

“The penalty kill is something that clearly has to be better," GM Stan Bowman said. "That was a big disappointment this year, no question about that. So we have to devote some resources to that. Some of it might be players, if we get some players that have that kind of experience or have a history. Part of it is tactically can we find ways to be better. We have a lot of time now to study it and put a lot of our focus on that.”

Jeremy Colliton did not rule out getting external help to improve the PK.

“We’re going to look at everything, for sure," he said. "We’re going to look at obviously tactically and we’re going to look at the personnel and how we’re using guys and try to put them in the best situation we can. And maybe that’s new, different guys who weren’t getting the opportunity. Or maybe that’s someone from outside.”

The Blackhawks did manage to fix their power play issues this past season. When Colliton became head coach on Nov. 6, the Blackhawks power play was near the bottom of the league. By December, the man advantage was dead last, cashing in on fewer than 12 percent of their power plays.

Colliton made Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Erik Gustafsson his top power play unit and from Dec. 20 till the end of February they were the league's best unit, converting on 35.2 percent of their power plays.  

Gustafsson’s addition to the power play was a major factor in the unit's improvement.

"A big part of our power play progression and transformation from being at the bottom to being in the top group," Bowman said of Gustafsson. "I was really pleased with that and we're going to need him next year for sure.”

If the Blackhawks penalty kill can make strides like the power play did, Colliton’s crew will likely be playing at this time next season.

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Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

Recapping breakout OHL season for Blackhawks top prospect Adam Boqvist

The London Knights set high expectations for themselves going into the 2018-19 OHL campaign. They always do. Their roster is usually loaded with top NHL prospects and this season was no different.

After finishing No. 1 in the Western Conference with 99 points, the Knights looked poised to go on a deep run. They got off to a roaring start in the playoffs by sweeping the Windsor Spitfires (4-0) and kicked off the second round by winning three straight against the Guelph Storm. But then, for the first time all season, the Knights lost four in a row to squander a 3-0 series lead and were eliminated just like that. It was a disappointing finish for a team with Memorial Cup aspirations.

One of the bright spots of the postseason was Blackhawks prospect Adam Boqvist. He was tied for first among all skaters with 10 goals through two rounds; no other defenseman had more than six. And he finished with 13 points in 11 games for a points-per-game average of 1.18.

To summarize his season: Boqvist scored one goal in his first 15 games. From that point on, he finished with 29 goals and 60 points in 50 games, including playoffs. He became an offensive driving force.

It's unclear what his future holds, but with Evan Bouchard expected to turn pro and secure a full-time roster spot on the Edmonton Oilers next season, returning to London would put Boqvist in a position where he could be the No. 1 defenseman in all situations.

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