Blackhawks

Kane extends scoring streak in Blackhawks' loss to Wild

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Kane extends scoring streak in Blackhawks' loss to Wild

The United Center was buzzing early on Tuesday night, with the Blackhawks playing there for the first time in about two weeks.

Problem was the Blackhawks weren’t buzzing at the start. And while they had their chances here or there, it was another game where they couldn’t muster enough.

Patrick Kane’s power-play goal extended his point streak to 20 games, but the Blackhawks didn’t have enough outside of that in a 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild. Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 36 shots and Duncan Keith added an assist, giving him a four-game point streak.

It was a frustrating return home for the Blackhawks, who had the last two days off – traveling back home on Sunday – but didn’t have enough energy at the start or enough finish at the end.

The Blackhawks and Wild were tied 1-1 to start the third period, with the Wild beginning the final frame much like they had the first – with great scoring chances off Blackhawks gaffes. They broke through when Ryan Suter scored off Mikael Granlund’s rebound with less than eight minutes remaining in regulation.

“The start was ordinary. But Crow kept us in there and we were fine,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Good pace in the second period, killing that six-minute [power-play] stretch at the end put us in a good spot in the third period. You get an offensive-zone faceoff that ends up in your net, those are tough ones.”

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Much like their last three games, the Blackhawks didn’t have their best puck possession or their usual amount of time in their opponent’s zone. They continue to struggle with line consistency – Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Kane once again had the best chances and were accumulating themost time in the offensive zone.

“We got more chances than we generally do against that team. At the same time you look back at the last three games, we’re back to where we were when we began that stretch on the road when we weren’t very productive,” Quenneville said. “That one line’s been great, consistent and effective. We don’t want to change how we have to play, we just need some finish.”

Not surprisingly, Kane had the finish again on Tuesday. His goal 5:21 into the second period tied the game and brought him to within one game of tying the franchise record for a point streak (set by Bobby Hull inDecember 1971-January 1972). The Blackhawks sometimes struggle in that first game back home after the Circus Trip but again, they had two days away from the ice coming into this one.

“Yeah, for whatever reason, you don’t really know why, coming off the time change or whatever it may be. I think everyone had that in the back of [his] head coming into tonight’s game,” Kane said. “But when you have two days to get ready to get back at it, there’s really no excuse not to have a better effort there.”

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The Blackhawks thought they were getting somewhere after their victory in San Jose. They even took momentum out of their come-from-behind victory in Anaheim, even though they were outplayed for most of that game. On Tuesday, however, they were back to generating little and giving up one too many.

“It’s different things throughout the game,” Keith said. “At the end of the day, I think they probably came ready to play a little better than we did, outworked us in certain areas. So we can look at all different things but we could’ve been better."

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

How Blackhawks plan to handle Corey Crawford's workload

Corey Crawford is back and it didn't look like he skipped much of a beat. The Blackhawks were handed their first regulation loss of the season to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday, but the 33-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 30 shots (.900 save percentage) in his season debut and made several timely saves to keep his team in it.

In the larger picture, it was a win based on how well Crawford looked between the pipes.

"Yeah, I think it is," coach Joel Quenneville said after practice on Friday. "It's one of things we were wondering, how he would handle post-game and how he came in today. Very encouraging signs. He felt good in all aspects of what he went through and dealt with, and practiced well today too, so that was good."

The first one is in the books.

But what's the plan going forward? Will Crawford be on a "pitch count" or will they treat him like they have in past seasons when he was healthy?

In the past, Crawford has generally started somewhere in between 55-58 games per season. Part of that has been because of injuries. Another part is the Blackhawks have had reliable backups, which allowed them to give Crawford an extra night off here and there to keep him fresh.

It's not unreasonable, though, to think Crawford could flirt with 50 starts, considering he missed only five games to start the season. And they can still accomplish that by playing it safe.

The Blackhawks have 13 more back-to-backs this season, which gives them the opportunity to start Cam Ward at some point in each of them. That leaves room for another 15 or so starts to sprinkle in for Ward that could serve as rest days for Crawford and still being on track to start around 50.

Obviously, the Blackhawks want to be careful with how much they ask of Crawford because concussions are tricky to deal with and every player responds differently to it.

His return comes at a time where the Blackhawks are slated to play seven games in 11 days after playing just two in the previous 10. Thursday marked the start of that stretch.

"He’ll tell us how he feels and we’ll go from there and make those decisions," Quenneville said.

The Blackhawks have been on record saying they prefer not to carry three goaltenders. But in this case it makes sense. At least in the short term.

Quenneville said Friday that the Blackhawks will reevaluate the situation at the end of the weekend following the beginning of a busy stretch where they'll play three games in four days.

"Yeah, that’s the mindset," he said. "Let’s see how we handle these three in four and then we’ll address it."

Crawford is expected to start on Saturday in Columbus, making it his second start in three days. That's when they'll get a better sense of how he's handling things.

If it were up to him, Crawford said he feels he's prepared for it.

"Yeah, sure," Crawford said. "Why not? I've been working hard with [strength and conditioning coach Paul Goodman]. He's got me where I need to be, so I'm in shape right now. Why not?"

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!