Blackhawks

LIVE: Blackhawks, Coyotes tied 1-1

416406.jpg

LIVE: Blackhawks, Coyotes tied 1-1

Sunday, March 20, 2011
11:00 AM
Associated Press

(AP) -- The Phoenix Coyotes have won five in a row, making a playoff spot seem secure. The Chicago Blackhawks are mired in a bad stretch that included their worst performance of the season in their last game.

These contenders meet for the fourth and final time Sunday night, with the Blackhawks trying to avoid a fifth straight road loss.

Phoenix (39-23-11) is pushing San Jose for the Pacific Division lead, completing a perfect four-game trip with a 3-1 victory over NHL-leading Vancouver on Friday.

"It was a great trip," coach Dave Tippett said. "I give our guys a ton of credit. They battled hard every game."

Chicago (38-25-8) seemed to be solidifying its hold on a third straight postseason berth by winning a season-high eight straight Feb. 20-March 5. The defending Stanley Cup champion, though, has gone 1-2-2 in its last five and lost 5-0 at Dallas on Thursday - getting shut out for the second time this season.

"Tough one to explain. Nothing good about this game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We should all absorb some responsibility on how bad we were. The importance of this game, and they keep getting bigger, we didn't respect the urgency."

The Blackhawks are among a group of teams fighting for the last few postseason spots in the Western Conference.

"We've gotta get prepared for a big game in Phoenix because it's gonna be just as important as this one," defenseman Brent Seabrook said.

Jonathan Toews was held without a point for the second time in his last 14 games. He has 11 goals and 10 assists in that stretch.

Sunday's game figures to be a tight one. All seven matchups between Phoenix and Chicago over the last two seasons have been decided by one or two goals, with four going to shootouts.

The teams split a pair of shootouts in February after the Coyotes won 2-1 at Chicago on Nov. 10 to open the season series.

The Blackhawks have gone 4 for 8 on the power play in those three games and are among the league leaders in power-play percentage at 23.5. The Coyotes are one of the worst penalty killing teams in the NHL at 78.6 percent - just behind Chicago's mark of 78.8.

Phoenix winger Radim Vrbata had a goal and an assist for the second straight game Friday, giving him six points during a four-game point streak. Captain Shane Doan added a goal and an assist to extend his point streak to seven games, with 10 points in that span.

"We've got different guys stepping up every night and that's a huge, huge week for our team to enhance their playoff chances," Tippett said.

Ilya Bryzgalov could be back in goal after Jason LaBarbera got the start Friday and made 46 saves. Bryzgalov had started the Coyotes' 10 previous contests, going 4-0-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average in his last four.

The Blackhawks have not lost five straight on the road since Feb. 24-March 31, 2009.

"We're going to Phoenix now and we know that we have to be better across the board and we have to prepare better when we're going into a game," Quenneville said.

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

saad_panarin_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

anthony_duclair_usa_today.jpg
USA TODAY

Anthony Duclair regrets not making most of opportunity with Blackhawks

Anthony Duclair knew what kind of opportunity he had in front of him when he was traded to the Blackhawks in January. The first day he stepped into the locker room, he admitted he was a little "star-struck."

But the marriage didn't last very long. 

After recording only two goals and eight assists in 23 games, the Blackhawks chose to move on from the restricted free agent by not extending a qualifying offer. Duclair later latched on with the Columbus Blue Jackets on a one-year, $650,000 "prove-it" deal.

"I wasn't surprised," Duclair said before Saturday's game against his former team. "I knew that I didn't perform as well as I did when I was there. I think I was there for only 20 games and didn't live up to the standards. As soon as I didn't hear anything from my agent I sort of got the message. But it was time to move on."

Duclair made no excuses for what went wrong in Chicago and accepted responsibility for not taking advantage of his opportunity, even though a leg injury sidelined him for the final month that prevented him from giving the Blackhawks a larger sample size.

"I just didn't perform well," he said. "It's going to be one of my regrets, to get that opportunity in Chicago and not perform in the way I did. It was something I had to look in the mirror this summer and move on obviously, but at the same time whenever a team comes next I think I'm going to take that opportunity and run away with it."

It's obvious that Duclair's got the potential to be an effective offensive player in the NHL. But we've only seen that in flashes, which is a large reason why it didn't work out in Chicago and why, entering his fifth season in the league, he still finds himself trying to play for a long-term contract.

"Just being more consistent," Duclair said. "Thats comes up a lot and my agents talks to a couple GMs around the league and it's something I'm trying to work on. It's not something you can work on in the summer, it's more preparing mentally and physically and that's what I've been trying to do."

So far, so good in Columbus.

Duclair has two goals and two assists through six games and is averaging 15:22 of ice time playing in a top-six role, on track to shatter his previous career high in that category (14:23) when he did so as a sophomore in 2015-16 with Arizona. He even made headlines on Thursday after scoring a highlight-reel goal against the Philadelphia Flyers, saying his "phone blew up quite a bit."

How he scored it is what stood out and his perspective after it is encouraging for his overall growth, as well.

"I've already put it behind me to be honest with you," Duclair said. "I'm just focused on Chicago now. I want to be consistent throughout every shift. Look at that goal, [it was] second and third efforts. That's what I want to bring to the table every shift, especially with the guys I'm playing right now. I just want to be having the puck whenever you can and being big on the forecheck."