Blackhawks

Mighty matinee as Sharp, Hawks cook Ducks

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Mighty matinee as Sharp, Hawks cook Ducks

Friday, Nov. 26, 2010
Updated 7:24 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Duncan Keith's shorthanded shot looked like it was playing out in slow motion, the puck hitting off Jonas Hiller's inner leg before methodically rolling toward, and then over, the goal line.

But with that shot, the Chicago Blackhawks reversed their penalty killing woes and jump-started their offense.

Patrick Sharp had the game-winning goal and set up Keith's shorthanded tally as the Blackhawks scored four unanswered goals in a 4-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday afternoon.

Corey Crawford was strong in net, stopping 26 of 27 en route to his third career victory over Anaheim. Niklas Hjalmarsson scored his first of the season and Troy Brouwer also scored as the Blackhawks found the back of the net three times in the third to cap a strong outing.

"We've lost a lot of games this year by just one or two goals in the third period so that was a huge win for us and our confidence to play like we did today," Hjalmarsson said. "We're on the right track here."

The Blackhawks once again had a strong start, outshooting the Ducks 13-6. But they gave one up on their first penalty kill, something that's been struggling on this road trip.

On the Ducks' second power play, however, the Blackhawks struck. Sharp grabbed an errant Ducks pass and threw it to Keith, who was charging toward Anaheim starter Jonas Hiller. It looked like Hiller had stopped it, but the puck trickled through.

"We gave up one early, but it was a great play on that Keith goal and we shut them down after that," Brian Campbell said. "Anytime you get a shorthanded goal it lifts your team up."

It did. The Blackhawks shut down that Anaheim power play, as well as the next three. They also took advantage of Ducks miscues. Sharp's game-winner, his fourth this season, came when he intercepted a bad Andy Sutton pass in the slot and beat Hiller for the 2-1 lead.

"You could say that's one of the bigger ones all year," coach Joel Quenneville said of the goal. "He had a great setup on the shorty as well. I like his production and what he brings."

Crawford, meanwhile, was stoic. He came up with some big stops en route to his fourth victory this season, including two on Corey Perry and another on Dan Sexton's early breakaway attempt.

"It was a good day," said Crawford, who won his third consecutive start. "They have a good power play and a top line that can break out at any moment. I was just prepared, trying to get ready for all of them."

Quenneville chose Crawford Friday because of his strong showings vs. Anaheim. Asked if Crawford could start Saturday in Los Angeles, Quenneville said, "we'll talk about it tomorrow," he said. "I thought he did a very good job. He's been very consistent. This one's big."

The Blackhawks' three victories on this road trip have been convincing ones. They were stronger on kills and offense on Friday. Getting that type of game more often is next on the list.

"It's nice to be up in the game and be able to keep adding on to the lead instead of it being so tight all the time," Keith said. "Every goal was a big goal, whether it kept our momentum or kept them down. We need to keep doing what did today, have that mindset, don't change anything."

Familiar pairs

The Blackhawks reverted back to their usual defensive pairs. Keith and Brent Seabrook were together again, as were Hjalmarsson and Campbell. The comfort level looked restored, too.

"I don't mind who I play with, but knowing what (Hjalmarsson's) going to do out there definitely helps us in areas," Campbell said. "We just figure it out. We mix well together."

Weight lifted

Niklas Hjalmarsson reacts after scoring his first goal of the season Friday afternoon in Anahaeim. Hjalmarsson doubled his point total with the goal and is a minus-4 on the year. (AP)Hjalmarsson waited longer than he wanted for his first goal of the season but was happy when it came on Friday.

"It's nice to see a puck go in; it doesn't happen too often for me," he said. "I had a bad start this year. The first 10 games didn't play well at all but the last 10 games have been better."

Exelby signed

The Blackhawks signed Garnet Exelby to a contract and assigned him back to the Rockford IceHogs on Friday. Exelby, the Rockford captain, had been with the organization on a player tryout contract prior to Friday's signing.
Briefly

Seabrook is OK after taking a puck to the groin area for the second consecutive game. "I'm just trying to get in front of shots and do what I can to block them. This one deflected off my stick and went off my leg. It didn't feel too good." ... Keith's short-handed goal was the fifth of his career. He's third among active NHL defensemen in that category, behind Nicklas Lidstrom (10) and Adam Foote (6).

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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!