Blackhawks

Mike Modano on Blackhawks' Patrick Kane: I’ve always been a big fan

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Mike Modano on Blackhawks' Patrick Kane: I’ve always been a big fan

Patrick Kane’s point streak has garnered a lot of attention.

The 26-game streak, which is a franchise best and gets Kane that much closer to joining the top 10 all-time streaks, has people talking – and watching. And one of those who’s been watching the whole time is Mike Modano.

Modano, who is the all-time the goal and points leader among U.S.-born players, says he’s long enjoyed watching Kane and the Blackhawks. That’s doubly true since Kane’s been on this point streak.

“With all that’s gone on, just to be able to focus and play hockey and the way he has at the level, that says a lot about him,” said Modano during a recent phone interview. “But I’ve always been a big fan, no matter what, watching him and how he plays. [The Blackhawks] are one team I kind of tune into when they’re on TV; I always seem to try to catch him on the tube.”

Modano remembers playing Kane when the Blackhawks right wing first came into the league. Stopping him even then was a challenge.

“It’s one of those things where you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. You can’t run at him hard and fast because he can make moves around you. But if you do back off and give him time he’ll kill you that way,” Modano said. “It was difficult to contain him and try to maneuver him and get him out of the dangerous part of the ice.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Kane was flattered to hear Modano’s a fan.

“He's one of those guys that, you talk about entertainment watching a hockey game, he's right up there with the most entertaining players I've ever watched. Speed, great hands, obviously. He was an electrifying player for a lot of years and a guy that I got to know a little bit as I started my career. So, he's definitely one of my favorite American-born players,” Kane said. “But to hear him say something like that is obviously exciting for me, because I know what kind of player he was too.”

Modano finished a 20-year career with 561 goals and 1,374 points, both records for U.S.-born players. Where do Kane and Modano stack up for their careers to this point? Kane, who played his 607th career game on Sunday, has 224 goals and 379 assists for 603 points. Modano through his first 607 career games had 269 goals and 360 assists for 629 points.

Could Kane reach those marks? Modano said, “I’m sure he’ll be making a run at it.” Obviously a lot of factors will play into it: health and opportunity to play are two big factors. Modano lost a full season and part of another one (1994-95) due to lockout. Kane had his own 48-game, lockout-shortened season in 2013. So is having a strong core of players around you. Modano had that for a good deal of his Dallas Stars days and Kane certainly has that now.

[MORE: Point streak hits 26-game mark]

“Just health and having good players around you for a long time,” Modano said. “He’s just the lead guy in that category. He’s the one guy who, consistency and longevity is your key now.”

Kane’s not thinking of reaching Modano’s numbers just yet – “that’s a little too far away to think of that for me,” he said. What he’s doing right now is tremendous. So is what he could still do.

“There's been a lot of great Americans that have had great careers, so when you see your name with guys like Eddie Olczyk and Phil Kessel or different things like that, it obviously humbles you and makes you excited about the future, too,” Kane said. “It's nice that (Modano's) been excited about the streak and everything and us Americans, we've always got each other's back.”

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 East Coast Hockey League 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.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."