Blackhawks

Myers: Strong effort needed against Predators

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Myers: Strong effort needed against Predators

Friday, Jan. 14, 2011
Posted: 1:16 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks will get a rare privilege next week, a five-day break between games. But with a back-to-back against division rival Nashville on the docket this weekend, the Blackhawks cant get too excited about that break yet.

The Blackhawks, who play the Predators in Nashville on Saturday and then host them on Sunday, entered Friday seventh in the Western Conference standings. The Blackhawks have 51 points while the Predators, currently in fifth place, have 52. A good weekend against a tough opponent could push the Blackhawks up in the standings and make next weeks respite that much more enjoyable.

If you see how tight the standings are, theres no room for error at all, Fernando Pisani said. You have a bad week you can drop to 12th or 13th. We have to keep focused. Every game from here on in is gong to be like this. Its going to be a dogfight every night.

This weekend wont be easy. The Predators lost Thursday night in Florida but had a six-game winning streak prior to that. Theyve given the Blackhawks a tough time this season, taking the first two games before the Blackhawks beat them 4-1 here in December.

They keep themselves in games, check well and read well, coach Joel Quenneville said. They can frustrate you, too, if you try to get away from what makes you successful. At the end of the night theyre usually in every game.

The Blackhawks have had a busy schedule and probably have their eyes on next weeks time off. But for this weekend, their heads still have to be on the Predators.

Corey Crawford, who will start Saturday in Nashville, said, Our focus is on tomorrow first. Once the break comes well think about that but weve got some work to do first, Crawford said. Nasvhille is a smart team. They know they have to manage the puck and not turn anything over, they chip things in. Theyve got some skill, too, so if youre not careful they can beat you with that also.

I just think we should be energized going into these games; hopefully we dont have to wait to get up to speed, Quenneville said. The last start or two was much more effective. Hopefully we can keep that attitude and try to reinforce the pace.

Captains choices

Jonathan Toews talked more about the All-Star game on Friday, and who he would choose as team captains.

Id probably pick two of the leading scorers, Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby, Toews said. But its not just two guys. There are so many great players, guys that have that respect and experience around the league, so it doesnt matter.

Briefly

Duncan Keith, Jake Dowell, Troy Brouwer and Nick Boynton (flu) were all practicing again on Friday.

Niklas Hjalmarsson did not practice on Friday. Quenneville said the defenseman is fine, and he will play Saturday in Nashville.

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

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

NHL Draft Profile: D Adam Boqvist

From June 17-21, Charlie Roumeliotis will profile two prospects per day — 10 total (five forwards, five defensemen) — leading up to the NHL Draft.​

Adam Boqvist

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 168 pounds
Shoots: Right

Scouting report:

"Boqvist is a finesse defenseman who is very skilled, possesses excellent vision and tons of talent. He is fun to watch and full of surprises on the ice. He often plays bigger than his size and skated in his first games with Sweden's Senior National Team in April."

NHL player comparable: Erik Karlsson

Fit for Blackhawks:

The Blackhawks would love to have Karlsson, who is probably being traded out of Ottawa this summer. Every team would love to have him. But that's not realistic for Chicago. So what if they drafted his potential mini me?

Boqvist is electric with the puck and has drawn comparisons to the Swedish defenseman as a best-case scenario.

There are two concerns, though. One is that he may need some time to develop at just 17 years old and his defense a work in progress. The second is that he's sustained head injuries over the course of his young career, which adds a little bit of risk to the equation.

If he can stay healthy and his development isn't rushed, there's major upside here. But are the Blackhawks willing to be patient? We're not so sure.

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

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USA TODAY

Should the Blackhawks explore bringing back Artemi Panarin?

Here's an interesting development as we approach the NHL Draft: Artemi Panarin has informed the Blue Jackets that he's not ready to consider an extension "at this time" and because of that, Columbus is testing the market for the Russian winger, according to Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet.

Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen responded to the report shortly after in a statement released by the team:

"Artemi is an elite National Hockey League player. Our position has been that we want him to be a Blue Jacket for many years and that has not changed. He has a year left on his contract, so there is plenty of time to work towards that end. Should anything change moving forward, we will address it at that time and any decision we make will be in the best interest of our club.”

Ironically, Panarin was traded to Columbus on the afternoon of last year's draft as part of a blockbuster package that sent Brandon Saad back to Chicago. It shook up the hockey world, and has the potential to do so again.

Panarin is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2019, but is free to sign an extension with Columbus on July 1. Clearly, that doesn't seem to be in the cards right now and it's why the Blue Jackets have to put out feelers. They can't risk losing him for nothing.

On the flip side, Panarin has every right to test the open market. He has one year left on his contract that carries a $6 million cap hit. He's due for a hefty raise, will be 27 years old next summer — the prime of his hockey career — and will certainly be looking for a long-term deal after accepting a bridge contract with the Blackhawks.

Speaking of whom, should his former team explore bringing him back to Chicago now that he's on the market?

Every general manager should and will do their due diligence and call for an asking price, Stan Bowman included. Those conversations might start with Alex DeBrincat or Nick Schmaltz, and if that's the case, you say thanks but no thanks and move on. 

The Blackhawks have the Nos. 8 and 27 picks in this year's draft as possible ammunition, but the Blue Jackets are ready to take that next step. They were up 2-0 in their first-round series before losing four straight to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. It's unlikely they'd be looking to center a potential deal around draft picks. 

The only way you even consider it from the Blackhawks perspective is if Panarin is guaranteed to sign a long-term extension at a price you're comfortable with, but that's one of the main reasons why they traded him in the first place. 

To cap it all off, trading for Panarin wouldn't even address the Blackhawks' biggest need and that's a Top 4 defenseman. Those don't grow on trees. The Blackhawks will have the cap space to sign a player like James van Riemsdyk to patch up their top 6. You can't say the same for the free-agent blue line group.

So while it may certainly be fun for Blackhawks fans to come up with possible trade scenarios to get Panarin back in an Indianhead sweater, it just doesn't make great sense for a variety of reasons.