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.

What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

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USA TODAY

What Jeremy Colliton has learned about the Blackhawks after one week

It’s been a week since Jeremy Colliton took over as head coach of the Blackhawks. In some ways, it feels longer than that. In reality, he's just getting started.

Coming into a situation where the team had lost five straight games didn't help make the transition easy for Colliton, and dropping his first three contests as an NHL coach hasn't been ideal, either.

But he's been around long enough to get a feel for what he has in the locker room and how his players are responding to the adversity. 

Asked what he's learned from this group so far, Colliton didn't hesitate.

"I've learned that they want to win," he said. "They're extremely open to feedback. They want to get better. They want the video. They want the meetings. They want to talk. They want these ideas. They want to know how we can win. What's the plan? And it's right on down the line. The youngest guys I knew that because I had them in Rockford. But the oldest guys, they're almost the most excited about talking hockey and how we're going to turn this around. So that's been a pleasant surprise and makes me very excited about the future."

There are nine players on this Blackhawks roster with at least two Stanley Cups on their resume. Yet, none of them are satisfied with where they're at right now, which isn't surprising to anybody in Chicago. That’s why they’re winners.

The Blackhawks want to turn this losing skid around as quickly as possible and it's the veterans who are leading the charge in that respect, both on the ice and in the film room. That's the kind of leadership they have and need to have in the locker room, especially as a 33-year-old rookie NHL coach looks to gain respect of the group on the fly.

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling call-up comes at perfect time for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and placed forward Marcus Kruger (left leg) on injured reserve retroactive to Nov. 9, the team announced Tuesday.

Forsling, who underwent wrist surgery in the offseason, was sent to Rockford on Oct. 22 perhaps more-so as a conditioning stint and appeared in five games. He missed four contests with a groin injury, but is coming off a two-assist game against the Chicago Wolves over the weekend.

"It's been a long summer with the injury," Forsling said. "It's good to be finally back here."

The 22-year-old defenseman had three goals and 10 assists in 41 games with the Blackhawks last season before getting assigned to the IceHogs for the remainder of the campaign. He recorded five points (two goals, three assists) in 18 regular-season games and five points (one goal, four assists) in 13 postseason contests, where he really proved himself.

"Happy to have him here," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We think he can help us. He's a fantastic skater, moves the puck clean, with his gap he can really defend lines well, we think he can add something to our group.

"Really pleased with how we played in the playoffs for us in Rockford. He played a huge role, not so much power play, but 5-on-5 and killing penalties and that's probably how we see him here for now. But he can move the puck and he can shoot the puck and he's got a lot of tools. Watching his play down in Rockford since he's come back, he's picked up where he left off and he can play the left and the right side, so it's a positive for our team."

Forsling said Colliton was a "huge" reason why Rockford went on such a deep playoff run last season, but also credited his new coach for the role he played in his development.

"He helped me a lot [in getting] my game to be at the top and I felt like I did very good in the playoffs down there," Forsling said. "He just wanted me to be consistent and show up every night, play good defensively. And I felt like he brought that out of me."

The Blackhawks' roster currently sits at 23 players, meaning they will be carrying eight defensemen for now despite the team's reluctance to do so again this season after it backfired a year ago — Colliton said he's not against the idea, but isn't for it, either. Brandon Davidson (right leg injury) did not practice on Tuesday, which was believed to be a reason for bringing up Forsling, but Colliton dismissed the thought that Forsling is only here for insurance.

"No, we think he can play," Colliton said. "We feel that he's back up to speed and it's up to him to prove himself."

Forsling's call-up certainly comes at a desperate time for the Blackhawks, who have lost eight in a row (0-6-2) and could use all the help they can get on the back end. 

"More competition the better," Colliton said. "It's going to push everyone to be better. Guys got to earn what they get and that's good for our group, that's good for the minimum level of our team. They know they've got to perform every night. It's up to us to be clear with what we're asking from the guys, so when they go out or come out, they know why, they know what they have to do to go in, they know what they have to do to stay in, and I think the overall performance of the team will go up."