Blackhawks

NHL Power Rankings: Injuries may determine stretch run

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NHL Power Rankings: Injuries may determine stretch run

The Blues extended their winning streak to six games with impressive wins over Anaheim, Chicago and Dallas to pull within a tie for the Central Division lead. The Ducks cooled off following their 11-game winning streak, but still remain atop the Pacific Division.

Meanwhile in the East, the Islanders must advance at least one playoff round for Jaroslav Halak to return to action this year after he suffered a lower-body injury that will keep him sidelined for at least six months.

The Penguins, who currently own the first wild card spot, will be without Evgeni Malkin for roughly two months due to an upper-body injury while the Red Wings, who are hanging on to the second wild card position, also lost Pavel Datsyuk again. It will be a battle to stay there with the Flyers (6-0-1 in their last seven games) surging.

Check in with CSNChicago.com for updated rankings every Monday throughout the 2015-16 campaign. Here's where we're at so far: Preseason rankings | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 | Week 17 | Week 18 | Week 19 | Week 20 | Week 21 | Week 22

 

Rank Team
Last Week Record/Comment
1 1

49-14-5, 103 points: Think about this: Washington has not lost back-to-back games in regulation all season long. That streak is in jeopardy when the Capitals host the Hurricanes on Tuesday.

2   6 41-20-9, 91 points: The Blues extended their winning streak to six games, and did in impressive fashion this week with wins over Anaheim, Chicago and Dallas to pull within a tie for first in the division. They're also 18-6-2 since Jan. 9.
3 2 37-21-9, 83 points: The Ducks are 0-2-1 in their last three games that have followed their 11-game winning streak, but that's to be expected after exuding so much energy in a long run.
4 5

40-22-5, 85 points: Since the calendar flipped to 2016, the Kings have lost back-to-back games in regulation only twice.Their next six games are against teams currently in the playoffs: at Chicago, at Dallas, vs. N.Y. Rangers, vs. Boston, at Nashville, at Minnesota.

5   4

40-24-5, 85 points: The Lightning wrapped up a quiet week with a 4-0 win over Columbus. They haven't scored a power play goal in seven games (0-for-16).

6   12 41-20-9, 91 points: The Stars have picked up at least a point in five straight games, and looked really good in back-to-back games against Chicago and St. Louis despite the absence of Jordie Benn, Jason Demers, John Klingberg and Patrick Sharp. They've also killed 20 straight penalties, an area that has been a glaring weak spot this season.
7  3 41-22-6, 88 points: The Blackhawks are 9-9-2 since their 12-game winning streak ended on Jan. 19. Their penalty kill, which is usually a strong point for them, is 26-for-42 (61.9 percent) in their last 13 games, and has slipped to 26th in the league at 78.3 percent.
8 13 39-23-8, 86 points: The Bruins had a big week, going 3-0-1 with wins over division opponents Florida and Tampa Bay. Eight of their next nine games are on the road, where they are much better with a 23-7-3 compared to 16-16-5 at home.
9 10

38-21-9, 85 points: Vincent Trocheck was named the NHL's second star of the week after notching a goal, five assists and a plus-five rating in three games last week. Important to get secondary scoring in Florida.

10   7 37-21-8, 82 points: Jaroslav Halak will miss at least six weeks with a lower-body injury, which means he'll be out until at least the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, if they advance past that. Terrible blow for an Islanders team looking to take the next step.
11   11 34-22-13, 81 points: The Predators are 2-1-1 in the first four games of their current five-game road trip, improving their record to 7-1-2 in their last 10 games.
12   9 36-24-8, 80 points: Evgeni Malkin will miss six-to-eight weeks with an upper-body injury, a big blow to a Penguins team hanging on to the first wild card spot in the East. They did, however, respond with a 5-3 road victory over the Rangers.
13   8

39-23-7, 85 points: The Rangers are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games, and have been outshot in nine of those. Their shot differential in the 10 games: minus-82.

14   15 38-24-6, 82 points: The Sharks are tied for the third-best goal differential in the Western Conference at plus-24. They quietly keep hanging around, and I'm sure they have no problem flying under the radar.
15   14

34-24-11, 79 points: Pavel Datsyuk suffered another injury, this time on a hit that Red Wings coach Jim Blashill called "cheap." While he only has three points in his last 10 games, Datsyuk is an important player down the stretch, especially as they try to hang on to a wild card spot.

16   18

32-23-12, 76 points: The Flyers are now 6-1-1 in their last eight games, and are pushing hard for that second wild card spot in the East. They should be getting a boost too with Jakub Voracek, who's missed the last seven games with a lower-body injury, nearing a return.

17 16 32-27-10, 74 points: Zach Parise has just two goals in his last 24 games, including one in his last 11. With the Wild teetering on the playoff bubble, this is where they need their leaders to step up.
18 17

35-31-4, 74 points: The Avalanche kicked off the week with wins over Arizona and Anaheim, but closed it out by blowing a 2-0 lead and falling to Winnipeg in regulation. They slipped out of the final wild card spot in the West because of it.

19   19 32-31-6, 70 points: P.K. Subban suffered a scary injury last week and left the game on a stretcher, but he tweeted the next day that he was "feeling good." He's expected to miss at least two more games, which seems like good news, indicating it's a short-term injury rather than long-term.
20   20

31-26-12, 74 points: The Hurricanes continue to play well-structured and winning hockey under Bill Peters, picking up at least a point in five straight games despite trading three key players, including their captain, at the trade deadline.

21 21 

32-30-8, 72 points: The Senators are 2-3-2 in their last seven games, and are now seven points out of the final wild card spot in the East. They're going to need another Andrew Hammond-like run to get back into the picture.

22   22 33-29-7, 73 points: No Cory Schneider? No problem. At least for now. Keith Kinkaid was named the NHL's third star of the week after going 2-0-0 with a 0.48 goals against average, .981 save percentage and one shutout last week.
23   23 30-32-7, 67 points: Mike Smith returned from a lower-body injury, which forced him to miss three months, by recording a 44-save shutout against Edmonton over the weekend. Could he rally the Coyotes to a late playoff push?
24 25

28-33-9, 65 points: Jack Eichel has five goals and two assists in seven games this month, already matching his point total in 13 games in March, where he had one goal and six assists. He also scored his first overtime winner over the weekend against Carolina.

25 26

27-28-12, 66 points: The Canucks are eight points out of the final wild card spot in the West, but they have at least two games in hand on the four teams above them fighting for the same position. They're surprisingly still in the hunt, and a late hot streak could propel them there.

26   24

28-33-8, 64 points: The Blue Jackets activated Sergei Bobrovsky from injured reserve last week and reassigned Joonas Korpisalo, who did a solid job in Bobrovsky's absence, posting a 14-8-4 record and a .918 save percentage.

27   27 27-37-7, 61 points: The Oilers very well could land the No. 1 overall pick for the fifth time in seven years, which isn't sitting well with the hockey community. The hockey gods can't let that happen again, right?
28 28

28-35-5, 61 points: Mikael Backlund has four goals and one assist in his last five games; two of those goals have been game-winners, including an overtime victory over Nashville last week.

29   29

28-35-5, 61 points: The Jets are 3-8-2 in their last 13 games, but it's not about wins and losses at this point. It's building on the positives. Here's one: Winnipeg is 18-for-19 on the penalty kill in the last six games, good for a 94.7 percentile.

30   30

23-34-11, 57 points: The Maple Leafs won their first game in regulation since Feb. 25 on Sunday, a 1-0 shutout win in Detroit. Mike Babcock not making it easy on his former club to secure a playoff berth.

*Advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”