Nick Schmaltz gets top-line opportunity alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

Nick Schmaltz gets top-line opportunity alongside Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane

For young players on the Blackhawks this season, opportunities abound. Nick Schmaltz is about to get another shot at a big one Wednesday night.

Schmaltz will get another shot on the Blackhawks’ top line when the team visits St. Louis. The North Dakota product, who is getting more comfortable again at wing — he played some there in college, too — is relishing the chance and knows how he has to approach it.

“Just playing my game and obviously try to get them the puck as much as I can,” Schmaltz said. “These guys are good players, so I’ll just try to get open and make plays out there. They’re high-skill guys, and I think I can bring a good piece to help them out.”

Schmaltz finished Sunday’s game on the top line, replacing Richard Panik, who started off well but has cooled in recent games. That, and not long after that trio was thrown together for the first time, it resulted in a goal — Kane from Toews. So why not give it another shot?

“We happened to score on it, and it’s something down the road we wanted to try. So we liked it this morning, and we’ll see how it goes forward,” Quenneville said of the combination. “For (Schmaltz) to gain experience playing with those two guys, it’s a great opportunity to play to your strengths, knowing quality and quantity of ice time will be determined by how he plays. The quality is as good as it gets; some of his strengths are complimentary to Jonny and Kaner.”

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Indeed, Kane was impressed with Schmaltz in the brief time they were together on Sunday.

“One thing that’s underrated about him is his speed. He can make plays coming down the wing. He’s really good at turning up and finding the guy, or making a play off that turn,” Kane said. “When he came on our line we had the puck a little bit more. He was really good. He’s a little similar to (Artemi) Panarin in the way he plays. Just try to not necessarily recreate that but play a similar style, try to get each other in the same areas and hopefully create that way.”

Schmaltz is right: Getting Toews and Kane the puck often is key. At the same time, he can’t overdo that. Remember back to last season when Teuvo Teravainen, admittedly, was more focused on getting Toews and Marian Hossa the puck and not taking plays or shots when he had them? Schmaltz is on the top line because Quenneville thinks he can mesh, create and produce with that line. He has to be himself.

“That’s one thing we’ll probably talk to him about: just play his game, not worry about fitting in with us, trying to get us the puck,” Kane said. “If he plays his game everything will add up and it’ll be all right.”

Schmaltz has a great opportunity ahead of him. It’ll be a little daunting playing with the Blackhawks’ top two players, but Schmaltz knows how he has to play.

“I think I can simplify as much as I can,” he said. “Try to get them the puck when I can but just try to play my game, not overthink anything and I should be fine.”

Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company


Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford's 250th win puts him in elite company

Corey Crawford captured a coveted goalie milestone with another solid performance in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Blackhawks on Friday in New Jersey. The Hawks (12-12-5) beat the Atlantic division-leading Bruins 4-3 in overtime in Boston with Robin Lehner in net on Thursday before playing the Devils, last in the Metropolitan, Friday with Crawford starting. 

"It's important to try to climb back up in the standings," Crawford said following the game. "We had a few tough games, it seems like it's been pretty streaky the first quarter of the season, but when we're playing well I think we're pretty tough to beat. We just got to try to find that game as much as possible. 

"But that was obviously a big win to start it and against one of the best teams in the league (the Bruins) and having a big lead too, going late into the third period, and then a team that's a little bit lower in the standings (the Devils), but you still have to come out hard and play, no games are easy. It was pretty competitive out there but it's nice to find a way to win." 

The two-time Stanley Cup champ saved 29 of 30 shots through overtime, including a Miles Wood breakaway with 11 seconds remaining in the second period and the game tied 1-1. He also stopped three of five New Jersey Devils shooters including Taylor Hall and 2019 No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes in the shootout. 

Crawford became the 59th goalie in NHL history to record 250 wins. The 34-year-old is one of 13 active NHL goalies and just the third Hawks netminder to reach the milestone (Glen Hall: 276, Tony Esposito: 418).

Crawford is 250-149-52 in 464 games with the Blackhawks and has 26 shutouts. 

5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils


5 Takeaways: Kirby Dach leads Blackhawks to 2-1 win in shootout vs. Devils

The Blackhawks won 2-1 against the New Jersey Devils in a shootout on Friday. Here are five takeaways:

Top to bottom

The Hawks were looking to establish some momentum in Jersey following a big win Thursday in Boston. Jonathan Toews scored in overtime and Alex DeBrincat ended a 12-game goal drought to help the Hawks to a 4-3 OT win over the Bruins, ending the Blackhawks' 3-game losing streak in which they were outscored 16-5. 

Going from facing the first place team in the Atlantic division (second in the NHL) on Thursday to the last place team in the Metropolitan division (second to last in the league) on Friday proved to be tougher than imagined. 

Alex DeBrincat scored the lone regulation goal for Chicago and Kirby Dach, the No. 3 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft, scored the final goal of the shootout and set up No. 1 pick Jack Hughes to get stopped by Corey Crawford for the 2-1 final score. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane also scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks.

Crow 250

Corey Crawford won his 250th NHL game on Friday. The two-time Stanley Cup champ is the 59th goalie in NHL history to reach the milestone and one of 13 active netminders to do so. The 34-year-old is the third goalie to reach 250 wins with the Blackhawks. 

Crawford saved 29 of 30 New Jersey shots ahead of the shootout. 

Cat on the prowl 

DeBrincat scored his second goal in two games after not lighting the lamp in his previous 12. This is a good sign for the forward, who is known to score in bunches.

Gilbert getting noticed

Dennis Gilbert skated in his second straight game with the Hawks with Olli Maatta (flu-like symptoms) missing both contents on the road trip. Gilbert had a solid game in Boston Thursday and improved his case Friday, putting a big hit on Hughes then having a decent showing after answering the bell with Wayne Simmonds.

Kane watch

Kane tied Andy Bathgate for 93rd on the NHL career points list (973), assisting on DeBrincat's second period goal.