Blackhawks

No rust after rest, Hawks cruise to 4th straight win

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No rust after rest, Hawks cruise to 4th straight win

Sunday, Dec. 26, 2010
Posted 8:34 PM Updated 9:48 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Marian Hossa hadnt played in nearly a month. Goaltender Marty Turco hadnt gotten a victory in more than one. On Sunday, they both had solid outings.

Turco stopped 26 of 27 for his first victory since Nov. 17 and Hossa had two assists in his first game since Nov. 29 as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at the United Center. Patrick Sharp scored his 19th and 20th goals this season for the Blackhawks, who won their fourth in a row.

Turco got the starting call Saturday night after Corey Crawford came down with the flu. Turco, who had struggled in the few starts hes gotten recently, was big early with 14 first-period stops. He was 2:26 away from getting his second shutout this season before Derick Brassard scored a power-play goal. Still, it was an outing Turco needed.

It was good to feel the way I did. Its been a while since Ive had this feeling, said Turco. It was a good step forward for me but huge for the team to continue what were doing at home.

Coach Joel Quenneville said Turco was big in that first period. He gave us a chance to get our feet under us.

Hossa, meanwhile, looked like he had little to no rust from that lower-body injury that sidelined him the last 10 games. While the Blackhawks looked a bit sluggish to start, Hossa came out flying. He was also strong on the penalty kill, which went 3 for 4 on Sunday night.

I felt pretty good. I did lots of skating with the assistant coaches and getting a lot of extra time on the ice, Hossa said. You need to do that, especially missing a month off. I just needed to get the game timing back.

Hossas wraparound attempt led to the Blackhawks first goal, a Tomas Kopecky rebound.

Kopy texted me before the game and said, I hope you had a good nap. Pass me the puck so I can score. Hossa said with a laugh.

Then theres Sharp, who continues to be a steady offensive presence. His first goal ended up being the game-winner, the fifth time hes had that this season. His second came 37 seconds after Dave Bolland gave the Blackhawks a 3-0 advantage.

His (first goal) was a big goal for us, coach Joel Quenneville said of Sharp. Getting the two-goal lead was big. Hes had a real good start to the season and a lot of quality and timely goals as well.

Close, but

Jack Skille nearly tallied the first penalty shot in United Center history on Sunday, but Columbus goaltender Mathieu Garon came up with the stop on his backhand attempt.

I wouldve liked to have that one back. Ill be dreaming about that later, said Skille, who thought that was his first career penalty shot in any league. That was one of the cooler experiences Ive had. I just wanted to put the puck in the back of the net and hear the horn.

Skille said he wasnt thinking about making any crazy moves on the shot.

Ill leave that to the Mighty Ducks, he said.

Its better to give

Patrick Kane talked Christmas gifts after Sunday mornings skate, specifically the ones he gave family. Kane gave his dad a Stanley Cup ring and his sisters Stanley Cup bracelets.

Once my sisters got that they were flaunting that pretty good, Kane said. For my dad, I might have ordered the ring a little tight. He said it was great but his finger was completely red. He said it was just something youve got to work on I and said, Dad, lets just get it stretched. They enjoyed it.

Kane (left ankle) said he felt good coming out of Sunday mornings skate. He said hell see how he feels after Mondays practice, but he could play Tuesday in St. Louis. Kane said hes dealing with some pain but its not bad.

Its a little bit tender but overall its definitely a lot better than where I was last week, he said. Its one of those things that feels fine when you walk on it but put it in a boot and it just feels a little bit different."

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

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

Stan Bowman explains how Blackhawks may utilize extra cap space

The Blackhawks had cap space to use this summer but elected to shore up their depth rather than make a splash when free agency opened up on July 1. Perhaps a large reason for that was because Marian Hossa's $5.275 million cap hit over the next three years complicated what they could do exactly in the short term without jeopardizing the long term.

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman admitted Tuesday that they had had discussions about moving Hossa's contract for a year now. But it finally reached a point where they simply needed to get it off their hands, even if it meant giving up Vinnie Hinostroza as a sweetener.

"We tried to make that deal work in every other way possible but they obviously said he had to be in it," Bowman said of including Hinostroza.

That's how important it was to free up even more cap space. By trading Hossa's contract in a nine-piece trade with the Arizona Coyotes, it created more options for the Blackhawks and financial flexibility going forward.

"It was a difficult trade from a sentimental perspective, because we'd love to not have to do that," Bowman said. "But on the practical matter, it was becoming challenging to try to operate with that contract here. It necessitated us trying to make the move that we did make. You don't know when those opportunities are going to come to try and make that type of a move. ... When this presented itself, we talked it through and got to the point where we thought it was something we had to take advantage of."

The problem for the short term is, it's mid-July and the big-name free agents are off the market. There's not much the Blackhawks can do to improve their roster externally unless they make a trade, which would require dipping into the pipeline.

And it's unfair to put a grade on the Hossa trade as a whole without seeing how they utilize that extra cap space. Could that be before the 2018-19 season starts?

"It's an option if we can find the right player or the right situation," Bowman said. "We certainly have more options now than we did before. I wouldn't say we have to do something. Having cap space is an asset in and of itself, so things will come along maybe in the summer or maybe in the beginning part of the year where teams have a couple players that make their team unexpectedly and that makes some other players more expendable. In the past we probably haven't really been a good match for those types of situations because we didn't have the cap room at that time, so now we're going to be in the mix for those types of things.

"Whether we use it right away or whether we use it during the season, I think the nice thing is we have the flexibility now going in to the coming years where we're going to need cap room, all that and more, to sign the young players."

It doesn't sound like there's much urgency to pull something off between now and when training camp rolls around in September. At least for now.

That doesn't mean there won't be once the market picks back up again. 

"Each year teams have surprises, good and bad, in camp," Bowman said. "Our team’s the same way. You have ideas on how your lines are going to look or how your players are going to be ready. Sometimes guys surprise you in a good way, sometimes it’s not what you think. There’ll be some adjustments around the league, but probably not a lot of activity.

"If you look back the last couple of seasons, late July and August are quieter as far as transactions. But there are some arbitration cases coming up around the league; those may get settled ahead of time. But if they do go to arbitration, if the number's not the way the team likes it, they may look to do something. There’s the possibility of moves, but probably closer to training camp is more when changes may happen."