Blackhawks

Oduya's blast caps furious rally by Blackhawks

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Oduya's blast caps furious rally by Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya has had several good games since joining the Chicago Blackhawks at the trade deadline. He had a great one on Friday.

Oduya had a goal and an assist, his first of each in his new uniform, as the Blackhawks came back to beat the New York Rangers 4-3 at the United Center. The Blackhawks, who were down 2-1 with about seven minutes left in regulation, remain in sixth place in the West with 81 points, four behind fifth-place Nashville.

Oduya has definitely brought balance to a Blackhawks defense that needed another veteran presence. Just 62 seconds after Patrick Sharp scored his 26th on a pretty tic-tac-toe play with Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, Oduyas slapshot put the Blackhawks ahead 3-2.

He was unbelievable tonight, Kane said of Oduya. Forwards love to play with a guy like that who can make those plays and get you the puck with speed. He was great tonight and definitely our best player.

Oduya said on a team like this with such high skill you try to feed as many pucks to the forwards as you can. On the other hand I still try to play good defensively, be responsible and break up plays and use my skating. Hopefully I can jump into some more plays and create more offense.

Oduyas puck moving has been strong. And his move to shake a Rangers defenseman and ensuing shot which was redirected by Andrew Shaw for his seventh this season was what the Blackhawks needed at the time. But coach Joel Quenneville was as happy with Oduya at the other end.

The way he defends is what we appreciate. He kills plays quick in the puck areas and supports the attack, Quenneville said. (All of his games) have been good but that might have been the best.

Still, it took a while to get a few goals against the Rangers. Be it their tight defensive game or stellar goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, the Rangers werent giving up much for a while. Then the Blackhawks caught a few breaks and found a few openings en route to scoring three in the final seven minutes of regulation.

(Hes a) tough goaltender, one of the best in the league. Hes tough to even get chances on; he smothers everything, Kane said of Lundqvist. For us to get a win against him, a tough game like that when youre down 2-1 with that much time left, I think it pumps everyone up and gives us some confidence.

Getting confidence is one thing. Riding the wave of it for a while is another, and with only 13 games left the Blackhawks need to do just that. And they need to take advantage when they get bounces and breaks.

Much like they did Friday night.

Once we get out of trying to make a better play and simplify and put pucks there, hopefully we get a favorable bounce, Quenneville said. And we got a couple (tonight).

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.