Blackhawks

Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes

Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes

It seems like ages ago when the Blackhawks struggled to score goals.

Line combinations were scattered, production was low and the Blackhawks were relying heavily on their goaltending. Now, however, the offense is rolling and the Minnesota Wild are back within striking distance.

Patrick Kane had a hat trick and Michal Rozsival's first goal of the season proved to be the game winner as the Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks have now won eight of their last nine and are just three points back of the Wild, who are on their bye week.

Kane's hat trick came one game after Jonathan Toews recorded one against the Wild. It was the second time the Blackhawks have had hat tricks in consecutive games since May 5-7, 2010 (Dustin Byfuglien and Toews vs. Vancouver in the postseason that year).

With the victory, however, came a loss. Niklas Hjalmarsson pulled up in the first period with an upper-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson will be re-evaluated today – "we're hoping he's going to be OK but not sure," Quenneville added.

Nick Schmaltz (celebrating his 21st birthday) and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and an assist. Toews had two assists. Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 37 shots in the victory.

[RELATED: Niklas Hjalmarsson to be re-evaluated Friday after suffering upper-body injury]

The Blackhawks got their offense on track on their Ice Show trip and, outside of their 3-1 loss to Edmonton out of the break, the production has been steady. That continued on Thursday as they tallied six more goals, including Kane's third career regular-season hat trick. That just so happened to come one game after Jonathan Toews had a hat trick against the Wild.

"Yeah, we were kind of laughing about that on the bench there after I scored the third one. It's funny how it worked out," Kane said. "Those guys played amazing in a huge game. Jonny with five points and a plus-5. You can look across the board at that line – they've been playing awesome. I'm just trying to contribute in any way I can and hopefully let them lead the way and just follow up after that."

But as Quenneville said, the Blackhawks were a little more loose on the other end than they'd been in recent games. The Coyotes took advantage of that, erasing the Blackhawks' 3-1 lead and tying it 3-3 by the end of the first period. 

Rozsival, dressed as a precaution with Hjalmarsson apparently ailing, got the game winner 2:56 into the second period. The goal helped Rozsival, who hadn't played since Jan. 15, get over a bad first. 

"I did not have a good start to the game, I think I was minus-2 in my first for shifts. It didn't go the way I wanted early on but in the second period, when I scored that goal, I got my confidence back a little bit," said Rozsival, who missed four weeks with a foot injury. "Even the coaches put a little more trust in me and I was able to finish the game. At the end, we were able to win. That's the most important thing, so definitely big win."

The Blackhawks are on a roll right now. How Hjalmarsson is, and how that affects the team defensively moving forward, remains to be seen. Obviously, that would be a big loss. But offensively the Blackhawks are doing a lot of things right, and another productive game has them closing in on the Wild.

"We're chasing [the Wild] and they have a bye week, so we're trying to close the gap as much as we can," Schmaltz said. "These are huge games for us. We have a little stretch at home so we want to take advantage of it."
 

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."