Blackhawks

Sharp hurt while Hawks remain winless in 2012

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Sharp hurt while Hawks remain winless in 2012

Updated: Sunday, Jan. 8 at 10:25 p.m.

The Blackhawks had several opportunities to get some breathing room over the Detroit Red Wings. They couldnt convert on enough of them, and the Wings took advantage late.

Patrick Sharp scored his 20th goal of the season for an early 2-0 lead, but the Blackhawks lost that and Sharp as they dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to the Wings on Sunday night. The Blackhawks dropped to 0-3-1 in January and to fifth overall in the Western Conference.

The big concern at the moment is Sharp, who suffered an upper-body injury in the first period. He did not come out for the second and third periods. Coach Joel Quenneville said theyll run some tests with Sharp and know more about his status on Monday.

It was a crazy ending with Henrik Zetterberg scoring with less than five minutes in regulation to tie it and Pavel Datsyuk getting the game-winner in overtime. Corey Crawford wasnt happy with the Wings second goal.

A guy came in and lifted my stick before the puck was even near there. Thats how it went under, he said. I guess they just dont pick up on that stuff. We shouldve won that game. The guy came in and interfered. Its embarrassing.

When asked if there shouldve been some Detroit penalties late, Quenneville talked of the opportunities the Blackhawks did have and didnt capitalize on.

We had a couple of power-plays that would have been nice; would have been nice to score on the penalty shot, he said. Thats what it is: tight game, a couple of rolling pucks, one went in and one didnt go in.

Defenseman Duncan Keith concurred.

We get another (goal) there and it definitely helps us out and puts us in a better spot, he said. We had chances to score. It was close the whole way and they ended up finding a way at the end.

The Blackhawks scored two goals in 44 seconds in the first period, the first a power-play goal by Dave Bolland and the second Sharps. The Blackhawks had four power plays on the night, scoring on just that first one. They thought they scored an even-strength goal midway through the third period but video review proved inconclusive on it crossing the goal line. Jimmy Hayes was awarded a penalty shot on that play, however, but Ty Conklin stopped it.

It was a good effort by (Hayes). Its a tough situation, a lot of pressure in that circumstance, but it doesnt have to come down to that, Jonathan Toews said. Weve got to find a way to close out 60 minutes and play hard the way we did in the first two and protect that one-goal lead.

It was a bitter pill to swallow, considering the Blackhawks played the type of game they wanted. Theyve left points out there to start this month and theyve lost some ground in the West. They know there are improvements to be made, but theyre not panicking.

That race weve had, we might have been ahead of those teams but it wasnt like we were light years ahead of them, Quenneville said. Its a one-, two-point swing here, everybodys in the mix. I see this battle going on all year and the conference is tightening up as well. We did give away a lot of ground here this week and its up to us to regain where were at.

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

What Olli Maatta and Calvin de Haan trades mean for future of Blackhawks defense

After finishing 30th in goals against average (3.55) and 31st in penalty kill percentage (72.7) this past season, the Blackhawks are clearly making it a priority to patch up their defense this summer. And that's been evident with the acquisitions of defensive-minded defensemen Calvin de Haan and Olli Maatta.

But it raises some interesting questions about the future of the Blackhawks blue line.

With the de Haan and Maatta additions, the Blackhawks now have five defensemen under contract through at least the 2021-22 season: Brent Seabrook ($6.875 million cap hit), Duncan Keith ($5.538 million), de Haan ($4.55 million), Maatta ($4.083 million) and Connor Murphy ($3.85 million). That's $24.8 million tied up to five guys.

The money isn't the primary concern, though. It's the limited amount of roster spots available. The Blackhawks don't have to immediately figure out how it's going to work a year from now and beyond, but it makes you wonder how the cards may eventually be shuffled.

Let's run through the situations:

— Erik Gustafsson had a breakout season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. He's obviously not part of the five current players under contract after next season, putting the Blackhawks in a spot where they have to consider trading him or be comfortable with letting him walk for nothing if he isn't re-signed. (They could always trade his negotiating rights after next season and pull off a sign-and-trade as well, if it came to that).

And even if Gustafsson is re-signed, the Blackhawks would then have six players locked up for the 2020-21 season and on, and that's enough to submit a lineup.

— Henri Jokiharju, who was drafted No. 29 overall in 2017, is probably ready to take the next step and become an everyday player. Where does he fit into the long-term plans?

— Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018, likely needs one more year in the OHL before making the jump to the NHL, which would put him on a timeline to become part of the Blackhawks next season. Does he occupy that sixth spot if another one isn't opened by then?

— Nicolas Beaudin, who was drafted No. 27 overall in 2018, is expected to start the upcoming season in Rockford after four years in the QMJHL but might be NHL-ready by the 2020-21 campaign.

— And then there's Ian Mitchell, who's returning to Denver for his junior season and will serve as the team's captain. He's said all along that he intends to sign with the Blackhawks once he's finished with college, but does the organization value him enough to create a spot for him when he's ready?

To make things a little more complicated, the Seattle expansion draft is set to occur in 2021 and the same rules will apply as Vegas in 2017.

The Blackhawks have the option to protect seven forwards, three defensemen and one goaltender or eight skaters and one goaltender. All players with no-movement clauses at the time of the expansion draft (and who decline to waive them) must be protected; Keith and Seabrook have a NMC. And all first- and second-year pros are exempt; Jokiharju would have to be protected.

As of this moment, the Blackhawks are likely to use the eight-skater option, but they will also have valuable forwards to protect. They're going to lose a good player one way or another, and it's probably going to come from the defensive group. All of this comes into play when weighing roster decisions for next season and beyond.

As stated above, the Blackhawks do not have to make an immediate decision on the future of their blue line corps. They can play out the 2019-20 season with the group as currently constructed. But the decisions the Blackhawks have to face next season could impact how Stan Bowman operates the rest of this summer and throughout the upcoming campaign.

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WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

WATCH: Blackhawks draft pick Kirby Dach throws out the first pitch at Wrigley in his first trip to Chicago

Kirby Dach was taken by the Blackhawks with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft on Friday.

On Monday, the Blackhawks introduced him to the city of Chicago. Dach took his first trip to Chicago for his introductory press conference.

Later in the day, the Canadian threw out the first pitch at the Cubs game at Wrigley Field. Dach didn't throw a strike, but it wasn't a blooper reel pitch either.

Watch Dach's first pitch in the video above.

 

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