Blackhawks

In Sharp's absence, Hawks pick up scoring

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In Sharp's absence, Hawks pick up scoring

When Patrick Sharp was sidelined after Sundays game against Detroit, the familiar rallying cry went out: a 40-point player was out and everyone else had to step up and contribute.

So far, everyone is.

The healthy Blackhawks are picking up for the injured parties, as 10 different players got on the score sheet in each of their last two games, 5-2 decisions over Columbus and Minnesota.

It was something the Blackhawks needed considering recent injuries, especially in the absence of Sharp (wrist), who had 20 goals and 20 assists.

When a guy goes down you know there are extra roles that come on you. Guys have taken over those roles, said Dave Bolland, who has three goals and two assists in his last two games. Were doing a great job at it. Well just keep going, keep rolling.

So far the call has been heard, and the more unsung goal scorers have responded loudest. Viktor Stalberg has four goals in two games. Bollands been scoring. Rookies Jimmy Hayes and Andrew Shaw have contributed, too.

The points have been spread around the roster and theyve all been welcome sights.

Its nice when you get contributions across the board, coach Joel Quenneville said. We talk all year long that we need more consistency in our team game, and whether theres production or not, I thought we had good rotation in our lines for back-to-back games here.

Defenseman Steve Montador, who had two assists on Thursday, said we obviously have some big horses here, and its good to know theyll contribute more often than not; having said that, the rest of us have to chip in from time to time. Were going to get the opportunities.

Montadors right: the Blackhawks horses, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane and Sharp before he was hurt are still going to get the bulk of the points. Thats why theyre among the leagues elite. But every superstar benefits from having a good supporting cast. The Blackhawks are benefiting from theirs right now.

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”