Blackhawks

Spencer Abbott gets big call, even bigger opportunity with Blackhawks

Spencer Abbott gets big call, even bigger opportunity with Blackhawks

Spencer Abbott was already surprised that the Blackhawks recalled him on Tuesday night. Imagine his shock when he saw the line assignments heading into Wednesday’s practice, and he was on the top one.

Abbott had a good camp for the Blackhawks and is producing for an IceHogs team (21 points in 30 games) that has otherwise struggled. Now he’ll see if his AHL work translates into the NHL on Thursday, when he makes his Blackhawks debut against the Buffalo Sabres.

It’s actually not a massive surprise that Abbott will get a chance on the top line. It’s the second consecutive season in which the Blackhawks are trying to get consistent production from that group. Marian Hossa’s imminent return should certainly help. As for Abbott, he has to calm the “nerve-wracking” feeling he experienced joining Hossa and Jonathan Toews at Wednesday’s practice.

“It’s going to be intimidating, [but] I have to stay within myself and play my game. I can’t try to do too much,” Abbott said. “You have a tendency to look for them when you get the puck and get rid of the puck and give it to them as much as you can. I’m going to try my best not to play like that, just try to play my game and hopefully things work out.”

Indeed, it’s an easy trap for anyone on the top line to get into: you’re with Toews and Hossa, so get them the puck early and often. Let’s remember back to early last season when Teuvo Teravainen did that too much. It’s a delicate balance that Abbott will have to take. Hossa, who just met Abbott for the first time today – Hossa was at World Cup during Abbott’s time at training camp – said Abbott should adjust pretty well.

“Sometimes you can say they throw him in the water and now you have to swim. On the other hand, we’re just going to try to help him,” Hossa said. “He’s got what I heard, a good hockey IQ. I like to play with players like that. Hopefully we can click right away and keep it simple, you know, don’t try to complicate things too much. But I think he’s a smart player, so it should be good.”

Abbott spent one season in Sweden after his first go-around in the AHL, “had just gotten stale for me.” The experience was a good one, as Abbott improved his defensive game. But right now it’s his scoring the Blackhawks could use.

“I think he just gives us a little bit of offense, and I think that’s the mindset of him coming in here and see how he handled it,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll see in the course of a game but certainly he has skill and can make plays, and playing with top guys maybe you’ve got a chance to complement his type of player or role.”

Abbott shouldn’t be surprised he’s here: he’s done well in Rockford and he’s being rewarded for that. As for the surprise of joining the top line, he’ll have to keep those nerves at bay.

“They’re obviously both very, very high end guys. It’s a privilege to be out there on the same line as them,” Abbott said. “I’ll do what I can to keep up.”

Four takeaways: Strong start wasted as Blackhawks winless streak extends to five games

Four takeaways: Strong start wasted as Blackhawks winless streak extends to five games

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday:

1. Strong start wasted

The Blackhawks came out of the gates flying. They recorded the first nine shot attempts (four on goal) and didn't allow the Rangers to get their first shot on net until the 6:35 mark.

The Blackhawks were rewarded when Brandon Saad scored at 5:41 to put his team up 1-0. But the Rangers responded with a pair of goals within 4:18 of each other towards the latter stages of the frame to go up 2-1.

It was a tough way for the Blackhawks to go into the first intermission, happy with the start but not the result.

2. High-quality scoring chances

The Blackhawks gave up three goals at 5-on-5 and one empty-netter. And they'll quickly realize when reviewing the tape that they didn't do Collin Delia any favors.

Each of New York's first three goals came from the lower slot area, and they were seemingly all preventable. That's the positive, but also the negative because the Blackhawks are making it tough on themselves.

The Rangers finished with 14 high-danger chances at even strength compared to the Blackhawks' three. Below is a heat map of the shot chart at 5-on-5, courtesy of naturalstattrick.com:

3. Power play stays hot

The Rangers aren't a great team in the penalty kill department. They went into Thursday's game ranked 26th with a 77.1 percent success rate. But they were coming in hot, having killed off 14 in a row in the last three games.

That wasn't enough to stop the Blackhawks' scorching power play, which potted two more on three opportunities (goals by Saad and Alex DeBrincat). It's the seventh straight game the Blackhawks have scored at least one power-play goal, upping their percentage to 37.2 (16-for-43) since Dec. 18 — a span of 14 games, which ranks first over that stretch.

The power play continues to be a bright spot, and the Blackhawks have to be pleased with the consistency of it over the last month now.

4. Strome vs. Strome

For the third time in his NHL career, Dylan Strome went head-to-head with older brother Ryan, the latter of whom had gotten the best of his younger brother in the first two meetings — once when Ryan was with the Islanders and the other when he was with the Oilers, both against Dylan's Coyotes.

But Ryan stayed 3-for-3 against Dylan even though they were both on different teams this time.

Dylan was on the ice against Ryan for 8:46 of 5-on-5 time, which is the most he faced against any other Rangers skater. Ryan's line generated nine scoring chances and allowed only one during that time.

Dylan did get the better of his older brother in the faceoff department (58.3 percent vs. 53.3 percent), but it was Ryan that came away with the result that matters to both of them and that's the two points in the standings.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Inside the White Sox prospects trip to the Dominican Republic

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USA TODAY

White Sox Talk Podcast: Inside the White Sox prospects trip to the Dominican Republic

Thirteen of the White Sox top American born prospects are in the Dominican Republic this week for a cultural exchange trip organized by the White Sox, giving players like Dylan Cease, Nick Madrigal, Zack Collins and Dane Dunning a first-hand experience to learn about the country where many of their Latin teammates like Eloy Jimenez call home. Chuck Garfien speaks with Ryan McGuffey who is covering the trip for NBC Sports Chicago. They talk about the White Sox training academy in the Dominican Republic (3:50), what the players are learning and how they're bonding on the trip (6:30), the crazy atmosphere going to a Dominican Winter League game (11:10), going with Reynaldo Lopez to the home where he grew up (14:40), personal stories from the trip (23:15) and more.

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