Blackhawks

Star struck: Blackhawks allow four first-period goals in pummeling

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Star struck: Blackhawks allow four first-period goals in pummeling

Coach Joel Quenneville expected this one to be different.

The previous four Blackhawks-Dallas Stars matchups have been wide open, with the Stars winning three of them easily. This time, Quenneville was looking for a close checking game.

“I expect that kind of game tonight start to finish,” he said.

He didn’t get it.

Vernon Fiddler scored two goals as the Stars handed the Blackhawks another lopsided loss, this one 6-2 at the United Center. The Stars, who remain atop the Central Division with 97 points, clinched a playoff berth.

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Five Things: Blackhawks get in another 4-0 hole vs. Stars]

The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are winless in six of their last seven. They remain in third in the Central Division, at least for now, with 91 points; Nashville, however, is pushing hard and sits in fourth with 87 points.

The frustration is mounting a bit.

“You can’t blame it on bad luck; you just need to work through some of these games we’re not getting the bounces. You have to work and earn the bounces,” Jonathan Toews said. “We didn’t do that early, again we go down 4-0 — feel like we’ve done that a bunch of times against this team, even at home — it’s going to be an uphill battle trying to get back into the game. And once again that’s what we saw tonight.”

Andrew Shaw and Richard Panik each scored his second goal in as many games. But those were about the only bright spots in an otherwise forgettable game for the Blackhawks.

All seemed fine until about 11 and a half minutes in, when Colton Sceviour scored from behind the net, his shot going off Scott Darling’s stick. Just 25 seconds after that Sceviour, once again behind the net, fed Fiddler in front of it for a 2-0 lead. Despite those bang-bang goals, Patrick Kane said the Blackhawks shouldn’t have gotten down.

“I mean there’s still a lot of game left,” he said. “But you take a penalty and they score on the power play, you get a power play thinking you’ll get one back and I made a bad play at the blue line there and they get a breakaway. Next thing you know they’re up 4-0 again in this building, and it seems like it’s the same game that was here last time. Obviously it’s not the first period we wanted.”

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No, it wasn’t. And with two more goals later in the period — Patrick Eaves’ power-play goal and Fiddler’s short-handed goal — the Stars were up 4-0 after the first. The Blackhawks skated to the locker room as the United Center crowd booed.

“Halfway through, after one ... basically we’re done early in the game and it’s hard to tell on how to measure,” Quenneville said. “We have two pucks behind our goal line end up in the net, too easy to give up two quick goals like that. Then we make a mistake on our (penalty kill), then it’s a shorty and it was just hard to watch.”

It didn’t get better through the second and third periods, either. Michael Leighton came in to relieve Darling to start the second. Leighton stopped 16 of 17, but the Blackhawks never really got anything going.

What looked like they were hiccups earlier this season have turned into major struggles for the Blackhawks now. They look shaken and their spot among the Central Division’s top three is tenuous. There is still time to turn it around, but the Blackhawks have to respond sooner rather than later.

“We have three days here to regroup,” Kane said. “Maybe it’s what we need right now: get a little time away from games and try to regroup and know what we’re going to do going into the next little road trip here.”

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

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AP

Getting to know four newly-signed Blackhawks

The Blackhawks announced Monday that they have officially agreed to terms with forward Dominik Kahun, defensemen Lucas Carlsson and Darren Raddysh and goaltender Kevin Lankinen on entry-level contracts.

Kahun ($925,000 cap hit), Lankinen ($925,000) and Raddysh ($730,000) each signed two-year deals that run through the 2019-20 season while Carlsson's is a three-year deal that runs through the 2020-21 campaign and carries a cap hit of $792,500.

So who are these guys? Let's meet them:

Carlsson

Drafted in the fourth round (No. 110 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2016, Carlsson set a career-high with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 44 games this season with Brynäs IF of the Swedish Hockey League. He was tied for fourth among all blue liners with seven goals.

Carlsson, 20, doesn't have major upside, but he's a reliable, well-rounded defenseman and that's what drew the attention of Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley.

“When he’s on the ice, he makes things happen," Kelley told Scott Powers of The Athletic last summer. "I think what impressed the Sweden under-20 coach was Lucas’ ability to challenge in all three zones. He’s an active defensively. Offensively, he challenges. He keeps plays alive.”

Kahun

The 22-year-old forward spent the last four seasons with EHC München of the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, Germany's top professional hockey league, where he established career highs in assists (29), points (41) and tied a personal best with 12 goals, leading Munchen to their third straight championship in 2018 after recording four goals and 10 assists in 17 playoff contests.

He raised eyebrows at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, where he compiled five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games and won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs (41 of 74), helping Germany capture a silver medal.

“He has made an enormous step this year, has become much more stable and mature," German national team coach Marco Sturm said after the Olympics. "I am sure that he would grab it in the NHL,” Sturm told the Hamburger Morgenpost.

Most recently, Kahun had a goal and two assists in seven games for Germany during the IIHF Men's World Championship. He's 5-foot-11, 176 pounds whose known to be a solid two-way player and can play center but may need some time to adjust to the smaller ice surface and NHL style of speed and physicality.

Lankinen 

Lankinen is 23 years old and coming off a season in which he was in the discussion for the Urpo Ylönen trophy, annually awarded to the top goaltender of the Finnish Elite League, after registering a league-best 1.33 goals against average and .946 save percentage in 15 games with HIFK.

He missed a large portion of the season because of an injury, but it didn't stop him from turning in a strong postseason, guiding his team to a bronze medal after posting a 1.99 GAA and .936 save percentage in 13 playoff games. The year before that, he led the league with seven shutouts in 42 games, backstopping his team to a silver medal.

This is a low-risk, medium-sized reward signing for the Blackhawks, who could use some more young goaltending depth in the pipeline, especially given how this season unfolded with the big club.

Raddysh

The Blackhawks signed Raddysh to a one-year AHL contract last June, and he turned it into an NHL one after a strong season with the Rockford IceHogs.

Raddysh, 22, accumulated 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 66 regular-season games with the IceHogs, and has appeared in each of the team's playoff games en route to the Western Conference Final.

Last season Raddysh was named the OHL's top defenseman after scoring 16 goals and 65 assists for 81 points in 62 games for the Erie Otters, where he was teammates with current Blackhawks winger Alex DeBrincat. He's the Otters' all-time leader in assists (143) and points (184) among defensemen.

Raddysh might be nothing more than a depth defenseman, but his development is worth monitoring because the offensive production is there and that's something the Blackhawks lacked this past season from their back end.

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

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AP

Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa: 'I will not play hockey anymore'

Days after putting his Gold Coast condo on the market, Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa revealed to a Slovakian newspaper that he is moving back to his hometown country and doesn't plan on returning to the NHL.

"I will not play hockey anymore," said Hossa, who missed the entire 2017-18 campaign due to a progressive skin disorder and the side effects of the medications involved to treat it. "I have a valid contract with Chicago for the next three years, but I have only one health and it does not allow me to return."

Because he has three years left on a deal that carries a $5.275 million cap hit, Hossa is not expected to sign his retirement papers until the contract is completed or else it would result in salary cap consequences.

The news is not surprising, but it officially allows the Blackhawks to move on without him in the fold roster-wise and toy around with some options this summer.

The first is stashing his contract on long-term injured reserve, as they did last season when they utilized the in-season preference.

The second, which Hossa wondered could happen, is finding a trade partner that would absorb the remainder of his contract, usually done by lower payroll teams aiming to reach the cap floor.

And it wouldn't be difficult trying to find a buyer, considering Hossa's actual salary is $1 million per year over the next three seasons. Hossa, of course, has a no movement clause but it's likely he would waive it given his status at this point.

The good news for Chicago is, the three-time Stanley Cup winner didn't rule out joining the Blackhawks organization in some capacity after his contract expires in 2020-21, whether it's in a front office role or as a team ambassador.

In 19 NHL seasons, Hossa accumulated 525 goals and 609 assists for 1,134 points in 1,309 regular-season games, and added 149 points (52 goals, 97 assists) in 205 postseason contests. He's one of 45 players in league history to net at least 500 goals in his career.