Blackhawks

Pirri proving his talents in Rockford

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Pirri proving his talents in Rockford

As the lockout drags on, over 100 NHLers are playing in the American Hockey League, upping the pace and the standard of hockey expected to be played during each matchup.

Not only has IceHogs forward Brandon Pirri embraced the challenge, he's set the bar for what consistency and leadership should look like on the ice. With 13 points in 15 games played this season, he's leading the boards in Rockford, doubling his second-ranked teammate Martin St. Pierre in number of goals with a total of six.

As for the higher-caliber of players this season, Pirri hasn't felt the slightest bit intimidated, and he's proven that in his performance.

"The pace is higher, it's a little more open, but at the same time it's the same gritty league," Pirri told CSNChicago.com. "You have to battle for everything. Right now it's real tight, every game's close."

Playing alongside Blackhawks' Brandon Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Jimmy Hayes, Marcus Kruger, Ben Smith, and Nick Leddy, Pirri has spent this season demonstrating that he can not only keep up with the Chicago players in town, but also shine among them.

Stan Bowman, Joel Quenneville and other members of the Blackhawks brass have been in attendance at the BMO Harris Center in Rockford for nearly every home game, scouting the team and preparing for NHL season to return.

"You see them at the rink, but at the same time you have to worry about yourself and stay focused on the game, because if you worry about that stuff then you're not going to play your game," Pirri said.

Having the big dogs watching closely from the press box may not be directly affecting Pirri's style of play, but it sure will help his outcome if he keeps up these numbers as the NHL teams wait to return to the ice.

In the meantime, he'll continue working towards his final goal, "becoming a consistent pro."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks spiral after Corey Crawford injury

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks spiral after Corey Crawford injury

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 7-3 loss to the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on Sunday:

1. A whacky first period

The Sharks came into the game with the second-most goals in the first period this season with 41. The Blackhawks have given up the most (49). So in a way, a five-goal first period wasn't all that surprising. But the way it happened certainly was.

The Blackhawks scored two goals within 47 seconds of each other, and had three goals on four shots before Sharks goaltender Martin Jones was pulled for Aaron Dell. Meanwhile, the Sharks had two goals within a 42 second span on only four shots up to that point. 

In total, there were five goals on 14 shots between the two teams for a shooting percentage of 35.7. It made for an entertaining first 20 minutes.

"Good start," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Pucks went in for us. We seemed to get a little looser there as the period went on, and they had a little push. We didn’t respond. Hard to say too much more than that.”

2. Concern for Corey Crawford

The Blackhawks had an unfortunate injury situation late in the first period when Crawford left the game with 1:30 remaining following a collision in the crease where he hit the back of his head on the post. Colliton confirmed after the game that Crawford sustained a concussion and is in protocol.

It was Evander Kane who shoved Dylan Strome into Crawford, who left the game immediately and did not return. Cam Ward made 30 saves on 35 shots (.857 save percentage) in relief.

There's obviously concern for Crawford, who missed 47 games with a concussion last season and also the first five games this year trying to get back into game shape.

"He's probably the guy that's worked the hardest and held us in the most over the season," Connor Murphy said. "So that's never a good sign. Crow's such a big part of our team and to lose him, it's not good. You just feel for him."

3. Five unanswered goals

After Crawford's injury, the life appeared to be sucked out of the United Center and the Sharks took advantage by scoring five unanswered goals — three of which came in the second period.

The Blackhawks wouldn't use Crawford's injury as an excuse, but it's hard not to when they were outscored 5-0 and outshot 29-13 in the final two periods.

"I don't think it was just that," Murphy said. "The second period was terrible. Our 5-on-5 play, we didn't have any passion, we didn't play simple enough, we turned it over and our special teams we didn't have enough urgency either. So it was not good."

4. More special teams problems

The Blackhawks had eight minutes of power play time and generated only four total shots on goal, none of which found the back of the net. The Sharks had 3:09 minutes of power play time and converted on both of their opportunities.

Special teams is a crucial part of the game, and the Blackhawks came up on the losing end of that battle again.

"Special teams are a big part of the game," Strome said. "It's obviously a big swing right there. We had a tough time getting into the zone a couple times, but we had some good looks there at the beginning of the second and for whatever reason we didn't convert. They have a good power play over there. Tonight they won the special teams and it showed in the game."

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Corey Crawford exits Blackhawks-Sharks early after collision in crease

Corey Crawford exits Blackhawks-Sharks early after collision in crease

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford exited in the first period on Sunday night against the San Jose Sharks after a collision in the crease, and did not return. 

Coach Jeremy Colliton confirmed after the game that Crawford has a concussion and is currently in protocol.

"He has a concussion, so he'll be under the protocol and go from there," Colliton said. "Didn't talk to him, but of course we're concerned."

The play happened with 1:30 left in the opening frame when Evander Kane shoved Dylan Strome into the Blackhawks netminder, who appeared to hit the back of his head on the post.

 

Kane was assessed a goaltender interference penalty and Crawford immediately left the game. He allowed two goals on eight shots before getting replaced by Cam Ward.

Crawford missed 47 games last season because of a concussion, so expect the Blackhawks to take a cautious approach with this situation going forward, given his injury history.

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