Drake Caggiula

Injury-ridden Blackhawks in dire need of bounce-back win

duncan-keith-injury.jpg
USA Today

Injury-ridden Blackhawks in dire need of bounce-back win

The Blackhawks must find a way to win and gain momentum before things spiral out of control. The Hawks, last place in the Central division after giving up 12 goals in their past past two games against the Avalanche, will face the defending Stanley Cup champions down a man with an injury-ridden roster.

The Blackhawks will be without Duncan Keith (groin), Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol), Dylan Strome (concussion protocol), Andrew Shaw (undergoing further evaluation) and Robin Lehner (flu), forcing them to play with just 11 forwards and six defensemen, due to salary cap restrictions, when they face the St. Louis Blues on Monday at the United Center. The Blues are first in the Central, six points ahead of the Avalanche. 

"Very impressive," Patrick Kane said of the Blues. "And then you look at their lineup, and they have a lot of injuries too. They obviously have a formula that works over there. Started with the back half of last year and then into the playoffs and winning, and then what they've done to start off this year is pretty impressive too. It'll be a tough matchup."

It's likely the Hawks will be missing some of those players when they head to Boston Thursday before going into New Jersey on Friday.

"We have to respond to adversity," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "To me, you can look at adversity as something you don’t want to have. No question, everyone would like it to be smooth all the time. But it’s an opportunity for us to take another step forward. We can develop as a team when you go through these stretches. I’d like for us not to miss this opportunity to respond. It can propel us forward."

"It's just like that all year," Kane said of the challenging games ahead. "You could've said the same thing about our last five, 10 games. It seems like we're traveling all over the place, playing some tough teams. It's definitely difficult being in the Central and the travel we have to deal with, but it is what it is and every team in our division has to go through it at some point."

The Bruins are first in the Atlantic division of the Eastern conference, 12 points ahead of the Panthers. New Jersey is last in the Metropolitan division.

Prior to Friday (5-2) and Saturday's (7-3) debacles against the Avalanche, the Hawks were getting great goaltending and finding ways to win, going 5-2-1 in their previous eight games, including a 3-0 shutout of the Stars in Chicago with Crawford in net on Tuesday.

"We've played some good hockey, Jonathan Toews said following Monday's morning skate. "I think we played a good road game in Dallas, we played good at home against Dallas. Since then we've maybe taken a few steps back, so I think it's time to bounce back tonight. The areas where we need to be better are pretty obvious, so we'll do our best to correct that."

Big numbers 

Toews is slated to become the 10th player to skate in 900 games with the Blackhawks on Monday.

"Oh, it's tonight?" Toews asked with a smile. "I think it's special to hit certain marks. I don't think you ever go out there every single night thinking about that, unless your 'Kaner and it happens every 20 games or something. You look at 'Seabs and 'Duncs and it doesn't feel like we've been here for that long, but then you look back to clips over the years and you go, 'Time really has flown by.' 

"It's special and I think when you're going through the same routine almost every year with training camp, [coming] to the United Center... It's not that you take it for granted, but it does in some way become a routine.

"So every time you're able to hit a milestone like games played or points, or whatever it is, it's definitely a moment to stop and say, 'Hey this is pretty special and I can be thankful for what I've been a part of and what I've been given, especially playing here in Chicago for the fans and for this team."

Kane will be looking to extend his 15-game point streak (24 points; 11 goals, 13 assists) on Monday. 

"You just know the number," Kane said of streaks. "Other than that, you try to put that in the back of your mind and go out there and play the same way. It's nice when you're consistent and on a little run, but every game you try to treat as a new slate, and produce scoring chances, produce chances for yourself, and play the right way, and hopefully those things take care of itself." 

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Blackhawks injury updates: Drake Caggiula placed in concussion protocol for second time in a year

Blackhawks injury updates: Drake Caggiula placed in concussion protocol for second time in a year

LAS VEGAS — The Blackhawks announced Wednesday morning that Drake Caggiula will not play against the Vegas Golden Knights because of what they initially believed was an illness. But after further evaluation, the medical staff has placed the 25-year-old winger in concussion protocol.

"Just want to clarify," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He wasn’t feeling well this morning, now the doctors have evaluated him, we’re going to put him in concussion protocol. Obviously that changes things a little bit."

It's the second time in the calendar year Caggiula has been sidelined because of a concussion. He missed 13 games last season, suffering the injury on Feb. 22 against the Anaheim Ducks.

It's unclear what may have happened this time around and when it occurred, but the Blackhawks are playing it safe, as they should.

"There are some symptoms," Colliton said, "so we want to be sure."

Caggiula has four points (one goal, three assists) in 15 games this season. He promoted to the first line during Tuesday's practice, so it's unfortunate timing for both Caggiula and the Blackhawks, who are 2-0-1 in their last three games.

Connor Murphy on track to return Saturday

One day after practicing for the first time since reaggravating a groin injury on Oct. 22, Murphy traveled with the Blackhawks to Vegas and is on track to return Saturday against the Nashville Predators, which is when he's eligible to come off long-term injured reserve.

"It looks good," Colliton said. "I think when he comes off, we’ll make an evaluation, we’ll see what our lineup looks like hopefully. But I don’t think there’s much point in making that call until game day."

With Murphy set to return soon, the Blackhawks must make a corresponding move to become cap compliant, even though they have one spot open on their 23-man roster. As of Wednesday, the Blackhawks have $2,979,958 in cap space, according to Cap Friendly. Murphy's remaining daily cap hit of $2,980,645 barely exceeds that.

Adam Boqvist is the obvious candidate to be reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, but not because of performance-based reasons. It just wouldn't make sense for the Blackhawks to carry eight defensemen and stunt his growth by rotating him in and out of the lineup.

Corey Crawford shakes off injury scare

There was a mini injury scare during Wednesday's morning skate in Vegas. Crawford tried making a save from right to left and hyperextended his left leg on the post. He stayed down for a few seconds then removed himself from the crease to collect himself but stayed on the ice for the remainder of the skate.

Crawford told NBC Sports Chicago afterwards that he's fine and will make his scheduled start against the Golden Knights. He is 1-0-2 with a .929 save percentage in three starts this month.

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Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula had a successful college hockey career. He compiled 127 points (62 goals, 65 assists) in 162 career games across four seasons at North Dakota, and served as an alternate captain during his senior year.

But before committing to college, Caggiula was being recruited by the Erie Otters of the OHL and there could've been a moment where he played with Connor McDavid and current teammates Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome all at the same time.

“I remember telling Sherry Bassin, the GM of Erie, how I was going to go to college," Caggiula said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "He kept reiterating that, 'at 16 years old, we’re not going to be that great. But at 17, we’re going to be a little bit better, but not great. But at 18 and 19, those are going to be your big years and we’re going to have a really good team and we’re going to surround you with good players.’ I mean, that’s two years in the future so it’s hard to really see that.

"Looking back at it now, the players that I could have played with, they had some pretty talented players go through Erie. Even Dylan Larkin was an Erie draft pick and ended up going to Michigan. It could have been a pretty talented team there so it’s kind of funny to see how it all works out. We’re all here today coming from different paths so it’s pretty cool.”

Any chirps from the guys about his decision now?

“Yeah, Connor [McDavid] used to make fun of me all the time, you know? ‘Oh, we would have won the Memorial Cup if you would have joined the team!’ and all that sort of stuff," Caggiula joked. "We talk about it a little bit just here and there saying, ‘what a team we could have had and imagine who we would have been playing with and now we’re all here together. What if we all would have started in Erie together and now we’re here together?’ It just would have been a pretty cool story. It’s obviously something that we can’t control but it’s definitely something that you can look back at and laugh at.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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