St. Louis Blues

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

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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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Justin Faulk traded to Blues, signs seven-year extension

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USA Today

Justin Faulk traded to Blues, signs seven-year extension

It was announced today defenseman Justin Faulk has been traded to the Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, who then signed the All-Star defenseman to a seven-year extension.

The deal is worth $45.5 million (annual average value of $6.5 million). Talk about a high-price tag!

The Blues traded defenseman Joel Edmundson and prospect Dominik Bokk to Faulk’s former team, the Carolina Hurricanes, as well as a seventh-round pick in 2021 NHL draft. Along with signing Faulk, the Blues also received a fifth-round pick in the 2020 draft.

The trade itself doesn’t come as much of a surprise as Faulk entered the final season of his six-year contract with the Hurricanes, with rumors circulating that Hurricanes were shopping around.

Faulk signed to Carolina after being selected during the second round in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Faulk was integral to the Hurricanes ascent to the Eastern Conference Final last year. He posted one goal and seven assists for the Hurricanes in 15 playoff games on top of ranking second amongst defenders in the club, with 35 points and a plus-9 rating.

"We are excited to add Justin to our core group for the next eight years," Blues GM Doug Armstrong said. "He's a Top-4 defenseman who averages over 23 minutes a game and we are confident he will be a strong addition to our club."

Even with the hefty paycheck, Blues fans seem to be pleased with the trade, taking to Twitter to praise Armstrong.

It’ll be interesting to see what Faulk’s addition to Blues lineup will mean for the Blackhawks when the two rivals come face to face this season in December.

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Central Casting: Can Blackhawks play the role of playoff team?

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USA TODAY

Central Casting: Can Blackhawks play the role of playoff team?

If the Blackhawks are going to end their postseason drought next season, they are going to have to jump over at least one of the five Central Division foes who qualified for this year’s postseason.

Of course, there is no guarantee the Central will get five teams in next year’s tournament, but let’s look at each club and identify teams that could take a step back next season.

Nashville

Ever since the Predators swept the Blackhawks and lost to Pittsburgh in the Stanley Cup Final, they have continued to regress each year in their attempts to hoist the Cup.

Last year, they lost to Winnipeg in Game 7 of the second round. This postseason, Dallas ousted Nashville in the first round.

The Predators appear to be at a Cup crossroads. They need to find more scoring than just the JOFA line. Do they need to move P.K. Subban to acquire scoring depth?

They also had the worst power play in the league and 36-year-old goalie Pekka Rinne had a sub-par .905 save percentage in the playoffs.

Expect a busy offseason in the Music City as the Predators look to stay in the upper tier of the Central.

Cup contender trending: Down

Winnipeg 

Did the Jets run into a team of destiny in the Blues? Or did the opening round loss highlight some areas of concern for Winnipeg?

The Jets season in many ways was the exact opposite of the Blues. Winnipeg started strong and was just average in the second half of the season.

The Jets have seven players that will become unrestricted free agents on July 1st, including Kevin Hayes. They also have six restricted free agents on their roster, which includes Patrik Laine and Jacob Trouba.

The Jets have had a rocky relationship with Trouba and are expected to trade the 25-year-old defenseman. Connor Hellebuyck’s production dropped off a bit from 2018 when he was a Vezina Trophy finalist.

The Jets have a great power play and three lines that can score. A couple of roster tweaks could help this young team take the next step.

Cup contender trending: Even

St. Louis

From last place in the entire league on Jan. 2 to being one of the final four teams standing in pursuit of Lord Stanley’s Cup.

Craig Berube pushed all the right buttons when he took over last November. The Blues commitment to defense was highlighted by finally finding what appears to be a franchise goalie in Jordan Binnington.

The Blues are strong down the middle with centers Brayden Schenn, Ryan O’Reilly and Tyler Bozak.

The Blues' key players are under contract next season. So, other than finding a new anthem to replace “Gloria” the Blues could be a major roadblock in the Blackhawks climb up the Central standings.

Cup contender trending: Up

Dallas

Another first-year coach in the Central, Jim Montgomery saw his team improve dramatically, as they fell just one goal short of reaching the Western Conference Final.

The Stars have a tremendous 1-2 punch in net with Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin.  

They have solid special teams with players like Tyler Seguin, Alex Radulov and John Klingberg putting up monster numbers.

They also saw young players like Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz make an impact on the scoresheet.

The Stars spent a second-round pick on Mats Zuccarello. Will the Stars have enough cap room to sign Zuccarello when he becomes a UFA this summer?

Cup contender trending: Even

Colorado

The Avalanche punched the final postseason ticket in the West and rode it all the way to Game 7 of the second round.

Luck was on the side of the Blackhawks during the draft lottery, but that wasn’t the case for Colorado. They had the best odds for the No. 1 overall pick and ended up with the fourth overall selection.

The Blackhawks won’t have to deal with Jack Hughes in an Avs sweater, but they will have to worry about blue line phenom Cale Makar for the foreseeable future.

The Avalanche had the most dangerous line in hockey for much of the season with Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

They are a young, fast team with a steady netminder in Philipp Grubauer. They will see Colin Wilson become a UFA on July 1.

Colorado may end up being the elite team in the Central for years to come.

Cup contender trending: Up

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