From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Lou Williams, the Atlanta Hawks' third-leading scorer, will miss the remainder of the season with a right knee injury.The Hawks announced before Saturday night's game against San Antonio that Williams tore the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee in Friday night's loss at Brooklyn. The tear was found when Williams was examined Saturday by Dr. Michael Bernot in Atlanta."It's certainly devastating to us to lose Lou," Hawks coach Larry Drew said.Williams, a guard in his first season with the Hawks, is averaging 14.1 points.The injury came in the second quarter when Williams stole the ball and was driving to the basket with around 7 minutes left. His leg appeared to give out as he tried to plant and go up for the shot. He limped out of bounds behind the basket and was eventually taken to the locker room area.The loss of Williams is a blow to an Atlanta team which has lost seven of nine following a strong start. Williams has joined starters Devin Harris and Jeff Teague to make the backcourt a strength for the team.Drew said the loss of Williams is especially difficult to overcome because the 6-foot-1 Williams played both guard positions.Drew said rookie shooting guard John Jenkins, averaging only 4.1 points per game, will see more playing time.Kyle Korver is starting at shooting guard against the Spurs. With the Hawks now limited to Harris and Teague at point guard, Drew said he preferred to have Harris come off the bench and play behind Teague. With a healthy Williams available, Drew didn't have to worry about playing Teague and Harris at the same time.The Hawks' backcourt also is limited by injuries to DeShawn Stevenson, who is not cleared to play on back-to-back days due to a sore right knee, and Anthony Morrow, who has missed 12 straight games with a right hip and lower back injury. Drew said Morrow is day to day.The loss of Williams is the biggest setback. The Atlanta native signed with the Hawks as a free agent after averaging a career-best 14.9 points with Philadelphia last season."It's all part of the business," Drew said. "You hate to see it happen."You hope for a fast and speedy recovery but you have to move on. I'm expecting the guys to respond to this, I really am. This is just another test for us as a team and me as a coach."Spurs coach Greg Popovich said Williams is "a hell of a force" and added, "I hate to hear he's out for the whole year."Hawks center Al Horford, who missed Friday night's game with a sore left calf and hamstring, is starting against the Spurs.
Ask anyone in Chicago who the standout of training camp 2.0 was and you'll hear one name: Kirby Dach.
“He has all the potential in the world,” Patrick Kane said. “He can be a top player in the league.”
“He’s got the potential to be a great player in this league and a great player for the Blackhawks for a long time," echoed Brent Seabrook.
Upon hearing this enormous praise from a pair of three-time Stanley Cup champions and joining the hype train myself, I couldn’t help but think: Are we putting unfair expectations on a kid who’s still only 19?
The answer: Nope. Because he can handle it.
Dach looks like a completely different player after finally having an “offseason” to recharge, both mentally and physically. And it’s showing in the postseason.
Through three games in the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, Dach has four points — all assists — and a team-best plus-4 rating; in total, he’s been on the ice for eight of the Blackhawks’ 13 goals so far. He became the first Blackhawks rookie to register at least one point in his first three postseason games since Eddie Olczyk in 1985.
All those numbers are great, but here’s the eye-opener: Dach is averaging 20:21 of ice time in the postseason, which trails only Patrick Kane (22:21) among team forwards. He led all Blackhawks forwards with 23:21 of ice time in Wednesday’s Game 3 comeback win over the Edmonton Oilers, which was, by far, a career high for Dach, who averaged 14:16 of ice time during the regular season.
The Blackhawks are giving him an enormous amount of responsibility, whether it's top-six minutes at even strength, power-play time on the first unit and penalty kill reps. And Dach is handling it about as well as you could ask for.
"He loves responsibility and he thrives on it," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We knew, based on how he looked in training camp, that he was ready to take a bigger role here. He's been great. He's been as advertised."
Dach isn't just making an impact on the scoresheet, either. He's doing the little things right, too.
Olli Maatta scored the first goal in Game 3 after his shot from the point got past Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen, but that puck doesn't go in without the 6-foot-4, 197-pound Dach wreaking havoc in front of the net. Those plays don't go unnoticed inside the locker room.
"It shows that the coach trusts in your abilities to get a job done," Dach said of the added responsibility. "And as a player, it's a welcoming challenge. You want to be put in those situations and succeed in them."
One of the main reasons why the Blackhawks selected Dach third overall in 2019 was because of the way he elevated his game in the Western Hockey League playoffs. He was the engine for the Saskatoon Blades and the focal point for opponents yet thrived off the attention.
“He does all the things that can wow you, but then he does the other stuff, too," GM Stan Bowman said the day the Blackhawks drafted Dach. "He was great at stripping pucks, he was great at backchecking, he was great at the physical play when the series got pretty intense in the playoffs and it was clear they were targeting him. He not only took it, he gave it back. It was impressive to see him raise his game at a time of year when it matters most, which is playoff hockey.
"You watch the NHL playoffs and you see how intense it can be and then you look at the way he plays, and you can see that that game translates."
It sure does.
Whether he can be a big-time point producer in the NHL remains to be seen, but it's clear Dach is the kind of player whose game is better suited for the playoffs than the regular season. And we're seeing why.
Jonathan Toews was dominant in Game 1's 6-4 win and he was back at it in Game 3. But, with the special teams woes the Oilers have been causing the Hawks in touting a power play that was No. 1 in the NHL at the time of the pause and a penalty kill that was No. 2, not to mention the top two points leaders in the league during the regular season (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid), Chicago needed some unlikely heroes to emerge in the series.
Enter Blackhawks defensemen Connor Murphy, Olli Maatta and Slater Koekkoek.
With Game 3 tied 3-3 and just 1:16 remaining early Thursday morning, Murphy fired a wrist shot to put the Hawks ahead. It even appeared as if he scored the goal himself at first, but Toews was credited with his second goal of the game on the play and Murphy with the primary assist. The D-man finished Game 3 with a +/- rating of +1 in 21:55 of ice time.
"Just a lucky bounce," a modest Murphy said of his play that helped the Blackhawks take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, having the Oilers facing elimination in Friday's Game 4. "Didn’t throw (a) hard one at the net. I saw Tazer had good position. He was all alone in front, should be able to get a tip on it. ... Just those last minutes of games, every faceoff’s so huge, obviously that one being a big one to get a shot off."
Koekkoek got the primary assist on Matthew Highmore's first career postseason goal which tied the game 3-3 at 14:13 of the third.
Maatta scored the first goal of the game 9:14 into the opening frame off a pass from Patrick Kane and picked up the secondary assist on Highmore's goal.
"He's got experience from playing in the playoffs, it's nice to have that, and he's done a great job defensively, killing penalties and he's calm back there," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said of Maatta, who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins before coming to the Hawks, after the game. "He's been able to chip in offensively, too, that's always a bonus. Our D as a whole are doing a great job of getting pucks through and getting it to the net, and we're going to need to continue to do that."
Maatta has a two-game goal streak in the series and he and his D-partner, Koekkoek, were the only blueliners in Game 2's 6-3 loss with a positive +/- rating (+2). Maatta had one goal in Game 2 and Koekkoek a goal and an assist.
"I think we do a great job whenever we get in the zone, our forwards do a great job holding onto the puck. That makes them collapse a little bit. They do a good job of giving us the puck with a little more time. It hasn't been only me and Kooks," Maatta said of the Hawks blueline's contributions to the series. "It's been Haaner (Calvin de Haan) and Murph and Duncs (Duncan Keith) and Boqi (Adam Boqvist). They're getting pucks through and it feels like every time we get it to the net our forwards are in good position, battling for them, getting rebounds, getting tips. It makes it tough for them."
According to Murphy, with the way the Blackhawks' forwards and D have been effectively collaborating in the offensive zone, it's best for Chicago's defensemen to just keep firing pucks on net when they can.
"It’s always part of your game plan," Murphy said. "Especially our forwards draw good attention when they’re entering the zone, knowing that we’ve got a lot of firepower in them, a lot of skill and strength. They do a good job of drawing wingers down to them. It leaves a couple of open shots. Kooks and Olli have been hot lately and have really smart shots they get through, go in. That’s always a good plan."