Third period unkind to Blackhawks

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
4:17
PM CT
Arritt By Dan Arritt
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
ANAHEIM -- The third period hasn’t been kind to the Chicago Blackhawks this month. It all began on New Year’s Day, when the Washington Capitals scored with 13 seconds left to steal a 3-2 victory in front of 42,000 fans at the Winter Classic outdoor game.

Chicago missed another opportunity to generate some much-needed points Wednesday night, this time against a Western Conference foe, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, giving up two goals in the final seven minutes and losing 4-3.

The Blackhawks have been outscored 11-6 overall in the 11 third periods they’ve played in January, getting blanked six times.

“It’s kind of frustrating on our part,” said Blackhawks left winger Patrick Sharp.

Sharp said third-period offense will be one of Chicago's primary objectives heading into tonight’s game against the West-leading Anaheim Ducks, particularly if it’s a close game.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he doesn’t believe a pattern has developed as far as third-period breakdowns, and the Blackhawks remain a traditionally a strong team at closing out wins or finding a way to push the game into overtime, but attitude remains the primary factor.

“As a team, we want to be in that position when we’re playing the last 5 or 10 minutes of a tight game,” he said.

The Blackhawks are keenly aware the Ducks played a bad game Thursday night at the San Jose Sharks, giving up five goals in the second period and ultimately losing 6-3 to snap a six-game winning streak. Any fatigue that could be present from playing the second of back-to-back games will likely be overcome by the desire to play a better game, as well the arrival of the Blackhawks, who sit eight points behind in the West standings.

“They’re a tough team to play against, especially in this building,” Sharp said. “I know it’s back-to-back for them, but I’m sure they’re going to play their best game tonight, considering what happened last night, and we’re excited about that also.”

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Blackhawks mailbag: Part I

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
2:04
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
This is the first of our weekly Chicago Blackhawks' mailbags. I got rolling with my answers and discovered my word count had risen pretty quickly after just a handful of questions. I'll answer a set second of questions this weekend.

Q: What is likely to give in order to re-sign Brandon Saad to a contract that he deserves? -- Kyle Trusgnich

Scott Powers: Kyle, there’s no doubt something will have to give to re-sign Saad. The Blackhawks will certainly push for a bridge contract to fill up his wallet at a decent rate for the next few years while he’s still a restricted free agent and then reward him with a larger, long-term deal to really get him paid. Saad still can be expected to get something in the $3 million-plus range when he goes to negotiate his contract after the season.

Considering the Blackhawks already have 15 players signed and about $65 million committed to their 2015-16 roster and the estimate for the NHL cap is $71 million next season, the math isn’t that difficult. In order to fill a roster and re-sign Saad and possibly Marcus Kruger, the Blackhawks need to create some cap space and also rely more on their prospects.

So to your question, who could be a possible cap casualty? The obvious one to me would be Bryan Bickell. Brian Hedger have talked about this at length on our podcasts. While Bickell did shine in the 2013 playoffs and the Blackhawks probably don’t win the Stanley Cup without him, he hasn’t been worth the four-year, $16 million contract he was rewarded with after that last season. He has 20 goals and 36 points in 107 regular-season games since being paid. He does take his game to another level in the playoffs, but that may not be enough for the Blackhawks to keep him around.

I’ve heard Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford as other names thrown around, but I just don’t think it makes sense. Whether people like it or not, Crawford is here to stay until his contract runs up in the 2019-20 season. He’s making the going rate for a Stanley Cup-caliber goaltender and has played well this season. Seabrook has been more consistent this season, and the Blackhawks need as many experienced defensemen as they can get going forward, especially with Michal Rozsival and Johnny Oduya likely gone after this season. As for Sharp, he’s still playing at a high level. I could see him and Seabrook retiring as Blackhawks.

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Family: Stan Mikita has dementia

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
11:41
AM CT
[+] EnlargeStan Mikita
Icon SportswireStan Mikita, pictured above in his playing days in the 1970s, has been diagnosed with dementia, according to his family.

Chicago Blackhawks legend Stan Mikita has been diagnosed with a form of dementia, his family has announced.

"Stan has been diagnosed with suspected Lewy Body dementia, a progressive disease and is currently under the care of compassionate and understanding care givers," his family said in a statement.

"The family of Stan Mikita truly appreciates the support he has received over the many years he has played, worked and lived in the Chicago area. They hope the fans will keep him in their thoughts and prayers and respect his privacy during this difficult time."

Mikita's daughter, Jane, confirmed the family's statement.

The Blackhawks also released a statement on Friday.

"We are aware of the unfortunate health news regarding Blackhawks Ambassador and Hockey Hall of Famer Stan Mikita. We are thinking of Stan and his family at this difficult time, and wish him well. Stan's family has asked for privacy, and we hope all will respect their wishes."

Mikita, a Hall of Fame forward, played his entire 22-year career with the Blackhawks and is their all-time points and assists leader. He was part of their 1961 Stanley Cup championship team. The Blackhawks retired his No. 21 in 1980 and unveiled statues of him and Bobby Hull outside the United Center in 2011. He has been a Blackhawks ambassador since 2008.


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video

Check out the worst plays from this past week, including Alex Ovechkin's three-whiff hockey swing during the NHL All-Star competition.

Blackhawks trade Clendening to Canucks for Forsling

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
10:40
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
The Chicago Blackhawks acquired defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Adam Clendening on Thursday.

Forsling, 18, has five points in 35 regular-season games with Linkoping of the Swedish Hockey League this season. He was selected by Canucks in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2014 draft.

"We are excited to add Gustav to a strong group of young talent in our organization," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman in a statement. "He was one of the best players at the World Junior Championships a few weeks ago and this season has emerged as a regular contributor in the top professional league in Sweden. He's an offensive defenseman that plays very well on the power play and has a big shot."

Clendening, 22, was drafted in the second round (36th overall) by the Blackhawks in 2011. He has two points in four career NHL games. He has 118 points in 185 AHL regular-season games for the Rockford IceHogs.

AHL moving 5 teams to California

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
7:08
PM CT

For more than eight years, the San Jose Sharks have been shuttling young players to and from Worcester, Massachusetts, for depth on their NHL roster or development at the AHL level.

Soon, the Sharks will be able to shed the cross-country flights from their budget and make those moves within their own building.

The NHL's feeder league will undergo a sizable westward shift, designed to bring five farm teams closer to their parent clubs in a long-anticipated announcement finalized Thursday by the American Hockey League. The 30-team AHL will create a Pacific Division next season, the product of nearly three years of discussions with the NHL.

"This will make the franchise even more competitive on the ice," Sharks chief operating officer John Tortora said at a news conference at the SAP Center, which also will be home starting this summer for their yet-to-be-named AHL affiliate. The team won't be called the Sharks, for obvious reasons, as it was in Worcester.

The Toronto Maple Leafs already have a same-city AHL affiliate, the Marlies, but they play in a different arena.

All of the new sites will be in California, home to three of the NHL's 30 teams. Here are the other farm club shifts:

• Anaheim Ducks: Norfolk, Virginia, to San Diego.

• Calgary Flames: Glens Falls, New York, to Stockton.

• Edmonton Oilers: Oklahoma City to Bakersfield.

Los Angeles Kings: Manchester, New Hampshire, to Ontario.


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video

Two teams with visions of the Stanley Cup collide in Anaheim on Friday night when the Ducks host the Blackhawks.
video

Cary Chow and Katie Strang pick out the players who need to perform the best for their teams down the stretch, what the Red Wings' winning streak means for coach Mike Babcock, and recap the legacy of Martin Brodeur.

Hawks thoughts: Defense, Oduya continue to struggle

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
1:31
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Johnny OduyaBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesJohnny Oduya has the worst plus-minus among Blackhawks defenseman.


Here are some thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks following their 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday:

1. Two consecutive wins heading into the All-Star break were certainly a positive for the Blackhawks, but it didn’t mean they were completely back on track. Something is still off defensively with this team. Wednesday’s game marked the eighth time in the last 14 games where they allowed three or more goals. That happened just 11 times in the first 34 games. They have a goal differential of minus-3 in the last 14 games compared to their plus-42 in the first 34 games. Some of the blame could be placed on goaltender Corey Crawford during the early stages of this slump, but he’s been pretty good lately. This has more to do with the defense of the forwards and defensemen. The penalty kill also hasn’t been perfect lately and has given up 11 goals in the last 14 games. It was unrealistic for the penalty kill to continue at the rate it had been going.

2. Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya struggled again on Wednesday. He was on the ice for two even-strength goals. He has the worst plus/minus rating among the team’s defensemen at minus-6. He’s a minus-9 over their 14-game slide. He’s been on the ice for six goals for and 15 goals against in 5-on-5 play in the last 14 games.

3. The line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was proven to be human again. The line had one of its worst games of the season against the Kings, who matched the Blackhawks' top line up with Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. Hossa had his worst possession of the game and was at a minus-12 Corsi. Toews was at minus-8 and Saad was at minus-7. The line was also scored on twice.

4. Could playing David Rundblad more help the Blackhawks? Before you jump to an answer, read on. While the Blackhawks have had issues allowing goals, Rundblad hasn’t been factoring into that. He’s actually been helping them. The Blackhawks have been outscored 29-31 in 5-on-5 play over the last 14 games. Rundblad has a plus-7 goal differential during that span. He’s been on the ice for 10 goals-for and three goals-against. He has two goals and four assists in that span. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has shown more trust in Rundblad than he once did, but the complete trust still isn’t there. Rundblad is still playing the least amount of ice time among the defensemen. He played 10:50 against the Kings on Wednesday and is averaging 11:55 for the season.

5. The Blackhawks don’t count on the fourth line for production, but the occasional goal would certainly be welcomed by the team. Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, the most consistent fourth-line players, haven’t contributed much offensive as of late. Kruger doesn’t have a point in the last 15 games. He’s been on the ice for one goal for and six goals against and has a minus-33 Corsi in the last 14 games. Smith has one point in the last 15 games. He has been on the ice for two goals for and four goals against in the last 14 games. Neither have put up large numbers in the past, but their production is down from a season ago. Kruger has 12 points in 48 games this season and had 28 points in 81 games last season. Smith has nine points in 48 games this season and had 26 points in 75 games last season.

6. Teuvo Teravainen continued to make a difference on Wednesday. He had the primary assist on Andrew Shaw's goal and has two goals, two assists and is a plus-2 in the last four games. He played a team-low 8:58 against the Kings.

Level of frustration heightened after Blackhawks blow late lead

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
1:40
AM CT
Arritt By Dan Arritt
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
video

LOS ANGELES -- The third period was moving along flawlessly for the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. They scored the go-ahead goal in the opening minutes of the third, then battened down the hatches in front of goalie Corey Crawford.

But in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the lead was gone and soon any chance at earning a point or two followed.

The Los Angeles Kings scored two goals in the contest’s final seven minutes to send the Blackhawks away with a 4-3 loss at Staples Center, something that’s become all too familiar against the Kings during the past year.

[+] EnlargeKings/Blackhawks
Jayne Kamin/Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks had their chances on four power-play opportunities but came away with only one score.

Afterward, Crawford's broken stick lay next to his stall, and even a postgame locker room visit by actor Vince Vaughn barely brought a smile to his tender's face.

"It’s frustrating." Crawford said. "We played a good game, and [the Kings scored] two quick ones at the end. I guess everyone can pretty much tell how we feel about that one."

Crawford was clearly unhappy with some of the calls that were made -- or not made -- during the game but passed on making any comments regarding the officiating.

Patrick Kane wasn't so reserved, pointing to a slash in the final minutes that resulted in a broken stick but wasn't called. He also referred to a penalty earlier in the game on Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook for using his hand to pull the puck out from under his backside as he sat in the middle of the slot, something he claimed the Kings had done just prior to the penalty.

"There were a couple calls that could have been made," Kane said. "[The referees] were maybe playing catch-up after we had three power plays [in the first period] and evened the score a little bit."

If the Blackhawks wanted to pick out a part of their game that let them down, it was the lone goal they scored on four power-play chances. Kane scored with the man advantage just past the midway point of the opening period, but Chicago came up empty on the next three.

"I think we might have sat back a little bit and waited for them to come to us," Kane said. "Usually when we do that, bad things happen."

Jonathan Toews said it all came down to the final minutes.

"We played 55 solid minutes of hockey," he said. "I think our line is obviously looking at ourselves after that one. All three of us could have been a little more intelligent in our zone, getting the puck out and not giving them those chances to score late in the game."

It won't get any easier this week for the Blackhawks, who will get a day to regroup before playing the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks on Friday night in the second of six straight road games coming out of the All-Star break.

Rapid Reaction: Kings 4, Blackhawks 3

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
12:37
AM CT
Arritt By Dan Arritt
Special to ESPNChicago.com
Archive
video

LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks gave up two goals in the final seven minutes and lost to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on Wednesday night at Staples Center in the first game coming out of the All-Star break.

How it happened: The Kings won a faceoff in the Chicago zone and the puck made it to defenseman Jake Muzzin, who rang his slap shot off the left post and behind goalie Corey Crawford with 3:37 left in the game. Tyler Toffoli had scored about 2 1/2 minutes earlier for the Kings to tie the score.

What it means: The Blackhawks have exited a break with a loss for the third straight time. They lost seven straight to come out of the All-Star break three years ago and were beaten by the New York Rangers coming out of the Olympic break last season.

Player of the game: Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist each for Chicago, and Jeff Carter had two goals for the Kings. Andrew Shaw made the play of the night for the Blackhawks, taking a Teuvo Teravainen pass, finding an opening on the short side of the goal and beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to his glove side with a quick flip of the wrist to give Chicago a 3-2 lead early in the third period.

Stat of the game: David Rundblad assisted on the first goal of the game and now has scored a point in all three games since moving back to his natural right wing position.

What’s next: The Blackhawks head south to Orange County, where they’ll face the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, the second of six straight road games coming out of the All-Star break.
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LOS ANGELES -- Jake Muzzin scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:37 to play, Jeff Carter had two goals and an assist, and the Los Angeles Kings roared back in the final minutes to snap their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

Tyler Toffoli tied it with 6:11 left for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who made a dynamic rally in their first game back after stumbling into the break in ninth place in the Western Conference after losing seven of eight.

Andrew Shaw scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period for the Blackhawks, who had won four straight regular-season games over Los Angeles.

Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, thwarting a huge Blackhawks surge in front of Los Angeles' net in the final minute.


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Paliotta's development has Hawks excited for future

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
3:46
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon is careful in how he explains that senior defenseman Mike Paliotta became the most improved player he’s ever coached.

Sneddon is aware being given the title of most improved player isn’t always flattering.

[+] EnlargeMike Paliotta
Courtesy Vermont Athletic CommunicationsDefenseman Mike Paliotta has impressed the Blackhawks organization with his improvement on offense in his years at Vermont.
To start off with, Paliotta was a big-time recruit for Sneddon and the Catamounts. Before Paliotta arrived to campus in 2011, he had already been a third-round draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks and was a product of the U.S. national development program. His reputation was as an elite physical shutdown defenseman.

Sneddon envisioned Paliotta being more than that. Over the last four years, Sneddon, his coaching staff, the Blackhawks and especially Paliotta have put in a lot of time and effort to expand Paliotta’s game. He’s developed into an all-around defenseman who is still able to deny opponents’ chances, but is also now able to create his own offensive opportunities and is among the nation’s defenseman points leaders.

“Mike was obviously one of the more talented players coming out of the U.S., playing with the national program, but I think his game was maybe undefined, for a lack of a better word,” Sneddon said by phone on Wednesday. “He was maybe a cross between a tough defenseman and maybe not as skilled as he needed to be. I have no problem saying he is the most improved player I’ve coached. Sometimes you look at that negatively. I look at it as he was a very solid talent coming in. Where he was as a freshman, he was a little rough. Where he was, he didn’t have the confidence he needed. It’s night and day and he’s upward trending.

“I think a lot of times people expect a 6-foot-4, 200-pound defenseman to only be an excellent physical player. I think that was what Mike was concentrating on. I think what we’ve tried to do is as a staff and work with the Blackhawks is for him to be a tough competitor and enhance his skills to play at the next level.”

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Prospect watch: McNeill, Brennan shine in AHL All-Star Game

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
2:13
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
Here’s a look at how some of the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospects are doing throughout the world:

Mark McNeill, forward, Rockford IceHogs (NCAA), drafted 1st round in 2011
McNeill, 21, scored three goals in the AHL All-Star Game on Monday. He has 12 goals, 11 assists and is a plus-9 in 31 games this season.

T.J. Brennan, defenseman, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), acquired from Islanders in 2014
Brennan, 25, had a goal and three assists in the AHL All-Star Game. He has eight goals, 24 assists and is a plus-16 in 44 games this season.

Michael Leighton, goaltender, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), signed as a free agent in 2014
Leighton, 33, has made 189 saves on 194 shots for a .974 save percentage in six games in January. He has recorded two shutouts in the month and has four for the season. He is 11-7-4 with a 2.02 goals-average and .931 save percentage this season.

Mac Carruth, goaltender, Indy Fuel (ECHL), drafted 7th round in 2010
Carruth, 22, has won his last five starts for the Fuel and stopped 140-of-145 shots for a .966 save percentage during that span. He’s 6-9-2-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in 20 games in the ECHL this season.

Fredrik Olofsson, forward, Chicago Steel (USHL), drafted 4th round in 2014
Olofsson, 18, had two goals and an assist in the Steel’s 4-3 win over Dubuque on Saturday. He has 17 goals and 15 assists in 32 games this season.

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SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
53 23 30 9
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 23
AssistsP. Kane 30
+/-D. Rundblad 15
GAAC. Crawford 2.32