Chicago Blackhawks: Chicago Blackhawks

Hawks pull together complete effort in win

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks set the bar for themselves on Tuesday.

After four games in which they weren’t completely satisfied with their play, the Blackhawks finally put together a complete effort Tuesday in a 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was pleased with everything, from the power play to the penalty kill to the goaltending to the defense to the quantity and quality of the shots by all four of his lines.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks' power-play unit improved all around, highlighted by Patrick Kane's two scores with the man advantage.
“I thought it was our best game,” said Quenneville, whose team took 35-plus shots on goal for the fourth time this season. “I thought we were better in all aspects of our game, more consistent throughout the game. Second period, a little bit of tough stretches, but we did a lot of good things. Nice to see the power play be productive as well. I think [if] you look at all areas, tonight we were pretty pleased.”

The Blackhawks' power play had been a train wreck on Saturday. They struggled in every facet while going 0-for-5 against the Nashville Predators.

Quenneville stuck with the same power-play units Tuesday, but he said he would have blown those up -- as he often does with his lines -- if he didn’t see results early against the Flyers. The Blackhawks’ first power play set a positive tone for the evening, as Patrick Kane scored 15 seconds into it. A puck ricocheted off the end boards to him, and he knocked it into the net. Kane came through with a second power-play goal in the third period, when he hit in a loose puck at the net.

Aside from Kane’s goals, the Blackhawks’ power-play units were better all the way across the board. They won faceoffs, had clean entries, moved the puck, shot and got to the net for second opportunities.

“It’s kind of the way it looks, like we’re going to score on the power play if we’re getting to the net, crashing, maybe getting some shots through from the point,” Kane said. “Anytime you’re taking shots and converge on the net and have that extra guy out there, some plays are going to open up. Keep trying to improve on that, but I think it was a good bounce-back game for us in that regard.”

The power-play goals evidenced another emphasis the Blackhawks had placed coming into the game. Quenneville wanted more of his players to go to the net and create second-chance opportunities. The Blackhawks had the quantity in their past few games but weren’t getting the quality.

The Blackhawks’ third line was especially effective at getting to the net against the Flyers. Quenneville moved Brandon Saad from the second line to the third prior to the game, and Saad’s presence clicked with Bryan Bickell and Brad Richards. Saad put in a loose puck at the net for one goal and set up Bickell in the left circle for another.

“I know we have a lot of talented players who can make great plays,” Bickell said. “We need to get grounded and put pucks at the net and get greasy goals like Kaner’s and Saader’s to really get us confident. If we do that, it’s really going to open ice for us and make opportunities.”

The Blackhawks pleased Quenneville with their overall play.

“I thought we had some guys play the way we were hoping,” Quenneville said. “Bick, Richards and Saad line tonight was very good for us. You get rolling, and all the lines, you get some familiarity, some predictability, [and] hopefully we get that pace.”

Raanta's season debut a sharp shutout

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
Powers By Scott Powers

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta was fine with waiting nearly two weeks for his first start of the season.

It was the wait to make his first save on Tuesday that tried his patience.

Raanta learned Tuesday morning he would replace Corey Crawford, who is injured, and make his season debut against the Philadelphia Flyers. Raanta was excited for the opportunity and was eager to face his first shot Tuesday evening.

[+] EnlargeRaanta
Bill Smith/Getty ImagesAntti Raanta found out Tuesday morning he would get his first start of the season, then had to wait for more than seven minutes to see his first shot.
The problem is, the Blackhawks’ defense wasn’t allowing the Flyers any early opportunities. Raanta had to wait for 7 minutes, 30 seconds before a puck finally hit him.

“I was feeling all the time pretty good,” Raanta said. “Of course, the first shot was waiting a little bit longer than I was hoping.”

Raanta made that first save and then went on to make 31 more on his way to a 32-save shutout performance in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 win. It was his second career shutout.

“After that first one, I was just in the game all the time,” Raanta said.

Raanta wasn’t challenged much early, but the Flyers made up for that as the game wore on. Raanta made 10 saves in the second period and 13 more saves in the third period.

Raanta’s saves weren’t simple, either. He had to react and quickly move across the net twice to make saves during a minute's span in the second period. He used his chest to knock down a close shot by Jakub Voracek on a power play late in the game.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was impressed.

“Real solid, square, confident,” Quenneville said of Raanta. “They had some high quality stuff, particularly in that second period. He moved quick. He was definitely in control tonight. Nice to see him get a win and get a big game for himself as well.”

Raanta couldn’t take all the credit. He was especially grateful defenseman Brent Seabrook cleared a puck from sliding into the net in the third period.

“I was hoping more we could win,” Raanta said. “The shutout is always special. Big thanks to the guys who were helping me. Seabsy got one save also from the goal line. There was lots of blocking shots. Sometimes I was somewhere else than blocking the net and the guys were just diving and saving the puck.

“Of course, it’s a great feeling and good way to start my season. Of course, it’s good. Just have to keep on working hard. Tomorrow again, forget about this game and go forward.”

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 4, Flyers 0

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
Powers By Scott Powers

CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks’ 4-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers at the United Center on Tuesday.

How it happened: The Blackhawks finally got their goal tally to reflect their shot quantity. After struggling to score goals in the last two games despite heavily outshooting their opponents, the Blackhawks found the inside of net with ease on Tuesday. Brandon Saad opened their scoring account when he knocked in a loose puck at the net at 11:54. Patrick Kane added a power-play goal 32 seconds later. For a third first-period goal, Saad connected with Bryan Bickell for a goal. Kane scored another power-play goal in the third period. Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta filled in for injured Corey Crawford and recorded his second career shutout. He made 32 saves. Flyers goaltender Steve Mason made 39 saves on 43 shots.

What it means: The Blackhawks extended their points streak to five games to begin the season. They improved to 4-0-1 with the win. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville shook up his lines in hopes of creating more offense. They had scored three goals in the last two games. Quenneville’s new third line of Bickell, Brad Richards and Saad accounted for two of the four goals. The Blackhawks also came into the game focused to improve their power play. They were 0-for-5 on it in their last game. They scored two goals and had eight shots on goal on four power plays against the Flyers. The Flyers fell to 1-3-2 on the season.

Player of the game: Saad was moved from the second line to the third line and gave it an immediate spark. He scored a goal and set up Bickell on the other. Saad has five points in five games.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks outshot the Flyers 19-9 on goal in the first period. The Blackhawks have outshot their opponents 49-14 in the first period in the last three games.

What’s next: The Blackhawks hit the road for two games after four home games. They play at the Nashville Predators on Thursday and at the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.

W2W4: Flyers at Blackhawks

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Philadelphia Flyers and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Tuesday:

• The Blackhawks will be without No. 1 goaltender Corey Crawford due to an upper-body injury. Antti Raanta will make his season debut. Raanta learned he would start on Tuesday morning. He was 13-5-4 with a 2.71 goals-against average and .897 save percentage as a rookie during the 2013-14 season.

• Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will also make his season debut Tuesday after missing four games with a lower-body injury.

• The Blackhawks are riding a four-game points streak with a 3-0-1 record to start the season. They have been pleased with their record and their shot quantity -- they’re averaging a league-best 40 shots on goal per game -- but haven’t been happy with their goal quantity. They have scored 11 goals, with six of those coming in one game. Their 11 goals have been divided between six at even strength, three on the power play and two shorthanded.

• The Flyers arrive in Chicago with a 1-2-2 record and are coming off a 6-5 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Saturday. Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds each have seven points for the Flyers. Simmonds is tied for second in the league with five goals. Goaltender Steve Mason will start in net. He is 0-2-1 with a 3.78 goals-against average and .865 save percentage this season.

• Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has switched up his lines in hope of getting more offense. His first three lines will be Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa, Versteeg – Andrew ShawPatrick Kane and Bryan BickellBrad RichardsBrandon Saad. The fourth line will include Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, but Quenneville wouldn’t say whether Daniel Carcillo or Jeremy Morin would also be on that line. The Blackhawks’ defenseman pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van RiemsdykMichal Rozsival.

• The Blackhawks’ focus will be on improving their power play. They were 0-for-5 on the advantage Saturday and are 3-for-21 for the season.

“You could talk about every area the other night and say it has to be better,” Quenneville said. “Faceoffs, retrievals, shot selection, lack of shots, entries, every area. We have to be better across the board. We can’t be happy with the last game.”

Quenneville hopes changes spark offense

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
Powers By Scott Powers
Joel QuennevilleJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJoel Quenneville will make some changes to his line for Tuesday's game against the Flyers.

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had time to think about his lines during the team’s day off on Sunday.

On Monday morning, he returned to the rink with changes in mind.

Quenneville mixed up his second, third and fourth lines during practice on Monday. His lines had been Brandon Saad-Andrew Shaw-Patrick Kane, Bryan Bickell-Brad Richards-Ben Smith, Daniel Carcillo-Marcus Kruger-Jeremy Morin. On Monday, the lines were Kris Versteeg-Shaw-Kane, Bickell-Richards-Saad, Carcillo-Kruger-Smith.

The changes weren’t a surprise. The Blackhawks have built a 3-0-1 record, but they haven’t been lighting up the scoreboard. They have scored 11 goals in the four games, with six coming at even strength, three on the power play and two shorthanded. Of the even-strength goals, only three have been scored by forwards. Carcillo, Kane and Shaw have accounted for those goals.

“It's something we've talked about -- we’re happy with getting wins, but at the same time we want to keep building and keep getting better every game,” Saad said. “That's something we haven't seen too much of and we need to pick it up.”

Saad said he didn’t take being moved off the second line personally. He expected Quenneville would tell him if he needed to improve on anything.

Quenneville did say Monday he wasn’t getting what he wanted from the line of Saad-Shaw-Kane. Quenneville reunited that trio just before the regular season began. Saad and Shaw have the team’s lowest Corsi percentages in 5-on-5 situations among the players who have appeared in all four games. Shaw is at 52.04 percent and Saad at 53.12 percent. Kane is 10th on the team at 60.17 percent.

“I haven’t seen possession,” Quenneville said of that line. “They’ve had more shifts in their own end the last couple of games. I didn’t mind them first couple of games. The last two hasn’t been as effective as we’ve seen.”

Quenneville thought getting to the net more would help all of his lines.

"As a team I still think we got to get more guys going to the net without the puck," Quenneville said. "With the puck down low, we should be looking to take ourselves in that area. I just think we need to score some more greaser goals than we have earlier this year. I think we’re looking for more presence in that area whether [Saad's] the guy, Bickell’s the guy. I can go down the lineup. Still got to go no matter who, what kind of player you are if you want to score goals. That’s where you got to get to."

Quenneville is hoping Versteeg, who has missed four games with a lower-body injury, will spark the second line, and Saad will help improve the third line.

“They were better the last game,” Quenneville said of the third line. “I would expect Saader’s line, him wherever he plays, to give that line a boost and make a contribution be it offensively or with the puck, be more of a threat.”

The other major change was removing Morin from the lineup. He has been effective when on the ice. He has a 64.91 Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations and has averaged 18.53 shots per 60 minutes, but he hasn’t been given much ice time. He’s averaged 6:37 of ice time through four games.

Quenneville recognized that Morin hadn’t received much of an opportunity to showcase his game.

“Mo has been fine,” Quenneville said. “I think every game there’s been a lot of special teams. All of a sudden, he misses out on that rotation of that line. [Kruger and Smith], when they get together with Carcillo, that line’s played pretty well. So, he’s been fine, but he certainly hasn’t got a ton of ice time to get a fair assessment.”

Morin tried to keep a positive attitude after practice.

“I don’t really know the lineup right now,” Morin said. “I’m just coming to practice and hopefully I’m in the lineup. If I’m not, I’ll work my way to get back in.

“It’s always hard to get out there and play well and I definitely think I can be playing better. It’s my goal. I have to earn my ice time and keep working at it.”

Versteeg could play against Flyers

October, 20, 2014
Oct 20
Powers By Scott Powers
Kris VersteegAP Photo/Matt SlocumKris Versteeg could be in the Blackhawks lineup for the first time this season on Tuesday.

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg could make his season debut against the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday after missing the last four games with a lower-body injury, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Monday.

Versteeg suffered the undisclosed injury during practice on Oct. 7 and was originally expected to miss three weeks. He returned to the ice last week and began practicing with the team again on Saturday.

“We’re going to check for sure in the morning that he’s ready to go, but he could play tomorrow night,” Quenneville said after practice on Monday. “We’ll know more after the morning skate.”

(Read full post)

Blackhawks' Shaw making a living at the net

October, 19, 2014
Oct 19
Powers By Scott Powers
Andrew ShawDennis WierzbickiAndrew Shaw's specialty is creating trouble in front of the net.

CHICAGO -- Andrew Shaw moved to the front of the net before a recent Chicago Blackhawks practice and prepared himself for a few minutes of chaos as various teammates shot puck after puck from near the blue line.

Some pucks he deflected with his stick. Some he absorbed with his body. Some he missed on purpose. The shooters will change, but Shaw puts himself in that same position every practice. It’s what he considers his bread and butter.

Shaw came to the realization during his teenage years he didn’t possess the natural ability to rise above most elite players. He needed something to differentiate himself, and that became his net-front presence.

“I think it started back in juniors,” said Shaw, whose two goals this season came at the front of the net. “I needed something in my game that other people didn’t have. Every team I went to I felt the net-front presence was where I would earn my buck and get my opportunities. I kind just to work on it every day I’m on the ice. I seem to get better and better at it.”

“I’ve made a career out of it. If I wasn’t good in front of the net, I don’t know where I’d be. It’s probably the biggest part of my game.”

Shaw can first remember cultivating that skill when he was a kid growing up in Belleville, Ontario.

“It started when I was young,” Shaw said. “Me and my brothers used to play road hockey, just always shot pucks. Instead of me just shooting, I’d just be in front trying to tip them in.”

Tipping pucks, which he says the key to is knocking them downward, is part of providing that net-front presence. Another is screening goaltenders. Shaw may not be the tallest player at 5-foot-11 or cover the most room weighing just 179 pounds, but he’ll still able impair a goaltender’s vision.

Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford can attest to that. Crawford has to deal with Shaw every practice.

“For a small guy, he really screens the goalie pretty good,” Crawford said. “In practice, he's tough to look around. He's in the shooting lane whenever the puck is being passed around. He moves around pretty good in front of the net. He's great at tipping pucks. Like I said, for a small guy, yeah, he does a great job.”

For a small guy, Shaw also had to learn how to make himself an unmovable object to opposing defenseman, who often greatly outweigh him. Shaw does take his share of physical abuse for doing this. Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers, who is 6-foot-8 and 219 pounds, demonstrated that by sending Shaw flying to the ice with a strong shove in the back in a recent game.

“I think it was a little bit more than a shove, but that’s just a part of being in front of the net,” Shaw said. “You just kind of give it to one another and create as much havoc as you can.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville believes Shaw is becoming one of the NHL’s best in front of the net and even compared him to Tomas Holmstrom in that ability.

“There’s a mentality,” Quenneville said. “There’s an art, some skill to it, a lot of it is will, knowing the level of punishment that can be provided. He knows how to take it, absorb it, roll with it, give it back without crossing the line. But he positions himself well.

“Look at Holmstrom in Detroit in the past doing that job perfectly. Hopefully Shawzy can keep getting better at it because he’s doing a lot of good things. He sustains pucks, not just around the net, but in the corners and puck areas. Really progressing in a nice way.”

Hawks pull out another 'frustrating' win

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
Powers By Scott Powers
Jonathan Toews, Carter HuttonCal Sport Media/AP Images"We just can't seem to quite get that flow we're looking for," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said.

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks might be the most unsatisfied 3-0-1 team out there.

The Blackhawks have gotten the final result they desired in three of their first four games and have picked up points in every contest, but the path to their unbeaten regulation record has included some Chicago-type potholes.

Aside from a definitive 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres, the Blackhawks have had to battle to secure points in their other three games. They were outplayed by the Dallas Stars in the season opener but stole a 3-2 shootout victory. They dominated possession against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday but ended up on the losing side of a 2-1 overtime result.

Saturday brought more of the same. Chicago outshot the Nashville Predators 37-20 but couldn’t capitalize on its chances. The Blackhawks scored on their first shot of the game and on their final shot, which came when Jonathan Toews created a turnover and scored a breakaway, short-handed goal in overtime. In between, there was plenty of frustration.

Toews said he felt fortunate to pull out the win and admitted his team hasn’t exactly been clicking but added their schedule has likely factored into that. The Blackhawks have had just four games in a 10-day span to open the season.

“It was just another kind of frustrating game, where we have energy -- we just can’t seem to quite get that flow we’re looking for, where all four lines are feeding off each other, where we got one good shift and we follow it up with another one,” Toews said. “We’re obviously not going to make excuses, but I think when we start playing more games, we’ll definitely get the feel for what we need to do better. Like I said, it’s good to come out of this stretch of not having a whole lot of games, not having a whole lot going on, with a win tonight, even though it was an ugly one.”

A big reason for that ugly feeling was the power play, in which the Blackhawks struggled in all phases. Their entries were a disaster, whether they tried to carry, chip or pass the puck into the offensive zone. When they did get into the zone cleanly, they were seldom able to get set up and connect on passes. They had seven shots on goal on five power plays, and most of those came from clean entries by Brandon Saad and Marian Hossa.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had hoped for a better power play Saturday after his squad went 1-for-7 against Calgary.

“Tough night there, power play,” Quenneville said. “We lost every faceoff, particularly our key faceoffs tonight. We were ineffective, and then we didn’t [get] them settled down.”

Goaltender Corey Crawford helped keep Nashville at bay with the Blackhawks out of sync -- particularly in the third period, when the Predators took 11 of their 20 shots on goal. He’s off to a strong start, with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage.

“I didn’t like our third,” Quenneville said. “Crow was excellent and kept us in it and preserved the point.”

At the end of the day, the points are what matter. The Blackhawks have accumulated seven in four games and found ways to take four points against division opponents with victories in overtime and a shootout.

“We know we’re not going to get an easy test, especially within our own division,” Toews said. “We have been to overtime a couple times already in four games. It’s nice for us to come out on top two out of the three. It is what it is.

"Sometimes when we’re locked in a tight game like that, and it’s sloppy and it’s ugly, we just got to find ways to win. It’s not always going to be perfect. It’s not always going to be exactly the way we want to play, but we just got to grind it out and stay positive through 60.”

Rapid Reaction: Hawks 2, Predators 1 (OT)

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-1 overtime victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday at the United Center:

How it happened: Jonathan Toews scored the winning goal when he stole the puck and converted on a short-handed attempt in overtime. The two teams had been tied 1-1 since almost the midway point of the first period. Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya put his team ahead with a goal from left circle 1:49 into the opening frame. The Predators answered when Shea Weber scored a power-play goal at 11:17. The Predators gave the Blackhawks plenty of opportunities to add to their tally, as they took five penalties in the first two periods, but Chicago wasn't able to convert on any of the resulting power plays. The Hawks went 0-for-5 and are 3-of-21 on the season in power plays. Predators goaltender Carter Hutton, a former Blackhawks prospect, stopped 35 of 37 shots. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford made 17 saves on 18 shots.

What it means: The Blackhawks improved to 3-0-1 on the season and have recorded at least a point in every game; three of Chicago's first four have gone to overtime. The Predators have also picked up a point in all five of their games. They fell to 3-0-2. The Blackhawks will be disappointed not to have scored a handful of goals, considering they finished with a considerable edge in shots on goal for a third consecutive game. They previously outshot the Buffalo Sabres 47-23 in a 6-2 win and the Calgary Flames 50-18 in a 2-1 overtime loss. The power play has to be an early concern, too; Chicago is 1-for-12 over the past two games.

Player of the game: Toews made the play of the game by forcing the turnover and scoring.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks and Predators each scored on their first shot on goal.

What it means: The Blackhawks finish their four-game homestand with the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday.

Morin driven to earn more ice time for Hawks

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Jeremy Morin has earned a place in the Chicago Blackhawks' lineup.

He’s now out to earn more ice time.

Morin has averaged a team-low 6:46 of ice time through three games and has been limited to less than six minutes in two of those games. He played 5:48 against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday and was given just two shifts and 58 seconds in the third period.

“I think you earn your ice time,” Morin said after the team’s morning skate on Saturday. “That’s what I have to do. I have to go out there every game and earn my ice time. Obviously everyone wants to play a bigger part.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said cutting Morin’s minutes against the Flames wasn’t about Morin’s play.

“Just the way the game was going,” Quenneville said. “Got behind there, playing with the top guys more. Schedule’s letting us do that more early in the year. [Daniel Carcillo, Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger] had a couple good shifts in there. That was more of the reason. But he’s been fine.”

Morin said Quenneville has been communicating with him about his minutes and where he needs to improve his game. Morin has played mostly on the fourth line in the first three games. He has zero points and has had a 65.22 Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations.

(Read full post)

Versteeg excited to get back on ice

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Kris Versteeg didn’t mind being the last one to the Chicago Blackhawks' post-morning skate huddle and having to do a lap around the United Center’s ice on Saturday morning.

Versteeg was thrilled to be back skating with the team after sitting out nearly two weeks with a lower-body injury he suffered during practice on Oct. 7.

“It's always good to get out with the guys and get on the ice,” Versteeg said. “I was really excited, I know, last night, just to get back out there with the guys and see how it would be in a practice, well, in a morning skate moreso, so it's a little slowed down. But it's feeling good and just taking it day-by-day now.”

Versteeg nor Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville knew when Versteeg would play in a game. Quenneville said he would have a better idea Monday. Versteeg said he was ahead of the three-week timetable that was originally placed for his return.

The injury was especially difficult for Versteeg to swallow because he was feeling like his old self in the preseason after spending the summer strengthening his knee. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the 2012-13 season with the Florida Panthers and thought he returned too soon from his rehab last season.

“When you have so much expectations of yourself, especially coming off a great summer and getting further and beyond of what even I expected it would be, it was a little bit devastating, and I was pretty rattled,” Versteeg said of his latest injury. “But, you know, now you take those two days just to pout and regroup and then get back to work and get excited about it.

“It is what it is. It's part of the game. I've learned long enough, I've played in this game long enough that things are going to happen and you've just got to come back stronger and hungrier. I think this little time off has helped me, too, just to rejuvenate and get what I had wrong, get it to 100 percent and then get going."

The one upside for Versteeg has been the Blackhawks’ lack of games to start the season. The Blackhawks have had only three games during the season’s first 10 days. Their schedule picks up beginning with Saturday’s game against the Nashville Predators. They play five games in the next nine days.

Quenneville looked forward to getting Versteeg back into the lineup. Quenneville was planning to use him on the third line with Bryan Bickell and Brad Richards.

“He adds a lot of versatility in the way you can use him,” Quenneville said of Versteeg. “He can play in the course of a game when things are going good or not so good. You can insert him with top guys. He can kill penalties for you. He can play on the power play. He has real good play recognition and skill level. But that versatility is something you can really use in different situations as the game evolves, 4-on-4 situations.”

W2W4: Predators at Blackhawks

October, 18, 2014
Oct 18
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Here’s what to watch for when the Nashville Predators and Chicago Blackhawks play at the United Center on Saturday:

• The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 and have picked up at least a point in their first three games. They’re coming off a disappointing 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks outshot the Flames on goal 50-18.

• Blackhawks defenseman Michal Rozsival will make his season debut Saturday. He missed the first three games with an upper-body injury. Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg will miss a fourth consecutive game with a lower-body injury. Versteeg participated in the team’s morning skate and is ahead of schedule after suffering an injury Oct. 7. He was originally expected to miss three weeks.

• The Blackhawks' defensive pairings will be different from the first three games. The pairings are expected to be Duncan KeithBrent Seabrook, Johnny OduyaNiklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk – Rozsival. The lines will be Patrick SharpJonathan ToewsMarian Hossa, Brandon SaadAndrew ShawPatrick Kane, Bryan BickellBrad RichardsBen Smith and Daniel CarcilloMarcus KrugerJeremy Morin.

• Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford has allowed two goals in each game this season. He has a 1.90 goals-against average and stopped 69-of-75 shots for a .920 save percentage.

• One of the Blackhawks’ focuses against the Predators will be being more direct with scoring opportunities. They felt they were too “cute” with the puck against the Flames and lacked quality chances.

“We counted the chances we could’ve had, probably 10 of the 15 were A-plus, another five would’ve been real chances that didn’t even qualify as scoring chances,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “Whether too cute, not bearing down or not aware, and some of the pressure from them, give them some credit as well. A lot of times in that area, you don’t need style points to score goals. We need to finish, and I think that’s a little disappointing at that end of the game because we did so many other good things. We should’ve been rewarded somewhere.”

• The Blackhawks have scored a power-play goal in each of the first three games. They are 3-of-16 on the power play and 10-of-11 on the penalty kill. The Predators are 1-of-12 on the power play and 10-of-12 on the penalty kill.

• The Predators improved to 3-0-1 with a 2-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday. Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne made 31 saves in the shutout. Filip Forsberg leads the Predators with five points. The Predators haven’t allowed more than two goals this season and are second in the league with a 1.30 goals-against average.

• Former Blackhawk Viktor Stalberg made his season debut Friday. He missed the first three games with a lower-body injury.

Richards still adjusting with Blackhawks

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Practice is nice and all, but Brad Richards is looking forward to the Chicago Blackhawks' game schedule picking up.

Richards admitted Friday he and his line have gotten off to a slow start through three games. He hasn't recorded a point yet and he and his linemates Bryan Bickell and Ben Smith are among the team's worst players in Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations. Richards is 14th on the team with a 55.77 Corsi percentage.

[+] EnlargeBrad Richards
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesBrad Richards acknowledged that he is still adjusting -- on and off the ice -- to playing for the Blackhawks.
"We haven't been that good yet," Richards said after practice at Johnny's IceHouse West on Friday. "We're working on it. Kind of got thrown together last second. Had a little bit more zone time last game. But like I said, everything is a work in a progress. Trying to figure it out.

"It doesn't seem like we've played a lot of hockey. I'm kind of wishing there was more games, so you can get into a rhythm and try to get out there and feel more comfortable. That's the way it is. We're getting a lot of practice time. Just every day is a work in progress."

He's right; the Blackhawks haven't played a lot of games. They have had three games since the NHL regular season began Oct. 8. The Boston Bruins have had six games. The Blackhawks have had five practices during that span.

Richards is not only going through an adjustment period with the Blackhawks, who he signed with in July after spending the past three seasons with the New York Rangers. He is also learning his linemates. He spent nearly the entire preseason working with Brandon Saad and Patrick Kane and was moved alongside Bickell and Kris Versteeg following the final preseason game. Versteeg suffered an injury just before the season began, and Smith joined that line.

Richards kept his answer brief when asked if he was surprised he was moved off the second line with Saad and Kane.

"I don't know surprised," Richards said. "I'm here to try to help out. That's not my decision."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is optimistic about a line with Richards, Bickell and Versteeg and saw progress with Bickell, Richards and Smith against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. Versteeg will return to practice on Saturday after suffering a lower-body injury on Oct. 7.

"I didn't mind [Richards] in camp," Quenneville said. "I looked forward to see how it would look with Bicks and Steeger. He's working hard, learning the system and finding out where guys are is part of that process. He's been all right."

Quenneville acknowledged Richards has dealt with a lot of change in the past few months. He signed with a new team, moved to a new city and he and his wife recently added a baby to their family.

"Yeah, he's definitely had a lot of newness," Quenneville said. "New city, new team, new organization, new dad, new baby, all great, new experiences and it's all going to turn out fine. All at once, new season and linemates, regularly, hopefully he gets familiar with that group. It has the makings of a real nice line. We get everyone rolling. We saw signs of that last game, playing the right way across the board. We're close."

Richards hasn't had time to put all of his new life events into perspective, but he does understand that things are different right now.

"I'd love to tell you everything is normal," Richards said. "I'm sure it has [affected me]. I know for a fact it's a lot easier when you're not doing all that stuff.

"When you're in it, you don't look at it [like,] 'That's affecting me today. I'm going to have a bad day today because I just moved.' You don't think like that. Happy to have an opportunity here. I knew throughout the summer, you've been around long enough, I knew that there's going to be some adjustment period. Then you add in a baby and a move, a new coach, new players, there's a lot going on. If you don't bring it up, I'm not really thinking about it.

"I probably have to be honest a little bit. It's not the normal way to start a season the rest of my career. It's not an excuse either. A lot of people have had children, moved to new teams. It's going to take a little bit. I was pretty ingrained in that team over there. It's going to take a little while [to learn] how things are done here."

Cumiskey clears waivers, assigned to AHL

October, 17, 2014
Oct 17
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks assigned defenseman Kyle Cumiskey to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL after he cleared waivers on Friday.

Cumiskey was a healthy scratch in the Blackhawks’ first three games. He was signed by the Blackhawks in July after playing the last two seasons in Sweden.

The Blackhawks have 22 players, including 13 defensemen, seven defensemen and two goaltenders, on their active roster.

The IceHogs have nine defensemen, including eight Blackhawks prospects, on their roster.

Hawks lack the finish in loss to Flames

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had a simple message to his players after their game on Wednesday.

"Just said, 'Tomorrow off, see you on Friday,'" Quenneville said.

There was little else he could say after a contest during which the Blackhawks took 96 shots, including 50 on goal, and ended up notching a 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames at the United Center.

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesMany of the Blackhawks' best opportunities went for naught Wednesday against Calgary.
Wednesday’s loss is the type that will drive a coach mad, however. The quantity was undoubtedly there, but the quality only partially. The Blackhawks created a few opportunities where everything was perfect except for the finish.

There was the one play where a pass from Blackhawks forward Ben Smith gave Daniel Carcillo a perfect scoring chance at the front of the net in the first period, and Carcillo wasn’t able to fully connect the puck with his stick. Carcillo had another great look at the net later in the game, but again couldn’t get his stick to do what his mind wanted.

Another example is when Jonathan Toews was on the left side of the net and passed it quickly to Bryan Bickell on the right side. Bickell had a wide-open chance but also couldn’t get his stick directly on the puck.

It was those occasions and a few others that still ran through Quenneville's mind afterward.

“Our best shots never even got to the net,” Quenneville said. “Probably had six or seven A-plus chances that didn’t even get a shot on net. We were looking for a better play, missed shot, blocked, or in too tight or missed the net. Those were the ones that didn’t even add up on the score sheet, but those were the quality shots we missed.

“Looking at 2-on-1s, looking to pass to the open side. Carbomb [Carcillo] had a couple, whether it’s too cute or not. [Marian] Hossa semibreak, nice shot from Kaner [Patrick Kane] misses the net. Bick tap in, we don’t touch the puck. You can go on and on. We should have more finish than we did tonight. We get those quality chances, usually we’ll get more than one late.”

Hossa thought the Blackhawks needed to be more direct at times with their scoring chances and not worry so much about adding style points to their goals.

“We did some pretty plays; we didn’t finish them,” Hossa said. “Some parts of the game I think we get too cute with the puck. We thought it was going to be easy. They hang in there. In OT, they won it.”

The Blackhawks’ power play was the perfect example of the difference between complicating matters and going with the simple approach. Quenneville believed the Blackhawks were passing too much on the power play through their first six chances, none which resulted in goals. On the seventh power play, they shot and they scored.

“I think we got out of it what we did before, when we didn’t shoot,” Quenneville said. “The power play looks like, ‘What’s wrong with it?’ when we do that. Everything seems to develop off a shot. But if we don’t establish that early in the game or on the power play, it goes awry.”

Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw, who scored the lone goal, believed the Blackhawks failed to put away the Flames when they had the chance.

“It’s nice to get one in the end, but when you have that many chances, you got to bury a team,” Shaw said.



Patrick Sharp
6 2 4 0
GoalsP. Kane 3
AssistsP. Sharp 4
+/-J. Oduya 5
GAAC. Crawford 1.66