Chicago Blackhawks: Fighting

Hawks' toughness measured by success

May, 8, 2013
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Jonathan ToewsHannah Foslien/Getty ImagesToughness includes being able to take a hit and make a play, as Jonathan Toews does.
CHICAGO -- It's been a knock on the Chicago Blackhawks going back to the year they won the Stanley Cup: They're not tough enough, they don't throw their body around enough, and yes, they don't drop the gloves enough.

That last critique has little to do with winning a title, and the other two matter everywhere but the stat sheet. The Hawks have been outhit 133 to 98 in their series with the Minnesota Wild but lead 3-1. They were outhit 20-10 on Tuesday but won the game handily, 3-0. In fact, their 98 hits is the least of any playoff team, including four that have played one fewer game.

"I feel like our team can play a number of different ways," Patrick Sharp said after Tuesday's game. "People want to make a big deal of the hits. That's fine. We've won a physical game before. We've won a lot of games with our speed and playmaking ability, so whatever the type of game there is, I feel confident in our guys."

That's the mark of a championship team: winning in different ways. The NHL calls for it especially over the course of the postseason, which lasts for two months. Some games will be tightly contested, others more wide open. The Hawks have proved they can play both ways. That has something to do with their goaltending as well.

(Read full post)

The ugly truth about hockey

April, 18, 2012
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa left the United Center in an ambulance.

That was after he was carted off the ice, his neck stabilized, his body supine.

That was after he lay on the ice for long, scary minutes as the United Center piped in “Blue Moon,” to chill out the crowd (it didn’t work) and cut replays from the scoreboard.

That was after Hossa’s head bounced off the ice.

That was after Phoenix Coyotes aggressor Raffi Torres left his feet and rammed his left shoulder into Hossa’s right jaw.

That was after Torres, skating from behind, sized up Hossa like he was Brandon Meriweather on skates.

Read the entire column.

Physical game fired up Hawks, Wild

April, 1, 2012
By Jesse Rogers and Scott Powers
CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks were surprised by some physical play from the Minnesota Wild on Sunday, but the Wild claimed the Hawks set that tone.

“I don’t think you expected that game at all at the start,” Patrick Kane said after the Hawks’ 5-4 shootout loss. “My first couple shifts, guys are coming up saying stuff. You get a whack on the wrist and even a whack on the back of the legs they actually called. A lot of chippiness. Those teams are hard to predict.”

[+] EnlargeBlackhawks
Dennis Wierzbicki/US PresswireThe Hawks' Brandon Bollig and the Wild's Clayton Stoner fight during the first period.
Kane wasn’t sure if it was a case of a team out of the race just playing for some pride or young players trying to prove themselves, but a fight-filled first period set the tone.

“I was kind of shocked myself,” Niklas Hjalmarsson said. “It was feisty out there. It’s good for us because we have playoffs coming up. It’s a good test for us.”

Things revved up after Kane was slashed on his surgically repaired left wrist by Dany Heatley. There was no call on the play so the Hawks took things into their own hands. Brandon Bollig was sent out on the ice with the third line instead of with his usual fourth-line teammates. He skated right up to Heatley before the next face-off.

“I was just trying to get in his ear and let him know it wasn’t going to happen,” Bollig said. “I think it was effective. When something happens like that you have to address it and I was the guy to do that. It’s part of the game.”

(Read full post)

Hawks wasted chances on power play

March, 25, 2012
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks had any hope of coming back against the Nashville Predators on Sunday they needed their power play to come through -- with even a shot on goal, let alone a score.

Officially, the Hawks had zero shots on net in four power-play attempts. They scored their lone goal just after a power play expired, but that didn’t make them feel any better about their night with the man advantage.

“It kind of stopped any chance of gaining momentum there,” Patrick Sharp said. “We had a tough time setting it up in the offensive zone and when we did we didn’t get any pucks to the net. It definitely let us down.”

(Read full post)

Was costly hit worth it for Carcillo?

January, 3, 2012
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
[+] EnlargeDaniel Carcillo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesNot only did Dan Carcillo draw a major penalty and suspension for his hit on Tom Gilbert, he also injured his knee.
CHICAGO -- News that Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo is suspended indefinitely for his boarding of Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert can't be a shock to anyone who follows the Hawks or Carcillo. He will be able to state his case to the league at some point and then he'll finish serving his third suspension of the season. And this all happens after he recovers from his injuries.

That's one costly hit.

After talking with hockey people around the league on Tuesday, the consensus is Carcillo will get 4-6 games for the blow. No more.

Here is the bottom line: the hit was reckless but we've seen worse. He didn't target the head nor "purposely" ram Gilbert's head into the boards. Carcillo's history will play a part in the punishment but Gilbert's injuries don't appear severe so that will help his cause.

Joel Quenneville was asked on Tuesday what Carcillo could have done differently.

"It's a quick moment when you're going for a counter hit fighting for a puck," he said after practice. "He [Carcillo] probably had better leverage than the other guy. His intent certainly wasn't what happened."

It's not a cut and dry play. In fact, it's not necessarily boarding. Yes, Gilbert went flying into the boards but the players were not up against them or within inches of them as in normal boarding calls. It may have been closer to interference. And Gilbert admitted Tuesday he saw Carcillo coming.

"I should have been more ready for a guy who has made those kinds of hits before," Gilbert told reporters in Buffalo where Edmonton plays Tuesday night.

So there is enough gray area to at least believe the league won't necessarily throw the book at the controversial forward. But the big question still remains, why would Carcillo even take a chance with a questionable hit?

He had just returned from an injury, was playing on the top line and playing decent enough. In fact, he had a beautiful steal and assist on the Hawks' first goal, and in his first game back on Friday, he showed immediate chemistry with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Monday's game was sailing along fine for the home team. The Hawks were leading 1-0 -- thanks in part to Carcillo -- and Edmonton was doing nothing on offense, plus the Oilers had just lost star rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an injury. On top of it, the Hawks were 14-0-1 when scoring first this season while the Oilers were 3-13 when getting down 1-0 this year. The game did not call for a borderline hit. Carcillo must know this.

He hasn't spoken since leaving with a knee injury and a game misconduct, but what could have been going through his mind?

"I think he's been fine," Quenneville said of Carcillo's season. "I think he gives us a nice look. You appreciate what he brings, his intensity. He's got some skill to complement his aggressiveness, but at the same time we still want him to play with energy. I think he has some track record that doesn't help. His leash is definitely a lot shorter than most or every player in the league. It's tough finding that right balance. From our perspective he's doing everything we want."

If everyone knows the leash is tight, why even risk it? Why does a player on a 24-10-4 team, who has been inserted onto the top line after sitting for six games take a chance like Carcillo did? He will undoubtedly try to explain the hit away but explanations aren't necessary if the proverbial line isn't approached. If Carcillo simply tries to get around Gilbert and get to the puck, the Hawks probably win the game and he's not injured.

"We want to keep a guy like that in the lineup and it's tough to lose him so quickly," Toews said. "He's an effective player for us. It's no fun when that happens."

Toews almost said that like it was out of everyone's control. It wasn't. One guy could have helped avoid a bad situation but Carcillo chose the tough route and now has to pay the price.

That's one costly hit.

Hawks plan on better showing vs. Oilers

January, 2, 2012
Rogers By Jesse Rogers

CHICAGO -- Revenge is a dish best served cold -- as in ice-cold.

The Chicago Blackhawks will get a chance at it on Monday night when they host the Edmonton Oilers, this time on the United Center surface.

The teams aren’t near in each other in the standings right now, as the Blackhawks lead the NHL with 52 points and the Oilers are at the bottom of the Northwest Division with just 33. But back on Nov. 19, when they met in Edmonton, the Hawks were still finding their way while the Oilers were off to a pretty good start. The result for the Hawks? A 9-2 drubbing in Game 3 of the circus trip.

“I don’t know about revenge, but kind of redemption,” defenseman John Scott said after Monday morning’s practice. “They took it to us last time we were there. We talked about it. That wasn’t our team when we played them a month ago. We’ve changed since then and kind of have gone on a rise since then.”

[+] EnlargeRyan Smyth
Dale MacMillan/Getty ImagesRyan Smyth scored one of the Oilers' nine goals against the Blackhawks on Nov. 19.
Scott will skate next to Sami Lepisto as the Hawks’ third defensive pair against a fast Edmonton squad. Steve Montador has been ruled out due to an upper-body injury.

“I’m going to try and not do too much out there,” Lepisto said. “Just think defense first and if something happens, it happens.”

Lepisto has been a healthy scratch for the past eight games.

“Sitting in first place the team is doing good, but of course you get frustrated,” he said of not playing. “Every player wants to play rather than sit and eat popcorn. It’s a long season and hopefully I get to play more.”

Lepisto didn’t play against Edmonton last time, but Jamal Mayers did.

“We certainly should use it as motivation,” Mayers said. “Obviously they took it to us in every facet of the game. We have a chance to redeem ourselves tonight.”

The Hawks should have a good chance to do so. They’re 14-3-3 at home while Edmonton is just 5-13-1 on the road. One of those losses came in Chicago, 6-3, on Nov. 13.

Lines the same: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville liked the balance in his lines in Friday’s 3-2 win over the Detroit Red Wings and will stick with the same trios for Monday’s contest. Marcus Kruger did not skate Monday morning as he recovers from a concussion, so Patrick Kane remains at center between Viktor Stalberg and Patrick Sharp while Jonathan Toews has Marian Hossa and Dan Carcillo next to him. The latter trio was the Hawks’ best line against the Wings.

“We had a good game, played well,” Carcillo said. “They’re two of the best players in the league. I have to keep my game simple and work hard to get them the puck.”

Big Jimmy Hayes will dress for his second game in the NHL, skating with Mayers and Andrew Brunette again.

“The game is really fast,” Hayes said of his first impressions. “I’m just trying to keep my feet moving and make some plays. [The coaches] just said to be physical.”

Dave Bolland, Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik make up the Hawks third line for Monday’s game, in which Corey Crawford takes on Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Carcillo vs. Bertuzzi: After missing six games with a head injury, Carcillo had no issues with Detroit’s Todd Bertuzzi asking him to fight Friday night, although he doesn’t necessarily agree with Bertuzzi’s reasoning. The two dropped the gloves after Carcillo hit Bertuzzi with a clean, but hard check, in the first period.

“You see a lot of that,” Carcillo said Monday. “Guys get hit clean and then a team reacts or they want to start fights. But I don’t think that’s the way to solve a clean hit. You get up and dust yourself off and take a run at someone else. I think he saw who it was and he wants to show his bench he’s ready and I’m ready. I still think it was the right time for a fight.”

Although the instigator rule is called inconsistently throughout the league, Carcillo had no issues with Bertuzzi only getting five minutes for fighting.

“He looked at me and we both agreed to it,” he said.

Bickell was given an instigating penalty in a similar situation against the Calgary Flames earlier in the season. It’s more evidence the instigator rule needs to be altered or eliminated altogether.

Signings: The Hawks signed their two first-round picks from the 2011 draft to entry-level contracts. Forwards Mark McNeill and Phillip Danault, both 18, were inked to three-year deals. They’ll continue to play for their junior clubs and their contracts won’t kick in until they come to the Hawks organization.

Quotable: “It was a crazy New Year. We ordered food in and I think I had one beer. We were asleep by 12:15, so it was nuts.” -- Scott on his New Year’s Eve spent with his wife and week-old baby daughter.

Carcillo proving to be more than a fighter

October, 21, 2011
Friedell By Nick Friedell
[+] EnlargeDaniel Carcillo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesDaniel Carcillo has two assists while playing two of the top players in the world.
CHICAGO -- There are plenty of reasons for Daniel Carcillo's hot start with the Blackhawks, but the biggest one of all may be the motivation the left winger gained this summer after the Philadelphia Flyers chose not to re-sign him.

"It kind of lit a fire under my butt when another team doesn't want to sign you," Carcillo said after Friday afternoon's practice. "You want to prove to yourself and to other people that you can play at a high level in this league."

Carcillo has been a pleasant surprise over the first few games this season. He racked up his second assist of the season in Thursday night's win over the Colorado Avalanche and has quickly made a name for himself in the Blackhawks locker room.

The desire to prove to the Flyers and other teams that they missed out by not signing him is very strong, but as Carcillo is quick to point out, it doesn't hurt to be playing on a line with Marion Hossa and Patrick Kane, either.

"They're two of the best players in this league," Carcillo said. "It's a privilege to be able to play with them. Every day I come to the rink, I'm focused and I'm ready, and I want to do everything I can to stay on that line."

The production on that line is something which has certainly caught coach Joel Quenneville's eye.

"He's played well since he started the season with us," Quenneville said. "That line, on a game-to-game basis when Hossa's been with them, that line's been very dangerous. Puck possession time, zone time, gives a different look with him on it.

"With Kaner and Hossa [they] seem to find those plays where they just know where each other are. That puck possession game and that cycle game. Danny can be at the net, but he also the ability to make and see plays ... he sees plays, makes plays and finishes his checks so I think he complements those guys in a different way."

The 26-year-old is happy that Quenneville and the Hawks have given him a chance to show that he is more than just a bruiser who racks up penalty minutes.

"I just think they needed to address some things," Carcillo said. "Whether that be on the physical side of the puck and that's something that I can bring to this team. But that's not the only thing I can bring to this team and I think [general manager] Stan [Bowman] realized that, and he has confidence in me as well as the coach to be able to play with those two guys.

"But first and foremost, I need to be physical and I need to be on the puck and getting them the puck and getting to the net and getting to those hard areas. I'm not going to be a guy coming across the blue line that's going to toe drag somebody or anything like that. All the guys here, they're young and fun, everyone likes having fun around here. It's light. I'm definitely a guy that likes to keep it fun and light in the room."

Carcillo understands that he may never escape the "brawler" label, but he seems to be at peace with that fact in Chicago.

"It takes a long time to turn those types of reputations," he said. "But I don't mind having it. Even when you're in warm up and you see guys looking at you ... normally I don't get to play against second line guys, first line guys, and they're used to playing against guys that carry the puck, don't hit, make plays, it's just kind of a possession game.

"I think when you have somebody that can skate and can hit and they're going to know [that player's] going to be barreling down on them and they're not going to have as much time as they usually have, I think it's a big asset."

The more he contributes to a line with Hossa and Kane, the easier it will be for him to shed that tag in the future.

"I've been in this league for a minute now and you know when to fight and when we don't need to fight and right now I'm getting an opportunity to play," he said. "What would I rather be doing? Sitting in the box for five minutes or playing in a game with All-Stars? It's a pretty easy decision."

Carcillo is enjoying his moment and he appears to have already created a niche for himself with the Blackhawks, something that few in the NHL could have guessed before the season started.

"I worked really hard this summer," Carcillo said. "It's not every day that you get a fresh start in a new organization, especially in an organization like this. That was something that I focused on, just wanted to come in and be in good shape, and get a good start to the year."

Mission accomplished.

Hard hits going unchecked in today's game

April, 2, 2011
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
When the Chicago Blackhawks take the ice on Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, more than winning the game might be on their minds.

But don’t count on it.

Center Dave Bolland has been out with a concussion since March 9 after taking an elbow to the head from the Lightning’s Pavel Kubina in Tampa’s 4-3 win. Kubina wasn’t given a penalty but was suspended for three games by the NHL.

Dave Bolland
Brace Hemmelgarn/US PresswireDave Bolland has been out with a concussion since March 9.
The Hawks have a chance to tell -- and show -- Kubina how they feel about the nasty hit when the teams collide.

“No one wants to put anyone in a position to put our team down or take a penalty or take a silly suspension yourself,” Jake Dowell said Saturday after practice. “But obviously it’s in the back of our minds that one of our better players is sitting out and we’ll try to play as physical as possible and see how it plays out.”

That’s the toughest words to be found on the subject. Either times have changed or the Hawks are just not one of those teams to seek revenge -- or both. Or maybe the Hawks just aren’t talking about the revenge they seek.

Kubina’s hit was the first of three head shots the Hawks have been victim to over the past month. Marcus Kruger was nailed on Friday by the Blue Jackets’ Jan Hejda, who was given a two-game suspension. Last Monday, Todd Bertuzzi of Detroit hit Ryan Johnson in the head and was kicked out of the game.

So where is the immediate response for these attacks?

“I think the instigator rule makes a huge difference,” veteran Marty Turco said. “If they went back to the way it was, there [were] a few players around the league that took advantage of it and made it an issue for safety reasons. You know, star players getting beat up for no reason. But 90 percent of it was useful. It’s a game of code and respect.”

The instigator rule states if a player clearly starts a fight his team will be assessed a two-minute minor penalty in addition to the five-minute major and 10-minute misconduct penalty the player must endure. Not many players want to deal with those consequences.

“You do want to put a good hard lick on the guy, but what’s done is done,” Turco said. “Things have changed probably, begrudgingly, for the better. You want to take care of it but you don’t want the hockey game all about that.”

Older fans would have expected a melee to ensue after hits like Kubina’s, Bertuzzi’s and Hejda’s but those are few and far between these days. Even an “old schooler” like Joel Quenneville likes to get his revenge another way.

“Each and every year you see less fighting and at the same time you have to be smart about it,” he said. “At this stage in the game we have to win hockey games so [for] getting even, the best thing is: try to win the hockey game.”

Even going back to last year, when Brent Seabrook was knocked unconscious by James Wisniewski the Hawks offered up almost no response in the moment. Then, in this last month alone, the three head shots were given nearly a free pass.

This isn’t necessarily a criticism of the Hawks as much as an observation, because the game has changed. But not only haven’t the Hawks responded to these incidents on the ice, they’ve practically gone out of their way to somewhat defend the aggressors.

Johnson took the steam out of any Bertuzzi criticism.

“I don’t think it was anything malicious, he was very apologetic,” Johnson said. “He came walking in here and said, ‘Sorry,’ as soon as it happened.”

Kruger was even less critical on Saturday, saying he needed to “see the replay” before he could comment if the two-game suspension was justified. Wasn’t he the one that got hit? An elbow to the head usually doesn’t need a replay for the victim, the headache should be enough.

And more than one player defended Kubina claiming he’s “not that type of player.”

Maybe the Hawks are not that type of team. (Which doesn’t mean they can’t win a championship, as proven last year.)

Or maybe the difference is in the attacker. If a noted bad boy performs these acts the response might be more immediate. But the point still stands: the Hawks don’t have the type of team to start melees, and that might be a good thing.

“With the instigator rule it just doesn’t happen like that,” Dowell said. “It has to be when the time is right.”

The bigger issue is: Have head injuries increased, in part, because the instigator rule exists?
Is the current punishment of a suspension a big enough deterrent or would a player be more likely to change his ways if he knew he was going to get pummeled?

“You’d be more apt to change in my mind if you knew you had to pay for it on the ice,” Turco said.

Can they change the rule by Sunday?

Scott exchanges punches, and the belt

December, 2, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Bryan BickellBill Smith/Getty ImagesBryan Bickell was awarded the Hawks' belt, and it didn't hurt that he rooms with John Scott.
The Blackhawks were back on the ice Thursday, preparing for their Friday home game against the Vancouver Canucks.

Here are some news and notes from practice:

John Scott

Scott fought for the second consecutive game against St. Louis on Tuesday. He took on Cam Janssen in a long, drawn out bout.

"He does that all the time," Scott said. "He says, ‘Keep it going, keep it going,' but he's just as tired as I am. I think he just does it for show, but it was a good fight. Probably the longest fight I've been in, in a while. I was exhausted near the end of it. I could have kept going, but it seemed like both of us were just gassed.

"He cranked me with a couple of good ones at the end when I got tired, but we'll fight again and hopefully have a better outcome."

After beating up Kevin Westgarth of the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, Scott was given the championship belt the team gives out after each win, to the player of the game. The winner of the belt chooses the next recipient.

Despite big nights from several Hawks, including a career-high four points from Tomas Kopecky, Scott gave the belt to Bryan Bickell after the Hawks' 7-5 victory over the Blues on Tuesday.

"He's been playing well lately," Scott explained of his decision. "He's never really been in a checking role, and I think he's done pretty well. Obviously, last game I didn't know he was a dash three [minus-3], so I kind of got a little heat for that."

But what about all those Hawks who earned multiple points?

"I kind of had my mind made up after the second period," Scott said. "Bicks [Bickell] has been playing well. He's been shutting down the other team's top line and logging a lot of minutes. I figured I'd give him a little boost.
"I got the belt. I have to think about who is playing well. Kopy [Tomas Kopecky] was on my mind, but Bicks and I are roommates."

Boynton Fight

Several fans have wondered about the timing of Nick Boynton's scrap with BJ Crombeen soon after the Hawks went up 5-1 on the Blues Tuesday night. Those fights can energize the trailing team. Joel Quenneville didn't disagree.

"That's something you can talk about as a team, and the timing of that is something that is important in momentum and keeping it as long as you can," he said. "I think that's something if you can avoid it, the need was probably more pressing for them at that time."

Jordan Hendry

Defenseman Jordan Hendry hasn't seen action since November 7. Quenneville was asked if he might see ice time considering the Hawks' fifth and sixth defensemen might be struggling.

"He's a part of it and will get a chance to play," Quenneville said. "Sometimes you look at opponents, sometimes you look at the records, sometimes you look at health. [It's a] variety of reasons you make decisions like that, but it's a valid point or suggestion and something to consider."

All-Star Ballot

Patrick Sharp is not on the All-Star ballot despite ranking fourth in the league in goals with 16.

"He should be on that ballot for sure," Quenneville said. "He had a great start to the season and has earned every opportunity to be considered and deserving to be on the team."

Vegas Update

Players confirmed a report in the Las Vegas Journal that one of them wore an Iron Man outfit to a team party in Las Vegas, during the last road trip. But no one was willing to spill the news on who the masked man was.

"It definitely wasn't me," Jack Skille said. "It goes back to the saying whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Prankster Sharp

Patrick Sharp promised to reveal a prank or two that he pulled now that the Circus Trip is over.

"I'll give you a mild one," Sharp said. "Brian Campbell and I got into it one day, so I came in off the ice a little bit early and dipped his socks in the cold tub so he had freezing cold water in his dress socks for a flight out West."

Pisani Update

Fernando Pisani remained off the ice due to an upper-body injury suffered against Anaheim last Friday. He's missed the last two games and is day-to-day.

The Last Word

The last time the Hawks took on the Vancouver Canucks, head coach Alain Vigneault more than implied the Hawks were trying to run up the score during a 5-on-3 power play. Quenneville denied the claim, saying he was just rolling out his regular lines and was backed up by the fact that Nick Boynton was on the ice. Boynton is not normally on either power play unit.

"I just know our intentions were just the opposite of what we got accused of from my point of view," Quenneville said.

Easy call: Crawford gets start in net

November, 30, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
[+] EnlargeJohn Scott
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty ImagesJohn Scott has some history with the Blues, so Tuesday's game could be interesting.
It wasn't a tough decision.

The way Corey Crawford is playing, he deserved another start. He'll get it when the Chicago Blackhawks take on the St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

It's Crawford's third in a row, and his teammates aren't surprised. The praise keeps coming.

"He's moving quicker. He's worked with our goalie coach and he's quicker in net," Brian Campbell said after the Hawks' practice Tuesday morning. "He has his reflexes really going, and it seems like side to side he's just bouncing in the net instead of having to be a struggle sometimes. He's moving pretty smooth."

Joel Quenneville has said it often: Crawford "looks big" in net.

"He's square to the puck, and when you look at an opportunity of where are you going to put it, he denies that first instinct," Quenneville explained. "He closes a lot of those opportunities, and he anticipates well and has some movement."

Crawford has won four in a row after starting the season 1-4. He has stopped 98 of 103 shots for a save percentage of .951 during the win streak. He ranks sixth in the NHL in save percentage (.925) and goals against (2.07) for goalies with at least nine appearances. Tuesday marks the first time in his career he'll start three consecutive games.

Morin Up
Jeremy Morin was recalled to take the place of the ailing Marian Hossa. It's Morin's second stint with the Hawks this season.

"I think I'm a little more comfortable out there," Morin said on Tuesday. "The first time was a little more nerves and excitement. There is still a little bit more of that, definitely, but getting my feet wet was a good experience for me and hopefully I learn from it."

As for Hossa, though it's a tough break for him and the team, the Hawks have been one of the few with a completely healthy roster over the past few weeks. So for a short term injury to occur, Quenneville wasn't lamenting it or when it happened -- during practice instead of a game.

"Things happen like that," Quenneville said. "It can happen away from the game, too, so it's all part of it. You deal with. It's an opportunity for Morin to come up, and hopefully he can take advantage of the chance and the challenge. We'll just go from there."

First Game Back

It's often talked about how the first home game after a road trip can be a difficult one.

"I think maybe you think you can let up a little bit," Campbell said. "Not in hockey sense, but in everyday life sense. It's just like 'Oh, finally [we're home]', you know. Maybe that's a reason you're not ready for the next game. Maybe you have to stay in road mode at least for this game."

The Hawks have done a good job of it, at least recently. They've won five consecutive first games back at home after the "Circus Trip." They are 6-3-1 since 1999 at home after the annual western road swing.

"From experience it's a tough game," Campbell said. "You look at records around the league and they're probably not too good, so I think that's why he [Quenneville] stressed it the other day to us and we really need to be prepared."

Pisani out/Scott Ready

Fernando Pisani will miss a second straight game with an upper-body injury. He's day to day. It gives John Scott another opportunity coming off a game in which he broke the nose of Kings forward Kevin Westgarth in a one-sided affair.

"That's what I figured," Scott said. "He was bleeding so much on the ice. I've gotten my nose broken before. It happens. I don't feel bad for him."

Scott was asked if the feisty Blues may have gotten wind of his pummeling of Westgarth.

"I've got a couple of buddies form other teams, and they called me up and said like 'nice job' so sure, people talk about it," Scott said.

Scott fought Blues forward Scott Winchester earlier this season.

New Lines
With Hossa out, there are several new trios for Tuesday's game. Patrick Sharp will center Jeremy Morin and Troy Brouwer while Dave Bolland is between Tomas Kopecky and Bryan Bickell. That leaves Jake Dowell to skate with John Scott and Jack Skille. The Hawks top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg remains the same.

Scoring Blues

Quenneville isn't the only one switching up lines. St. Louis head coach Davis Payne broke up his top line for this game after the Blues scored just five goals total in their last three games.

Andy McDonald, Brad Boyes, and David Backes won't start together. Alex Steen replaces Backes.

Scott gets shots in against Oilers' Stortini

November, 9, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
[+] EnlargeJohn Scott
AP Photo/Brian KerseyJohn Scott doesn't like the way Edmonton's Zack Stortini plays the game, and he told him about it Sunday.
Chicago Blackhawks winger John Scott had an eventful game on Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers, especially for someone who only saw nine shifts and played 5:38.

Scott fought Oilers' forward Zack Stortini in his best performance without the gloves to date.

"It was a good one," Scott recalled on Tuesday. "Me and him have a history. I don't like how he plays the game. He kind of just runs around and runs his mouth, so it was nice to get a few fair swings at him where he wasn't hugging me or trying to hold my arms down. It was a good fight."

Scott landed the majority of blows while Stortini ended up with his jersey over his head.

The teams face each other again on Nov. 16 in Edmonton.

Scott's interesting night didn't end there. He earned a plus-1 for being on the ice for the Hawks' only goal by Fernando Pisani. He also caused a power play chance for his team, and he nearly lit the lamp.

"I think I would have had a goal for sure," Scott said. "[Nikolai] Khabibulin kind of tripped coming across the crease on the second broken stick. It was a wide open net. It was really frustrating."

Scott is referencing one of three hockey sticks that broke on him in the first period. Twice, as he was going to shoot, his stick broke in half, and then he was slashed by Shawn Horcoff of the Oilers.

"I came off the bench after breaking the second one and told [Marty] Turco, ‘God, I don't have any more sticks if I break this one,'" Scott explained. "And he's like, ‘Watch, you are going to break it on your next shift.' And sure enough I went out there and did."

Scott only had three sticks with him at the game, so the Hawks equipment staff had to move into high gear after he broke the second one. They made a new one mid-game.

"They cut it, taped it, did the knob, everything, so they had one waiting," Scott said.

Some players can borrow a stick from a teammate, but when you're 6-8, there aren't many players, if any, who have a stick your size.

"Yeah, there is no way I'm going to pick up like [Jonathan] Toews' or [Patrick] Kane's stick," Scott joked. "No way."

Turco working overtime for Blackhawks

October, 22, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
Marty TurcoBill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesMarty Turco has stopped 15 shots in two overtime periods this week.
ST. LOUIS -- Though he's getting credit for some clutch play as of late, many may not realize just how busy Marty Turco has been over the last two overtime victories.

He stopped 15 combined overtime shots in wins over St. Louis on Monday and Vancouver on Wednesday.

"I was even surprised to see it was that many," Turco said as he prepared for a rematch against the Blues on Friday. "I think 4-on-4 is awesome. If I wasn't such a pro union guy, I would say [a] 4-on-4 league would be pretty exciting."

Turco wasn't far off the record for saves. The new 4-on-4 rules in overtime were implemented following the lockout in 2005. In March of 2009, according to The Elias Sports Bureau, Marc-Andre Fleury of Pittsburgh stopped 11. Turco had seven against the Blues and eight against Vancouver.

"Never had that many in back-to-back games, that's for sure," Turco said.

If Turco likes 4-on-4 play, then he will like the Hawks. They were dominant a season ago, scoring 16 while giving up just six.

"The secret really lies in our defensive core," Turco explained. "Their non-hesitation to join the play. It's four-man units more than two on offense and two on defense."

That's exactly what happened on Monday in the win over St. Louis. Defenseman Jassen Cullimore, not known for his speed, took the puck from the blue line to down around the Blues net before finding Patrick Kane, who set up Patrick sharp for the winning goal.

"I'm not sure what retired defenseman I called him," Turco joked. "It may have been Larry Robinson. I gave him the belt after that game for the move right there."

Blues Prep
St. Louis hasn't played since blowing the two-goal lead against the Hawks on Monday, so Turco thinks they will be ready. Turco is also prepared, having just seen them.
"Anytime you see a time as recent as this, your pregame prep becomes a little bit easier," Turco explained. "It flows a little be nicer, maybe a little less brain power used to summon their tendencies. They played a great road game and now they're at their home barn. They'll be ready."

In this corner
John Scott hasn't fought yet this season, but he says that's not from a lack of trying. Scott says Brad Winchester, who he did fight in the preseason, "turned me down" on Monday, so maybe Friday will be different. BJ Crombeen is another tough guy on the Blues and he analyzed Scott as a fighter.
"He's definitely one of the bigger guys in the league and has longer arms, so it obviously presents different challenges when you have a guy with that long of arms, trying to get in on him," Crombeen said on Friday.

Despite four wins in a row, Joel Quenneville is still looking for improvement. He knows three of those games could have gone either way.
"We want to make sure we let the guys know we can be better than this," Quenneville said. "There is room for growth in certain areas, [be it] our puck possession game or protecting it or coming up with more. I liked how we checked [played defense] last game. That's an area we can focus on that can enhance the other side [offensive] of our game. That was a positive coming out of the last game."

No Buff, so Kopecky will meet Luongo

October, 19, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
[+] EnlargeTomas Kopecky
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesTomas Kopecky is off to the hottest start of his career with a goal and seven assists.
After Wednesday night, the Vancouver Canucks might start calling him Dustin Kopecky or maybe Tomas Byfuglien. The Chicago Blackhawks and Canucks renew their rivalry, and someone has to take over the role of Roberto Luongo's agitator.

If anyone on the Hawks' roster can replace the man in the middle who helped knock out Vancouver from the last two postseasons, it might just be Tomas Kopecky.

Kopecky is off to the hottest start of his career. He has a goal and seven assists and leads the Blackhawks in the latter category. He has at least a point in five straight games.

So can he replace big Dustin Byfuglien as Luongo's nemesis?

"I'm going to try, but it's hard to replace [Byfuglien]," Kopecky said after practice on Tuesday. "Hopefully, it's going to work out."

The numbers say he can. Usually, counting goals scored from in front of the net tells the story, but in Kopecky's case, it's assists. Five of his seven helpers have come with him in front of the net keeping the play alive for someone else -- usually Marian Hossa -- to finish. His lone goal also came from driving to the net.

"He's watched one of the masters at it in Detroit with [Tomas] Holmstrom," Joel Quenneville explained. "I think he's pretty adept at where he needs to go, and he's willing to fight that traffic and the abuse you face when you get to the front of the net."

Kopecky has proven his coach right. He's been pushed around and sometimes knocked down as a teammate is finishing the scoring play he kept alive.

"I love that kind of stuff," Kopecky said. "Those little scrums in front of the net. It's something that can get the goalie off his game. That's fine with me. I'm kind of enjoying it."

Kopecky thinks playing with Hossa means more goals will come his way.

"I always just try to give him the puck and create room for him," Kopecky said. "Every time I do, something good is going to happen around the net, and then I just start banging those rebounds in."

Hossa impresses teammates: Nothing says more about a player's abilities than when other stars talk about him in the same vein as regular fans. That's happening right now with Hossa.
"Talking with him, last year he didn't get to do much over the summer [due to injury]," Patrick Kane said. "He kind of just sat around and waited until he had to play. This year, I asked him what the difference was, and obviously getting in shape, that helps a lot. On the ice he does so many different things. It's pretty fun to watch."
Hossa has seven goals and four assists and leads the NHL with 11 points.

Cullimore contributes: Jassen Cullimore was in the middle of the dramatic finish by the Blackhawks on Monday night in their 3-2 overtime win against the Blues.

"It was my first shift in a little while," Cullimore explained on Tuesday. "It just kind of unfolded getting into the play like that."

Cullimore had taken only three shifts in the third period and jumped over the boards for the first time in overtime with about 90 seconds remaining. He took a pass from Kane, wheeled around the net and dished it back to Kane, who set up Patrick Sharp for the winning goal. The building erupted.

"When we were coming into the dressing room we could hear the crowd going crazy while they were interviewing Hossa on the bench," Cullimore recalled. "They were so loud you couldn't even hear him."

Scott tried: At one point in the game, John Scott said he tried to pick a fight with Brad Winchester of the Blues, but Winchester would have none of it.
"He is supposed to be their big heavyweight and he still said no," Scott said. "But I tried."

Lineup: Joel Quenneville said that Marty Turco will start against Vancouver on Wednesday night. He also indicated that their healthy scratch from night to night will differ depending on matchups and how players are performing. The Hawks currently have 21 active players on the roster.

Start time reminder: Wednesday's game against Vancouver will start at 8:00 p.m. CT to accommodate Canadian television.

Hawks' leadership will make the difference

October, 7, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John WoodsThe Blackhawks' mind set improved dramatically with the arrival of Jonathan Toews.
Over the course of a three-day stretch at the end of training camp, I asked each of the Chicago Blackhawks leaders --the ones wearing a "C" and two "A"s --what would motivate them after the championship season and the summer they just experienced.

Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp didn't think it was a bad question. They didn't look at me weird, they didn't roll their eyes-- but they didn't flinch.

The answer was simple: Winning. Or at least: Not losing.

"Every time I take to the ice it's a chance to win," Keith said. "I hate losing. Just because we won once doesn't mean I hate losing less."

"I expect to win the Stanley Cup as much as anyone in the league," Sharp said.

These are new times for this organization. In the early half of the last decade, it was hard to find a player who would lose sleep when his team lost.

That changed with the arrival of Captain Serious. For those who remember, he made an infamous remark his rookie year that summed up the feeling at that time: "We don't have enough players around here that hate to lose."

Those days are over. And that -- more than any other reason -- gives hope for a repeat. The leadership on the Hawks is second to none. While other teams -- Vancouver and Montreal for example -- are making big news in naming new captains, and others are trying to find reasons to be optimistic -- San Jose, the Hawks are already ahead of the game in those areas. Now, it's just about filling in the blanks. Filling in where the summer ripped it apart.

The Canucks are a good example of a team trying to find what the Hawks already have. Bounced out of the playoffs -- in some ways rather easily -- in consecutive years by the Hawks, they have re-made -- not so much their team -- but their leadership. The captain will no longer be their goalie, and gone is motor mouth, albeit good guy, Shane O'Brien. The Canucks aren't missing talent, they've been missing leadership.

The Hawks continue to have both.

Slowly but surely this preseason I became convinced that the theory of a championship team suffering from a success hangover -- which is usually right on -- wasn't going to materialize. I don't know if the Hawks are going to win the Stanley Cup again, but I know being complacent won't be the reason they don't.

It's interesting how youth can quickly turn from a concern to asset. Experienced youth is what the Hawks have, and that's the best kind to possess.

So many wondered out loud about Patrick Kane, but what I see in Kane through the fog of a party guy is what everyone sees clearly in Keith, Toews, Sharp, Marian Hossa and Brent Seabrook: a commitment to hockey and to team, as well as to the city of Chicago.
Rob Grabowski/US PresswireIf the preseason is any indication, Marian Hossa is poised for another big season.

What hasn't been given enough attention is the window this team has that comes with that youth. It's not the window of talent, it's the window of fewer distractions. Kane and Toews in particular are not married, don't have kids, and really don't have a worry in the world. What is their world? Hockey. And that won't always be the case, but it is for now. And they need to take advantage of it.

Their leadership will be called upon in a new way this year. It's unchartered territory for them, as well as for Joel Quenneville. Can they get the new players to fill in where it's needed? Almost no team wins it all with just their stars performing. The word "role" is used more in hockey than maybe any other sport. New players for new roles.
Who will play vanilla enough to get the job done but may not get the recognition? Rookies and newcomers want to make their mark. Who will be the new Andrew Ladd? If that question can be answered come spring, then the Hawks will have a better than good chance of repeating.

Dustin Byfuglien didn't like playing in front of the net -- but he did. Kris Versteeg wasn't your classic third-line player -- but he thrived in the role. Dave Bolland would most assuredly like to be more of an offensive threat, but he had one of the great defensive runs a center could have in the playoffs. He chose to embrace the role. And that's what many players did in the postseason. They chose a role for the team over their own wants or needs. It's the job of Toews and the other leaders to convince the new guys the same is needed for a long postseason run. Team defense is the answer to the question you've been asking. What would stop the Hawks from going far? Remember, that's team defense -- not just the six defensemen who suit up every night.

On the ice, Quenneville is electing to start the season by spreading the wealth. Let's see if Tomas Kopecky can handle the first line with Toews and Hossa. Same goes for newcomer Fernando Pisani with Sharp and Kane. A third line featuring Bryan Bickell, Bolland and Troy Brouwer might be deceptively productive on offense, but that bulk and defensive ability should work as a checking line. Viktor Stalberg and Jack Skille can work their way up from the fourth line. Smart money says when it's all said and done, first-liners might be fourth-liners and vice versa. But that's a good thing.

Former general manager Dale Tallon made some mistakes out of the lockout but quickly moved to fix them by putting together a team of three -- some might argue four -- lines that were somewhat interchangeable. Stan Bowman was in the organization during that time, and Quenneville has seemingly bought into that concept as well. He can always load up on the top two lines -- I still think Brouwer could have a monster year if teamed up with the right players -- but why not give other coaches a match-up nightmare? It worked all of last year, especially in the playoffs, where coaches like Alain Vigneault of Vancouver and even Peter Laviolette of Philadelphia were caught between a rock and a hard place when it came to those matchups.

The Hawks face immediate adversity with the injury to Brian Campbell, but actually it's a good test. It's not going to be smooth the whole way, it never is. Plus, he'll be back rather quick, but can he be the same player wearing a knee brace? Campbell not moving the puck the way he can is like Kane forgetting how to stickhandle.

Under the headline of "The Rich Getting Richer," the Hawks have two teenagers poised to be part of the core soon, if not now, at least in Nick Leddy's case. Sometimes you know special when you see it. And both Leddy and Jeremy Morin showed it pretty quick in camp. No one says they are Kane and Keith, but they sure remind you of those stars with their talent and instincts.

And then there is Hossa. A freak of nature is what he is. If you haven't seen him this preseason you missed something special. He is simply one of the best players in the league. On his worst nights, he's better than most. And smarter. When Toews and Hossa take to the ice as penalty killing partners, it slows down an opposing team's power play in an instant. There is no better PK duo.

In goal could be the galvanizing figure of the team, if the season breaks right for him. His story of coming to the Hawks has been told many times, but you get the feeling Marty Turco really wanted to be here. Remember, last season many veteran goalies got off to slow starts. It's hard to know where Turco's game is right now coming off two down years in Dallas and a preseason that didn't tell you much. Give him time and judge him on the postseason. That's been his Achilles heel anyway. More than any other position or player, the pressure will mount on him quickly if things don't go well. How will he react? The last veteran in goal for the Hawks didn't exactly rise to the occasion through tough times. Hopefully Turco will.

That brings us full circle to Kane and Toews. Their status was enhanced in the Finals last year. One won the Conn Smythe, the other scored the game-winner in overtime. Could it have happened any other way? The scary part is they are both still getting better. I'd be surprised if Toews wasn't a near-point-per-game player and Kane didn't get close, or go over 100 himself. The offseason losses might actually help their statistics due to an increase in possible playing time. And how long will it be before they are re-united on the same line? For now, it will happen on the power play only, or when Quenneville gets antsy near the end of close games.

In the end it's that leadership -- including Quenneville -- that makes the difference in the Western Conference. It's an often repeated cliché about teams or players, but it fits for the West: prove it to me.

Vancouver has had its extreme makeover, now let's see if that new leadership takes hold. San Jose has been the other underachiever in the spring and the Sharks need to prove it as well. Fine, take the clutch Antti Niemi and send Evgeni Nabakov packing, but if Joe Thornton is still smiling his big smile after losses in May, the Sharks still have problems. I want to know Thornton hates to lose the way Toews does. The L.A. Kings are scary and resemble the Hawks in a way, and they are the team to watch.

That brings us to Detroit. Everyone's favorite "turnaround" team. Who could blame them for liking the Wings? There is a lot to like. Mike Babcock knows how to coach. Good health and a tweak here and there might be all they need. Leadership is in place as well. I'll still take the youth of the Hawks, though, and there was no doubt Niemi came up bigger than Jimmy Howard, but will Turco? That might be the deciding factor in the division.

Bryan Bickell, Jake Dowell, Skille and Stalberg might not be household names, but if the Hawks have a chance on the forecheck and the backcheck, these guys have to get it done. Some will simply have to play "vanilla."

In the final analysis, the Hawks will need the entirety of the regular season to figure themselves out, which means they may not win the conference. But does that really matter when you have the experience and you already set all kinds of lofty records for winning on the road in the playoffs? The Hawks know the road map come spring, which puts them back in the finals.

Prediction: The same as last year in this blog. The Hawks lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the finals. But no one says they can't prove me wrong again and win one more series.

I wouldn't bet against those leaders.

Other Predictions:
Record and Points: 47-28-7, 101 points
Points: Kane, 101
Goals: Hossa, 36
Assists: Kane, 72
Fights: Scott, 8
Team MVP: Toews

Boynton remorseful for throat slash gesture

September, 27, 2010
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Boynton apologized for a throat-slashing gesture he made toward Tampa Bay Lightning center Blair Jones that cost him a one-game suspension.

Read the entire story.



Patrick Kane
64 27 37 10
GoalsP. Kane 27
AssistsP. Kane 37
+/-J. Toews 23
GAAC. Crawford 2.29