Blackhawks-Stars tilt should be interesting

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
7:25
PM CT
Rogers By Jesse Rogers
ESPNChicago.com
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There are plenty of storylines to follow heading into Wednesday night’s Chicago Blackhawks-Dallas Stars game:

How will the Hawks perform without Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa in the lineup? Will Corey Crawford make coach Joel Quenneville look like a genius for starting him instead of former Star, Marty Turco? And just how much talking will Adam Burish do with his former teammates?

[+] EnlargeAdam Burish
Graig Abel/NHLI/Getty ImagesAdam Burish will skate against his former team when he returns to the United Center with the Stars on Wednesday.
The last one is easy -- a lot. Burish brings the same energy to Dallas that he did to the Hawks as the Stars have become one of the surprises of the league at 16-8-2.

Maybe a better question to ask regarding Burish is: do the Hawks miss him, or at least his style of play? There is no way to know for sure, but a case can be made that Hawks rid themselves of too many of the “loud” or “energy” guys and now miss that element of the game.

Quenneville has said it often, “it’s a quieter room this year.” Though the circus trip brought the team closer, it still lacks the special feel of a year ago. Burish was part of that equation and his energy had the ability to affect a game on occasion. Even if it was a minimal effect, can you recall even one contest this year where the Hawks’ fourth line changed the momentum with their forecheck or edgy play?

As for the other storylines, there is little doubt replacing Kane in the lineup will be next to impossible. Jack Skille will skate with Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg, just as he did after Kane left Sunday’s game in the opening minute.

“I’m excited more than anything,” Skille said after practice on Tuesday. “More ice time means more chances and hopefully my offensive production picks up here.”

It needs to, as it does for several other Hawks, including Dave Bolland. Bolland scored on a 5-on-3 power play Sunday as well as converting on an empty-net chance. He probably would not have been on the ice during the power play if not for Kane’s injury.

“His offensive numbers are probably down from where they were a couple years ago,” Quenneville said.

The bottom line is, there is no replacing Kane and the players know it.

“We probably have to tighten up our defense a little more,” Stalberg said. “We have to be prepared to win some low scoring games. At least we did a pretty good job without him there most of last game.”

Call it irony, the Hawks scored a season-high four power-play goals against Calgary on Sunday without Kane on the ice for any of them. Odds are it won’t happen again and if their third-ranked power play takes a tumble over the next three weeks, the only way to combat that is for a 25th-ranked penalty kill to improve. Hossa’s impending return should help in that department.

[+] EnlargeCorey Crawford
Bill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesCorey Crawford has the hot hand, and will start in goal vs. Dallas on Wednesday.
As for the situation in net, right now it looks to be a season-long story line. Is Crawford just on a hot streak or is there a changing of the guard at hand, just as there was a season ago?

Quenneville hinted he would stick with Crawford in net after the game on Sunday when he said he already “went against it” in referring to playing Turco Friday versus Vancouver instead of Crawford, who had won three straight. The Hawks lost 3-0 to the Canucks.

Coaches rarely change the lineup -- certainly not in goal -- when teams and goalies are on a winning streak. Quenneville isn’t going to make the same mistake twice, even if Turco played a decade in Dallas.

So Crawford plays Wednesday while Turco waits to face his old team. It’s probably the right move, but Todd McClellan of the San Jose Sharks was faced with a similar dilemma and he chose to play Antti Niemi against Chicago thinking the team might rise to the occasion for their goaltender. They did. Obviously, Quenneville is not subscribing to the same notion.

It has to be a tough pill to swallow, and Turco is showing great poise and understanding in playing the good teammate role. He noted this isn’t the only time the Blackhawks will face Dallas, and if the game was in Texas, maybe his stance would be different.

It’s hard to have a goalie controversy when one is clearly playing better than the other and/or the team is responding better in front of him. There’s a long way to go before the playoffs and Turco hasn’t shown any signs of mentally breaking down as Cristobal Huet did a season ago. Plus, Turco simply isn’t playing as bad as Huet did -- he’s just not playing as well as Crawford. Much like Huet last season, Turco will be given the chance to be the man come spring, but Crawford could easily take that role.

The only difference is that the Hawks had such a playoff cushion last season that Huet was given a pretty long leash. This time around, they’re in need of wins and can’t be worrying about old scores to settle.

Then again, seeing Burish take on the Hawks will be worth the price of admission alone. There will undoubtedly be hockey and entertainment in store for fans Wednesday night.

Injury update

Quenneville said he expects Fernando Pisani on the ice in the next “couple or three days,” while Hossa should be practicing by the weekend.

Rockford recalls

Jeremy Morin will be recalled for the game on Wednesday, and one other player should come with him to take the place of Kane. Morin was sent down to save salary-cap space as the Hawks have a light week on the schedule.

Jesse Rogers | email

Chicago Cubs beat reporter
Jesse joined ESPN Chicago in September 2009 and covers the Chicago Cubs for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
36 16 20 9
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 16
AssistsP. Kane 20
+/-K. Versteeg 15
GAAC. Crawford 2.00