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Thursday, January 17, 2013
Blackhawks begin to fine-tune power play

By Scott Powers

CHICAGO -- There had been a lot of talk about improving the Chicago Blackhawks' power play over the first three days of practice.

On Wednesday, they began to do something about it.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville devoted a majority of the more than 30 minutes of morning practice to the power play. Quenneville expected to spend even more time on it during the team’s controlled scrimmage on Wednesday evening.

On Wednesday, one five-man power-play line practiced against a four-man penalty-killing line on one end of the ice, and two other lines practiced at the other end. The two groups took turns going live to allow the coaches to watch them individually.

Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith made up one power-play line, while Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Viktor Stalberg, Dave Bolland and Nick Leddy made up the other.

Quenneville said he liked what he saw on both ends Wednesday.

“We like the movement,” Quenneville said. “They got the chance to move it around with one another. We were establishing point shots, and having that net-front presence was noticeable.

“But I think the initial just getting the shot through, creating some uncertainty, the puck retrievals was something that was noticeable. The pace of the practice is something I think the guys felt a sense of urgency that you need on the power play, don’t just assume that. I think that attitude was there. The execution was good, as well.”

The Blackhawks ranked 26th in the NHL with a 15.2 power-play percentage last season. They scored 42 goals on 277 opportunities. Hossa scored a team-high nine power-play goals, and Sharp and Bolland each had seven.

The Blackhawks ranked fourth with a 23.1 power-play percentage during the 2010-2011 season and 16th with a 17.7 percentage during the 2009-2010 season.

Sharp said he wasn’t too focused on last year’s power-play struggles because the Blackhawks have exceeded in that area in the past.

“I really haven’t looked back at the power play, to be honest with you,” Sharp said. “It’s over with. It’s done. I’ve been here for a lot of years; our power play has always been among the league leaders. Last year, obviously, it wasn’t.”

“But that’s an issue I’m sure we’re going to be talking every day with [the media] about and be working internally in the room,” he said. “It’s an important part of the game. We want to make sure we score on it.”

The one change the Blackhawks are making this season is putting Shaw and Stalberg in front of the net. Quenneville hopes their presence can be an annoyance to opposing goaltenders.

“I think both guys are capable of being that disruptor or distractor in front of the net with a quick stick,” Quenneville said. “Not only tip pucks, but make the goalie’s challenge seem to find it.”