Saturday, December 14, 2013
Hawks making rare visit to Toronto
By Mark Polishuk Special to ESPNChicago.com
TORONTO -- The rivalry between the Blackhawks and Maple Leafs has endured since Chicago entered the league in 1926, stretching through the Original Six era to the old Norris Division. This history always adds a bit of extra weight whenever the two teams meet, though it can be argued that this storied rivalry is currently at one of its lower ebbs.
Due to scheduling quirks and last season's lockout, tonight's game at the Air Canada Centre marks the Blackhawks' first visit to Toronto since March 5, 2011. That's a far cry from the days when the Hawks would make at least five regular-season trips to Toronto, plus maybe a few more in the playoffs.
Andrew Shaw has had this date circled on the calendar for months. The Blackhawks center hails from nearby Belleville, Ontario, and will be playing in Toronto for the first time in his NHL career. Shaw said he is keeping his concentration on the ice rather than the extra attention he'll be receiving from the stands.
"The entire family's here, friends, there's a lot of people here watching," Shaw said. "You've just got to focus on the game and hope that we come out with two points."
The game is also a bit of a homecoming for Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who is from Windsor, Ontario, and was originally drafted by the Maple Leafs in 1978. Quenneville played two seasons with the Leafs and said he spoke with ex-teammate (and Hockey Hall of Famer) Darryl Sittler earlier Saturday.
"We had a special team in those couple of years," Quenneville said. "I was fortunate to play with some great people and great players, as well. It's always great to come to Toronto, coming to Canada, you've got everybody excited to be here, especially guys from the area."
Under the NHL's new scheduling format, the Hawks will face the Leafs twice (once at home, once on the road) per season. Chicago won the season's first meeting between the two clubs, 3-1, at the United Center on October 19.
Ring ceremony: The Blackhawks received their Stanley Cup rings in a ceremony Saturday afternoon at the Hockey Hall of Fame. The rings were distributed to the eligible players, coaches and team officials, and one ring will be donated to the Hall to be put on display.
Eastern dominance: The Blackhawks are unbeaten in regulation against Eastern Conference teams this season. Chicago enters Saturday's game with a 9-0-2 mark against the East, a record marred only by shootout and overtime defeats to the Lightning.
Kane close to Crosby:Sidney Crosby notched an assist in the Penguins' 3-2 win over the Devils Friday night, extending his lead in the NHL scoring race to two points over Patrick Kane. Crosby has 44 points in 33 games, while Kane has 42 in 34 games. Kane is bidding to become Chicago's first Art Ross Trophy winner since Stan Mikita in 1967-68, the last of seven scoring titles won between Mikita and Bobby Hull over a nine-year span.