Chicago Blackhawks: Michael Kostka

Quenneville, Hawks reflect on first half

December, 28, 2013
By Dave Luecking
Special to
ST. LOUIS -- The game versus the St. Louis Blues on Saturday represents the end of the first half of the season for the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks -- game No. 41 of 82.

As such, coach Joel Quenneville was asked before the game at Scottrade Center to assess the first half.

"It's amazing how fast it’s gone by," Quenneville said. "We like the way we’ve played. Our start, we’ve very happy and pleased with the way we’ve played. … Right now, I think we’re playing our best hockey of late, so I think if we can finish the first half the way we’ve started the first half, we’d be happy."

The Blackhawks, who have a five-game unbeaten streak at 4-0-1, entered the day first overall with a record of 27-7-6 for 60 points and led the NHL with 152 goals, 24 ahead of the second-place Blues. Forward Patrick Kane is second in the league with 50 points, on 22 goals and 28 assists, and the Hawks have four other players in the top 23 in scoring: Patrick Sharp (ninth, 40 points); Jonathan Toews (tied for 12th, 38); Duncan Keith (tied for 17th, 36); Marian Hossa (tied for 23rd, 33).

But the Blackhawks need to clean up a couple of things.

"We can work on our goals against and our penalty killing; those are two areas that we’d like to improve," Quenneville said.

Chicago is in a three-way tie for 18th with 109 goals against and 28th with a penalty-killing success rate of 76 percent, ahead of only the Florida Panthers and New York Islanders.

"We’ve seen some improvement over this last stretch; that’s why we like the way we’ve been playing." he said.

Quenneville expects the second half to be a dogfight, just like the first. Currently, the top seven teams are within seven points of each other.

"Playing the right way is important for us, as long as we’re consistent with how we play each and every night,” he said. “If we play the right way, we should improve. That’s what we’re looking for in the second."

• Goalie Corey Crawford, who has missed eight games with a dreaded lower-body injury, accompanied the Blackhawks to St. Louis, but it wasn’t to play: just to be with the boys.

"He’ll have a couple of days here, and I don’t foresee him versus [the Los Angeles Kings], either [Monday at United Center] playing in that game," Quenneville said. "We expect him hopefully to be ready on that trip to the Island and New Jersey [for games Thursday and Friday]. That’s what we’re shooting for."

• Quenneville said he would make one lineup change for the game Saturday but was coy about the change and didn’t name names.

"A defenseman will probably come out," said Quenneville, who actually has only 12 forwards on the roster after two D-men -- Michael Kostka and Sheldon Brookbank -- were scratched Friday.

Blackhawks getting healthy in some areas

December, 11, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are closer to having a healthy roster of skaters again.

Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell, the team’s lone forward or defenseman still injured, could return to practicing with the team as early as Friday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. Bickell has missed the past 11 games with a lower-body injury.

“He’s made good progress,” Quenneville said prior to Wednesday’s game with the Philadelphia Flyers. “He could join practice on that Friday.”

Quenneville hasn’t had a healthy roster of forwards and defensemen to utilize since the Blackhawks added forward Kris Versteeg to the mix on Nov. 14. Injuries have kept Bickell, Michal Handzus, Andrew Shaw, Marian Hossa and Mike Kostka out of the team’s lineup at various points since then.

Kostka was the last player to return from injury, and he came back on Tuesday and contributed a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks’ 6-2 win over the Dallas Stars.

With Kostka back, the Blackhawks again have eight healthy defensemen. Quenneville began the season rotating Kostka, Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival in the final defenseman spot.

“It’s great depth,” Quenneville said. “Game in and game out, the guy that comes in that spot has been very effective for us. Whether you call it the third pairing or whatever it is, we’re getting consistency across the board. Our defense has been a big part of our team and our success. That just doesn’t change much who takes that spot. We look for that guy to come in and make a difference.”

Bickell’s return could bolster the league’s best offense, which is averaging 3.58 goals per game. Bickell got off to a slow start with five goals and one assist in 22 games this season, but he is expected to turn it on at some point this season and resemble the player he was in the playoffs last season. He had nine goals and eight assists in 23 playoff games last season and was given a four-year, $16 million contract in the offseason.

The one area where the Blackhawks are still dealing with injuries is at goaltender. Nikolai Khabibulin hasn’t played since Nov. 16 due to a lower-body injury, and there is no timetable for him to return. The Blackhawks also expect to be without goaltender Corey Crawford for about three weeks after he suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday. Kent Simpson serves as Antti Raanta’s backup.

Blackhawks recall, activate Kostka

December, 8, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
The Chicago Blackhawks recalled defenseman Michael Kostka from a conditioning assignment with the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL and activated him off the Injured Reserve on Sunday.

Kostka last played for the Blackhawks on Oct. 19 and has been out with a lower-body injury. He has one goal in two games for the Blackhawks this season. He had one assist in two games with the IceHogs during his conditioning assignment.

Pirri to Rockford; Morin, Nordstrom recalled

December, 4, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
The Chicago Blackhawks re-assigned forward Brandon Pirri to the Rockford IceHogs, recalled forwards Jeremy Morin and Joakim Nordstrom and sent defenseman Michael Kostka to Rockford on a conditioning assignment on Wednesday.

Pirri, with the Blackhawks since being recalled on Oct. 11, played in 24 games and had six goals and five assists. He fell out of favor with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville in the past week and hasn't played more than 10:58 of ice time over the team's past four games. He hasn't recorded a point in eight games.

Morin, who has been recalled by the Blackhawks three times this season, has three assists in nine games. He has six goals and six assists in 13 games for the IceHogs this season.

Nordstrom began the season with the Blackhawks and was re-assigned to the IceHogs on Oct. 20. He has one goal in eight games with the Blackhawks and five goals and one assist in 15 games with the IceHogs.

Kostka, who has one goal in two games this season, has missed the Blackhawks' past 21 games due to a lower-body injury. He is eligible to remain with the IceHogs for six days or three games during his conditioning assignment.

The Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions, are 20-5-4 this season and lead the NHL with 44 points.

Antti Raanta ready for first NHL start

November, 27, 2013
By Ryan Dittrick
Special to
Antti RaantaDoug Pensinger/Getty ImagesAntti Raanta is set to make his first NHL start in goal for the Hawks on Wednesday against Calgary.

CALGARY, Alberta -- Finnish rookie Antti Raanta could hardly sleep last night, and understandably so.

“I got a little,” he laughed. “There’s a lot going on in my head right now, but I’ll get in a good game-day nap and settle into my normal routine.

“This is a big day for me.”

The 24-year-old will make his first NHL start Wednesday as the Chicago Blackhawks’ seven-game, 15-day road trip continues with a date against the sputtering Calgary Flames.

“I'm sure he's thrilled,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “This is a great opportunity for him. He works hard every day, he has some life when he's not playing and is ready to go in at any moment.”

If Raanta is at all nervous for his first NHL start, he’s certainly hiding it well. Bouncing off the walls with a mile-wide grin, casually stopping even the most difficult of shots at the morning skate, he’s carrying the vibe of seasoned pro.

He did, after all, just make his NHL debut not too long ago, stopping 14 of 16 shots in relief of Corey Crawford last week against the Colorado Avalanche.

(Read full post)

Handzus' return 'going to take time'

November, 13, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO – The timetable for Chicago Blackhawks forward Michal Handzus' return from injury has been extended to at least a few more weeks, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Wednesday.

Handzus has been out of the Blackhawks lineup since Oct. 24 due to an upper-body injury. Quenneville said on Friday that Handzus had been skating hard by himself and was “still a bit away” from practicing with the team, but Quenneville said on Wednesday that Handzus hadn’t been able to skate for the last two days.

“It’s going to take time,” Quenneville said of Handzus' return.

(Read full post)

Hawks recall Morin, Mills; Kostka on IR

October, 25, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
The Chicago Blackhawks recalled forwards Jeremy Morin and Brad Mills from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Friday.

The Blackhawks also announced Mills had signed a one-year deal. He was previously under contract with the IceHogs.

The 22-year-old Morin was among the Blackhawks' final training camp roster cuts this season. He had a team-high 34 shots on goal and was tied for a team-best four goals in eight games with the IceHogs this season. He has played in 15 career NHL games.

The 30-year-old Mills had two goals and two assists with the IceHogs this season. He's played in 31 career NHL games and last appeared in the NHL with the New Jersey Devils during the 2011-12 season.

The Blackhawks also placed defenseman Mike Kostka on injured reserve retroactive to Oct. 22. The Blackhawks announced Wednesday that Kostka would miss 4-6 weeks with a lower-body injury.

The Blackhawks currently have 23 active roster players, including 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders.

Hawks' Kostka to miss 4-6 weeks

October, 23, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michael Kostka will miss four to six weeks due to an undisclosed lower-body injury, the team announced on Wednesday.

Kostka's injury occurred during practice on Tuesday. He will not require surgery.

Kostka had one goal and a plus-1 rating in two games this season. He had been a healthy scratch for six of the Blackhawks' first eight games. He scored his first career NHL goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Kostka signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in July and earned a roster spot during training camp. He played in the Maple Leafs organization last season.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has seven other defensemen on the roster. He had been rotating Kostka, Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival as the team's sixth defensemen throughout this season.

Rapid Reaction: Hawks 3, Maple Leafs 1

October, 19, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers

CHICAGO – Here’s a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the United Center on Saturday.

How it happened: The Blackhawks scored in just one period, but that was all they needed. They put away three pucks in the second, when they piled up 20 shots on goal. Forward Bryan Bickell opened the scoring with a goal at 5:32 of the period -- his first of the season. Blackhawks defenseman Mike Kostka notched the team’s second goal, which was the first of his NHL career. Finally, Brandon Pirri put the Blackhawks ahead 3-1 with a power-play goal.

Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford made 19 saves. The Blackhawks were 4-for-5 on the penalty kill and 1-for-3 on the power play. They have scored power-play goals in five games this season. Nazem Kadri scored the Maple Leafs’ goal.

What it means: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville rearranged his lines heading into Saturday’s game, and the Blackhawks found some success with the new order. They hadn’t scored more than two goals in regulation since Oct. 11. Yet, they likely won’t still be pleased with the production. The Blackhawks had 40 shots on goal and only the three goals to show for it. They also failed to score in the third period for the seventh consecutive game. The Blackhawks improved to 5-1-2, and the Maple Leafs fell to 6-3-0 on the season. Maple Leafs forward Dave Bolland faced his former team for the first time since being traded to Toronto in July. He was drafted by the Blackhawks and helped them win two Stanley Cups. He was recognized with a video in the first period and received a standing ovation.

Stat of the game: Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger played a team-high 4:47 on the penalty kill.

Player of the game: Pirri continued to prove himself worthy of his recent NHL call-up. He had the primary assist on Kostka’s goal and delivered with his own goal. He has scored in each of the past two games.

What’s next: The Blackhawks hit the road for two consecutive games. They play the Florida Panthers on Tuesday and the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday.

Hawks notes: Kostka, Smith set for debuts

October, 5, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Michael Kostka and Ben Smith both arrived to training camp hoping for a chance to play with the Chicago Blackhawks this season.

Both players got through the hard part of earning two of the vacant roster spots out of training camp. But then they were asked to be patient for their playing opportunities. Both were healthy scratches in the season opener.

On Saturday, their wait will come to end. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville confirmed both will make their regular-season debuts against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night.

“I’m excited, definitely excited,” Kostka said Saturday morning. “Coming into camp, there were a lot of question marks. Like I said, there were no guarantees coming in. Being able to stick out of camp, I was excited for that. Now, the next step is getting games, given there are eight defensemen here.”

Smith looked at playing Saturday as a chance to earn future ice time.

“I get a game and hopefully take advantage of the opportunity and show what I can do,” Smith said. “You certainly don’t want to rotate. You want to play every game. That’s the goal. The hope is to show what you can do when you get those opportunities and make those decisions tough for whoever has to make them.”

(Read full post)

Kostka finds unlikely home with Hawks

September, 30, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Mike Kostka wasn’t so sure when his agent offered the Chicago Blackhawks as a possible destination for the free-agent defenseman in the summer.

“Initially, I was thinking no way,” Kostka said. “It just doesn’t seem to add up.”

What Kostka didn’t get was where he fit in the Blackhawks’ equation. The Blackhawks were already returning all seven of their defensemen from last season’s Stanley Cup championship team, and they also had a couple prospects on the verge of the NHL.

Yet, Kostka signed a one-year deal with the Blackhawks in July because his agent, Justin Duberman, and Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman convinced him that he had a legitimate shot of making the team.

Duberman and Bowman can now tell Kostka, “We told you so.” Kostka beat out defenseman Ryan Stanton for the Blackhawks’ eighth and final defenseman roster spot over the weekend.

“It means a ton,” Kostka said of making the team. “It was a stressful few weeks, that’s for sure, with my goal coming here and stick out of camp and give myself an opportunity to play for this team. They were coming off a pretty good year last year, so coming into it I was hoping to put my best foot forward, and I feel like I did.

“Chicago was the one team I felt I was going to get my best opportunity despite how deep they already were. I was kind of chuckling to myself after I signed. Of all of the places, I didn’t think this would be one of them. But I was thrilled to get the opportunity and thrilled to move forward.”

Kostka had a few interested teams in the offseason because of his play with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. He played 35 regular-season games and one playoff game with the Maple Leafs.

As much as Kostka appreciated his opportunity with the Maple Leafs, he didn’t feel like his entire skill set was being utilized. He wasn’t given much offensive freedom in Toronto, and that was something he thought he could get more of in Chicago.

“I take pride in playing an all-around game,” Kostka said. “I think the one thing that was really attractive here is it’s a puck-moving team. We got awesome forwards and just basically get them the puck and get into the play. That’s a style of game I Iike to play. I think it’ll mesh with the team.

“It was a bit of an adjustment to how things were in Toronto, a more defensive-minded team. And so, it’s a breath of fresh air coming in. I think I gel a little bit more with this style of play than maybe in a more shutdown role I had in Toronto.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville began mentioning Kostka early in training camp as someone who caught his eye. As the camp progressed, Quenneville became more impressed and eventually decided to choose Kostka over Stanton, which also meant putting Stanton on waivers and losing him to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday.

“Kostka’s one of those defenseman who is useful as far as both sides of the puck,” Quenneville said. “I think he gives us nice offense from the back end. He’s versatile. He can defend well. He’s got quickness. He’s very handy with the puck.

“He just adds more depth to our team. Losing Stanton says something. It’s something we didn’t envision. But at the same time, getting [Kostka] regularly in there at some point you get a better assessment of what he’s capable of. Offensively, he really complements our style of play.”

Just as his agent thought he would.

Six Hawks training camp observations

September, 29, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
Here are six observations from the Chicago Blackhawks' training camp and preseason games:

1. The durability of the Blackhawks’ older players has to be a concern. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has been very cautious with players’ injuries in the preseason. There is no reason to risk anything. Yet, the fact 34-year-old Marian Hossa and 36-year-old Michal Handzus didn’t play in a single preseason game and haven’t been 100 percent healthy in the preseason has to be somewhat alarming. Both players are getting up in age, and both are coming off a season where they suffered severe injuries. With Hossa, there’s a lot at stake for the present, but even more so for the future. Back injuries aren’t anything to mess with, and the Blackhawks are depending on Hossa for years to come. As for Handzus, his injury wouldn’t be as much of an immediate concern if Brandon Saad or Brandon Pirri had worked out at the second-line center. But with Handzus being that option now, the Blackhawks are looking for him to duplicate what he did in the playoffs.

(Read full post)

Hawks trim roster to 24 players

September, 28, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
The Chicago Blackhawks reduced their roster to 24 players on Saturday by assigning goaltender Antti Raanta and forwards Jeremy Morin and Brandon Pirri to the Rockford IceHogs of the AHL.

The Blackhawks are expected to make one more roster cut in the next few days. They currently have 13 forwards, nine defensemen and two goaltenders.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville recently said he planned to keep eight defensemen. The final spot is likely between Michael Kostka and Ryan Stanton.

The Blackhawks open their season against the Washington Capitals on Tuesday.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 2, Red Wings 0

September, 17, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers

CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks' 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings in a preseason game at the United Center on Tuesday.

How it happened: The Blackhawks' defense starred in the team's preseason opener. The Blackhawks limited the Red Wings to five shots in the first period, eight shots in the second period and six shots in the third period. Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford wasn't challenged much, but he still kept the Red Wings off the board and made 19 saves. Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp broke a scoreless tie when he tallied a goal from the right circle at 16:37 of the second period. One minute and nine seconds later, Ben Smith put the Blackhawks ahead 2-0 when he tipped in a shot from Jimmy Hayes. The Red Wings' Teemu Pulkkinen and Mitch Callahan both received game misconducts. Pulkkinen received his for boarding Blackhawks defenseman Michael Kostka in the first period. Kostka suffered an injury on the hit and did not return to the game.

What it means: Some of the Blackhawks battling for a roster spot got on the score sheet in the win. Hayes and Smith hooked up for the second goal, and Jeremy Morin set up Sharp for the first one. Blackhawks forwards Brandon Saad and Teuvo Teravainen are both learning to play center and gained some game experience Tuesday. Saad and Teravainen struggled on the faceoff in the first period, but their numbers improved as the game went on.

Player of the game: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook had an assist, a plus-2 rating and two blocked shots.

What's next: The Blackhawks will play six preseason games before their season opener on Oct. 1. They will host the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.

Defenseman Kostka leaves after taking hit

September, 17, 2013
Powers By Scott Powers
CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Michael Kostka left Tuesday's preseason game in the first period and did not return against the Detroit Red Wings after being illegally checked into the boards by Red Wings forward Teemu Pulkkinen.

Kostka laid face down on the ice for a few minutes and was attended to by the team's training staff. He was eventually able to skate off the ice under his power and went into the locker room.

Pulkkinen was given a game misconduct and a five-minute major boarding penalty at 2:16 of the first period.

After the game, the Blackhawks said Kostka suffered an upper-body injury.

"I thought [the hit] was very dangerous," coach Joel Quenneville said. "[Kostka's] not bad, but he couldn't play. We'll see a little bit better assessment [on Wednesday.]

"I think he's had a real good camp. We like what he brings to our team. He defends real well, real active in the attack, off the point. He wants the puck, make plays, sees plays. I think he's going to be useful."

The Blackhawks signed Kostka to a one-year deal in July. He was previously in the Toronto Maple Leafs' organization and spent time with the Maple Leafs and their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies, last season. He played in 35 regular-season games and one playoff game with the Maple Leafs last season.