Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Sharp

Sharp: Rumors have taken toll, considering legal action

March, 1, 2015
Mar 1
3:44
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Patrick SharpRob Grabowski/USA TODAY SportsPatrick Sharp said he's been bothered by recent false internet rumors about him.


CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said Sunday recent rumors about his personal life were untrue and that they had taken a toll on him and his family and he is considering legal action.

“It’s been tough,” Sharp said after practice on Sunday. “As a hockey player, as a professional, you’re out there, and you’re up for grabs for on-ice play. I’m okay with that. Trade rumors, talk about my play on the ice. I’m fine with that. I can handle that. But when people delve into your personal life and make up rumors and things that are completely false and untrue, it takes a toll on you. And it takes a toll on your family, your friends, and it’s completely unnecessary.

“It’s been tough, but I know I’ve got a strong group of teammates here, we’re going to stick together. It’s almost laughable. I wish I could say it’s comical, but when it’s your name involved, it takes a toll.”

Sharp said he has considered legal action to make people accountable for what they're putting out there about him.

“It’s definitely something I’m pursuing, thinking about, talking to a lawyer,” Sharp said. “I feel like you hear things said about people all the time, it’s like anybody can type something on a computer and get away with it and not be held responsible or accountable. I mentioned earlier, it is laughable, it’s comical, but when it affects your family, when you’ve got two little girls at home, and your parents are calling you, it takes a toll.”

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Agent: Bowman says Sharp will not be traded

February, 28, 2015
Feb 28
4:31
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
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Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp's agent said Saturday he has been assured by Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman that Sharp isn’t on trading block despite rumors.

Rick Curran, who represents Sharp, said he spoke with Bowman on Thursday.

“I ran into Stan at the game in Florida Thursday night, and he assured me once again that he has no intention of trading Patrick Sharp,” Curran wrote in a text on Saturday.

A source told ESPN.com the Washington Capitals expressed interest in Sharp prior to Patrick Kane being injured on Tuesday. Kane suffered a broken clavicle and is expected to miss 12 weeks. Bowman has said since Kane’s injury the Blackhawks could add a forward prior to Monday’s trade deadline.

Sharp has 10 goals and 22 assists in 49 games this season. He has been with the Blackhawks since being acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2005-06 season. His contract runs through the 2016-17 season.

CHICAGO -- The last time the Chicago Blackhawks were without Patrick Kane for an extended period of time, Patrick Sharp stepped up in his absence.

The Blackhawks could use that again.

The Blackhawks are expected to be without Kane for about 6-10 weeks with an upper-body injury, a source confirmed on Wednesday. He was last out of the Blackhawks’ lineup for a significant amount of time when he missed 12 games at the end of the 2013-14 regular season with a knee injury.

[+] EnlargePatrick Sharp
Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty ImagesPatrick Sharp is second in the league in shots on goal in 5-on[-5 situations, but they aren't finding the back of the net.
That the Blackhawks remained afloat when Kane missed that time last season was largely due to Sharp. He scored five goals and tallied five assists during that span.

The Blackhawks would benefit from Sharp's emergence not only because they’ll be without Kane, who is tied for an NHL-best 64 points, but also because Sharp hasn’t been producing a whole lot as of late. Since recording four assists against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 30, Sharp has zero goals and two assists over the last 12 games.

Sharp was hopeful earlier in the week that moving to the second line with Kane and Brad Richards would get him back on track. Sharp admitted he was feeling the weight of his slump, especially with the Blackhawks going through an inconsistent stretch.

“Yeah, I feel like I’ve played with a lot of different guys this year,” Sharp said on Monday. “Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. But I’m not too concerned right now with who I’m playing with when I go out there, what power play I’m on, you name it. I’m just concerned with myself, getting back to playing as well as I can.

“Makes it even more difficult when personally I feel that I could be a lot better of a player, and it kills you when the team loses and you’re a reason for that. You carry that around on your shoulders every day. For me personally, I’m working as hard as I can to get out of it.”

A lot like Marian Hossa was due for a scoring breakout, which came recently, so is Sharp. Sharp is still getting a lot shots on goal -- he’s second in the league with 13.94 shots per 60 minutes in 5-on-5 play -- but not many are finding the inside of the net. He has scored 10 goals on 169 shots for a 5.9 shooting percentage this season. He has a career-average 11.4 shooting percentage.

Sharp’s continued aggressiveness paid off for the Blackhawks in their 3-2 shootout win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. He had a shot blocked during the second period, and teammate Kris Versteeg got to it first and scored from the left circle. Sharp picked up the primary assist, and it was also his 500th career point with the Blackhawks.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville also liked how Sharp played against the Boston Bruins on Sunday.

“Production-wise, I thought he did some things [Sunday] that would enhance a chance of scoring goals, getting more inside, which is something we’re harping on as a team and something we did better [Monday] in practice,” Quenneville said. “It’s the middle drive, hanging around the net. [The Bruins] scored goals like that and that’s how you score. I mean, both of our goals were right around the net. But when you get on the outside, the goalies are too good.”

Sharp finished Tuesday’s game with Richards and Versteeg on the second line and was effective throughout much of the game. Sharp was third on the Blackhawks with a plus-8 Corsi.

Sharp didn’t pretend Tuesday as if replacing Kane was a one-person job, but he believes the Blackhawks have the depth to get by for however long they would be without Kane.

“Just another blow,” Sharp said. “As I said, we’ll know more, I guess, going forward. But you never want to see Kaner miss a shift, let alone the rest of the game. It happens every season whether it’s injuries, losing streaks, you name it. It’s just another obstacle to overcome.

“I don’t think you can replace the things that he does with the puck, without the puck, the attention that he draws, but one of the strengths of the organization is depth. You hear it all the time, when a player goes down, you need to step up and collectively fill those shoes. But you guys know as well as I do what kind of player Kaner is.”

Brandon Saad developing shooter's mentality

February, 7, 2015
Feb 7
5:08
PM CT
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ST. LOUIS -- Patrick Sharp thinks Brandon Saad could benefit if he took his advice more often.

Saad acknowledged Saturday that his recent shot surge for the Chicago Blackhawks had something to do with watching Sharp put shot after shot on net. Sharp joked Saad would learn even more if he paid more attention to him.

“If he says he’s kind of picking that up from me, that’s awesome,” Sharp said after the team’s practice at the Scottrade Center on Saturday. “Hopefully he listens a little bit more to the stuff I got to tell him.”

For now, it’s Sharp’s shot approach that Saad is following. Saad has been more aggressive over the last month, and it’s paid off. He has had 39 shots on net and four goals over the last nine games. Since Jan. 1, he’s had 47 shots and eight goals.

“That’s a guy I obviously look at, too,” Saad said of Sharp. “He shoots the puck a lot. I don’t think it really matters percentage as long as you’re scoring. You want to get pucks on net regardless of it’s going in, it usually creates rebound or chances for other players.

“I think it’s more of a mindset. I’m trying to get the net more and shoot the puck, try to get more quality shots. You have games where you’re getting a lot of shots and they’re not going in, which sometimes frustrates you, but to get the chances is huge. It’s only a matter of time before they go in.”

Saad piled up the shots during a six-game stretch prior to playing the Winnipeg Jets on Friday but didn’t have any results to show for it. He didn’t change anything, and he was rewarded Friday by scoring the game-winning goal in overtime.

While Saad’s mentality has been altered, he also admitted playing with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa makes life easier on him. Sharp has previously spent time as the left wing to Toews and Hossa and understands what they do for a teammate.

“He’s playing with two players who get a lot of pucks back and are able to put whoever is in that spot in a good position to score,” Sharp said. “I think he’s finding himself with the puck in good areas. And to shoot on net is never a bad idea. Even when he has that puck in our end, he’s got that powerful stride and ability to somehow get it to the net. It’s not always going to be the perfect shot or a great release, but if you get it to the net good things can happen.”

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Carcillo: I've moved past Jets incident

February, 6, 2015
Feb 6
1:43
PM CT
By Scott Billeck
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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WINNIPEG -- After being suspended six games for a vicious crosscheck on the arm of Winnipeg Jets forward Mathieu Perreault, Chicago Blackhawks tough guy Daniel Carcillo returns to face the team he committed the sin against.

“I served my time,” Carcillo said as he met with the media Friday morning. “I’ve moved past that.”

Mumbles around the Jets dressing room suggest that no one is out for retribution against the Blackhawks’ fourth-liner. Perreault, who missed two games because of the infraction, said he and his team have moved past the incident.

Carcillo played coy when asked about if he was expecting any sort of revenge from the Jets.

“I’m just thinking about the hockey game,” he said. “They beat us pretty good this year, both on the ice and little in the alley. I think we are all looking forward to tonight and getting our swag back.”

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said that Carcillo will bring an added dimension to the lineup.

“He can play and has some energy," he said. "We haven’t had that over the past couple of games, and we need that to change.”

Asked if there was any concern of retaliation against his club, Quenneville said his squad needs to be smart out on the ice.

Where's the offense? The Blackhawks haven’t scored a goal since last Friday, and they are getting set to face a Jets team that has allowed just three goals off Blackhawk sticks in as many games this season.

Needless to say, it’s an important game for the Blackhawks.

“We’ve been in some different games, I guess,” said Jonathan Toews, who commented that his team played well on its most recent road trip but just couldn’t get the wins. “We need to be a lot better than we were in the last game, and we know if we work and play the right way we are going to get the results.”

Patrick Sharp echoed that his club could really use a victory.

“We need a win in this locker room for a lot of different reasons,” he said. “Throw in the fact that these guys have had our number this year, they are a division opponent and seem to play us well every time we see them ... it makes us want it.”

The Blackhawks will be looking to find their scoring touch again and put some pressure on both the Nashville Predators and the St. Louis Blues, who are eight points up in the Central Division standings, and the Jets are looking to snap a five-game winless drought.

“For us to score goals we need to get to the front of the net,” Quenneville said.

Winnipeg rookie netminder Michael Hutchinson has been the Jets’ catalyst for success in each outing against Chicago, steering aside 98 of 101 shots by the Blackhawks, including a shutout performance back in early November. He'll get the start in goal again tonight, and Corey Crawford will start for the Hawks.

Notes: Brad Richards missed this morning’s pregame skate, but Quenneville said he would be good to go for puck drop … Kris Versteeg practiced and saw time centering the second line in the pregame skate. Quenneville said he he won’t play Friday or Monday but could return as early as Wednesday night.

Hawks thoughts: Sharp at his best

January, 31, 2015
Jan 31
11:45
AM CT
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Here are some thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks following their 4-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday:

1. Patrick Sharp may have had his best game of the season. He did the little and big things. On the first two goals, he made smart, easy passes to teammates who had some open ice in front of them. On the third goal, he created space for Patrick Kane by skating into the offensive zone with the puck, leaving it behind him for Kane and picking off Ducks’ defenders. On the fourth goal, Sharp didn’t allow the Ducks to get the puck out of their zone, got possession and delivered a perfect pass to Kane at the net. Sharp recorded a career-high four assists for the third time. He also had a game-high plus-19 Corsi. It was his best Corsi differential in a regular-season game since also being plus-19 on Feb. 11, 2012. He has one goal and eight assists in the last five games.

2. Two of the Blackhawks’ better games this season have come against the Ducks. The Blackhawks were in complete control of their 4-1 win in Anaheim on Nov. 28 and again Friday. The Blackhawks’ top two lines especially created chances all night. The third line was good. The fourth line lost the possession battle, but kept the line of Patrick Maroon, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry off the scoreboard. Corey Crawford saw only 22 shots, but he had to make some big saves and was sharp all night. The penalty kill was solid until taking consecutive penalties in the third period. The power play was a mess, but that didn’t factor into the game.

3. Kane just keeps on tallying points. There’s really no reason why he can’t make a run at the league's points title at this point. He’s second now with 56 points in 49 games and is just behind the Philadelphia Flyers’ Jakub Voracek, who has 58 points in 50 games. Unless someone goes on a tear, Kane could be right there until the end. He's been making up ground lately. He has nine points in the last five games and has 16 points for the month. He had all of seven points in January last season. He is playing well, but also getting help from his linemates. He and Sharp are clicking. Kane has good chemistry with Brad Richards, and Kane saw some even-strength time with Toews on Friday.

4. The Blackhawks received consistent play from all three defenseman pairings in the win. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville went again with pairings of Johnny Oduya - Michal Rozsival, Niklas Hjalmarsson - Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith - David Rundblad, but nearly everyone spent time together during the course of the game. The Blackhawks didn’t allow an even-strength goal, and none of the defensemen had a negative Corsi. Rundblad played 10:30, which was the least amount of ice time among the defensemen, but he attempted six shots, two on net, and was a plus-9 Corsi.

5. The Blackhawks finish up their West Coast trip against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday which leads into an important Central Division stretch. The Blackhawks face the Minnesota Wild, Winnipeg Jets and St. Louis Blues in consecutive games. Minnesota is fighting to keep its season alive and has won its last two games. The Jets are four points behind the Blackhawks. The Blues are on a four-game winning streak and are two points ahead of the Blackhawks.

6. Brandon Saad didn’t score against the Ducks, but his aggressiveness and confidence should be noted again. He had seven shots on goal against the Ducks and has 27 shots on goal over the last five games. Considering he had a total of 28 shots on goal for the entire month of December, Saad is doing something different.

Third period unkind to Blackhawks

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30
4:17
PM CT
Arritt By Dan Arritt
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The third period hasn’t been kind to the Chicago Blackhawks this month. It all began on New Year’s Day, when the Washington Capitals scored with 13 seconds left to steal a 3-2 victory in front of 42,000 fans at the Winter Classic outdoor game.

Chicago missed another opportunity to generate some much-needed points Wednesday night, this time against a Western Conference foe, the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, giving up two goals in the final seven minutes and losing 4-3.

The Blackhawks have been outscored 11-6 overall in the 11 third periods they’ve played in January, getting blanked six times.

“It’s kind of frustrating on our part,” said Blackhawks left winger Patrick Sharp.

Sharp said third-period offense will be one of Chicago's primary objectives heading into Friday night’s game against the West-leading Anaheim Ducks, particularly if it’s a close game.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said he doesn’t believe a pattern has developed as far as third-period breakdowns, and the Blackhawks remain a traditionally a strong team at closing out wins or finding a way to push the game into overtime, but attitude remains the primary factor.

“As a team, we want to be in that position when we’re playing the last five or 10 minutes of a tight game,” he said.

The Blackhawks are keenly aware the Ducks played a bad game Thursday night at the San Jose Sharks, giving up five goals in the second period and ultimately losing 6-3 to snap a six-game winning streak. Any fatigue that could be present from playing the second of back-to-back contests will likely be overcome by the desire to play a better game, as well the arrival of the Blackhawks, who sit eight points behind in the West standings.

“They’re a tough team to play against, especially in this building,” Sharp said. “I know it’s back-to-back for them, but I’m sure they’re going to play their best game tonight, considering what happened last night, and we’re excited about that also.”

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Blackhawks-Kings is a growing rivalry

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
2:09
PM CT
Arritt By Dan Arritt
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Too soon to call it a rivalry?

If so, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have created something just as intense and equally anticipated in the last two years.

They’ll strap it on again Wednesday night at Staples Center in a matchup of the last two Western Conference semifinalists and four of the last five Stanley Cup champions.

“The games are always intense,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’re always close, and they’re fun to be a part of.”

Prior to the 2012-2013 season, the Kings and Blackhawks had met just once in the postseason, in 1974, when teams like the California Golden Seals and Kansas City Scouts were a part of the NHL.

Then came June 1, 2013, when Chicago and Los Angeles met in Game 1 of their Western Conference final, a game won by the Blackhawks and a series they clinched in five. Chicago would then go on to win its second Stanley Cup title in three years.

Fast forward exactly one year, on June 1, 2014, and it was the Kings celebrating a dramatic overtime victory over the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the West final, propelling them to the Stanley Cup Championships and their second title in three years.

Yes, the Blackhawks and Kings have gotten to know each other quite well in the last two years, but the relationship has grown less adversarial and more deferential.

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of hatred,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “There’s a lot of respect on both sides. I think both teams respect what each other has accomplished. Once you’ve been through the grind a few times, you really appreciate what a team can do to win two championships in recent times.”

The Blackhawks will face a Los Angeles team that’s going through another tough January. The Kings are 2-3-4 this month and earlier in the week took the drastic step of placing center Mike Richards, the team’s third-highest paid player, on waivers. Richards has since cleared and is expected to report to the team’s AHL affiliate on Wednesday.

The Kings went 5-8-2 in January last season before regrouping to win the Cup, and they won just five of 11 games in the same month three years ago but took their No. 8 seed all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, where they knocked off the New Jersey Devils.

The Blackhawks won’t be fooled by where the Kings sit in the standings this time around either.

“We know they’re going to be hungry,” Quenneville said.

Blackhawks' top 10 goals of 2014

December, 31, 2014
12/31/14
12:09
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
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Jonathan Toews, Marc-Andre FleuryNoah Graham/NHLI/Getty ImagesJonathan Toews had a big game in the Blackhawks' win over the Penguins at Soldier Field on March 1.


Here are the top 10 goals the Chicago Blackhawks scored in 2014, judged by skill level:

10. Bryan Bickell, vs. San Jose Sharks, 15:18 in third period, Nov. 9: Bickell used his body the whole time to create this goal. He took the puck from behind the net on the right side and utilized his body to keep a defenseman from it. He skated to the lower left circle, still shielding an opponent, and quick spun to his left and placed the puck over the right shoulder of Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi.

9. Patrick Kane, vs. St. Louis Blues, 5:19 of third period, Dec. 3: Versteeg gets credit for a quality pass as well here. He lifted the puck into the air from the defensive zone and connected with Kane in the neutral zone. Kane quickly dragged the puck away from defenseman Barret Jackman and took off. Kane used his body to block Jackman from the puck as he got past him to his right. Kane pushed the puck back to his left as he approached the net and then slid it into the right corner as the goaltender was moving left.

8. Kris Versteeg, vs. Toronto Maple Leafs, 19:59 of first period, Dec. 21: Versteeg had the buzzer-beater of the season. A pass from Patrick Kane was just to Versteeg’s left, and Versteeg used his left skate to kick the puck to the right. He quickly got the puck onto his stick and moved it back to avoid one defenseman. He continued to his right in the slot and shot the puck into the top right corner of the net with 0.4 seconds remaining.

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Year in review: Best and worst of 2014

December, 30, 2014
12/30/14
2:11
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Patrick Kane, Jonathan ToewsAP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastThe Hawks made sure their future will remain bright by re-signing Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.
The Chicago Blackhawks were going to have a difficult time matching 2013 no matter what they accomplished in 2014. The Blackhawks did come close to defending the Stanley Cup in 2014, but fell short of their goal. Recapturing the Cup is where the bar is set now, and anything less is a disappointment for the franchise and its fan base. The Blackhawks can be hopeful their success in the last few months of 2014 leads to another celebratory year in 2015.

BEST MOMENTS


5. Making their countries, Hawks proud: The Blackhawks were well-represented in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Ten Blackhawks were picked to play in Sochi: Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp helped Canada won gold again, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Johnny Oduya won silver medals with Sweden, and Michal Handzus (Slovakia), Marian Hossa (Slovakia), Michal Rozsival (Czech Republic) and Patrick Kane (U.S.) also participated in the Olympics.

[+] EnlargePatrick Kane
AP Photo/Chris CarlsonPatrick Kane added to his playoff legacy with a tie-breaking goal in Game 6 of the Western finals.
4. Outdoor fun: The Blackhawks hosted their second outdoor game, and this one went better than their loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Wrigley Field. Despite having to play through wind and snow, the Blackhawks skated around the Pittsburgh Penguins for a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field on March 1. Jonathan Toews stole the show with two goals and an assist. Kris Versteeg became the first player to score at Wrigley Field and Solider Field.

3. Kane delivers again: Patrick Kane has had his share of special playoff goals. He added to them in 2014. One of his biggest of the year came in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals against the Los Angeles Kings when he broke a 3-3 tie with a goal with 3:45 remaining in the third period. The Blackhawks won 4-3 and forced a Game 7. Altogether, he had four game-winning goals and 20 points in the playoffs last season.

2. Survive and advance: The Blackhawks were on the ropes after losing the first two games of the opening round of the playoffs to the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks needed someone to step up in Game 3, and Corey Crawford answered the call. Crawford denied all 34 shots he faced and the Blackhawks pulled out a 2-0 win. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock thought Game 3 was his team’s best game. Kane scored an overtime game-winner in Game 4. Toews scored an overtime game-winner in Game 5. The Blackhawks went on to win the series 4-2. The Blackhawks also took the Western Conference semifinals 4-2 over the Minnesota Wild.

1. Re-signing Kane and Toews: The Blackhawks may not have won the Stanley Cup in 2014, but they increased their chances of winning future Cups by re-signing Kane and Toews to identical eight-year, $84-million contracts. The contracts were Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman’s priority the last few years, and the deal was completed on July 9. Their extensions go into effect next season and they will be signed through the 2022-23 season.

WORST MOMENTS


5. Wakey, wakey: Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook was suspended three games after his elbow connected with Blues forward David Backes' head in Game 2 of their first-round series. Backes appeared dazed and was slow to get up after the hit, and a microphone caught someone say “Wakey, wakey” to him. None of the Blackhawks admitted to it. Backes missed two games with an upper-body injury.

[+] EnlargeJonathan Toews
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY SportsThe Blackhawks' Stanley Cup defense came to an end against the Kings thanks to Alec Martinez's game-winner in Game 7.
4. Second-half slump: The Blackhawks weren’t exactly cruising into the playoffs last season. They went 18-14-8 from Jan. 1 to the end of the regular season. They had three losing streaks of three games or more and just one winning streak of more than two games during that span. They finished in third place in the Central Division and had to start the playoffs on the road.

3. Quenneville fined: Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville was fined $25,000 for inappropriate conduct when he grabbed his groin area and yelled at the officials during Game 1 against the Blues. Quenneville apologized and described it as a stupid move. Fans had fun with the GIF of his action for some time.

2. Kane and Toews’ injuries: The Blackhawks finished the regular season without their top two players due to injuries last season. Kane missed the final 12 regular-season games after suffering a lower-body injury against the Blues on March 19. Toews endured an upper-body injury when he was hit into the boards against the Penguins on March 30. He sat out the final six regular-season games. The Blackhawks were also highly criticized for not retaliating against Brooks Orpik and the Penguins for the hit on Toews. The Blackhawks had been without Kane and Toews at the same time in just one game prior to last season.

1. Kings eliminate Blackhawks: The Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup defense and chance at back-to-back championships ended when the Los Angeles Kings' Alec Martinez scored a game-winning overtime goal in Game 7 of the Western Conference finals. The Blackhawks had won six consecutive playoff series before falling to the Kings, who went on to win the Stanley Cup.

Break makes Hawks' trip a tad unorthodox

December, 27, 2014
12/27/14
4:01
PM CT
By Brent W. New
Special to ESPNChicago.com
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DENVER — As soon as the NHL's cozy holiday break ended, the Chicago Blackhawks raced to Denver and scrambled to get to ready for their game against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday.

Since no team was allowed to have contact with their players from Dec. 24-26, per NHL rules, the Hawks flew into the Mile High City on Saturday morning and went directly to the Pepsi Center for a quick practice in preparation for the game’s looming puck-drop (8 p.m. CT).

(How’s that for a start to the second half of the season?)

The oddity of traveling and playing on the same day felt a little like preseason, some of the Hawks’ players said.

“We've all been through it before -- the preseason is like this,” said Patrick Sharp, who had a hat trick exactly one year ago when the Hawks beat the Avalanche 7-2 at the United Center. “It's a little different routine but it's something we've all had to deal with at one point in our career. I remember the game last year. Colorado flew to Chicago, so we're returning the favor. We want to make sure we come out and treat it like another game. These guys are playing really well."

In fact, the Avalanche are starting to play a lot like the team that rallied to win the Central Division last year. They’ve won three in a row and are 4-0-2 since Dec. 11.

The circumstances should favor them as well Saturday.

“We have three nice days off," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said. "We gave ourselves a nice gift before Christmas -- .500 hockey for the first time of the year. Now let's not look behind, let's look ahead and be ready for Chicago. It will be another good test."

The Avs will start goalie Calvin Pickard, who made 42 saves in a 3-2 loss to the Hawks in Denver a little over a month ago.

It’s not quite Hawks-killer Semyon Varlamov, who stifled and beat Chicago in net all three times the teams met in Denver last year. But Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said it might as well be.

“(Pickard has) played very well,” Quenneville said. “He sees a lot of pucks. He’s big, square -- kind of reminded me the way Varlamov played against us last year.”

Corey Crawford will start for the Hawks on Saturday, a few days after he let up three goals and was pulled in the first period of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

By the numbers: Faceoff percentage up for Hawks

December, 25, 2014
12/25/14
3:10
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
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Here’s a look at the Chicago Blackhawks by the numbers:

• The Blackhawks’ best faceoff percentage in the last 10 years was at 52.4 percent during the 2009-10 season. The Blackhawks are currently at 52.9 percent. Jonathan Toews again is a major reason for their success as he has a 57.0 winning percentage (418 of 733), but the Blackhawks are getting consistency throughout their lineup. Andrew Shaw has gone from having a 43.3 percentage last season to a 51.0 percentage (174 of 341) this season. The team’s other main faceoff takers are Marcus Kruger (57.8 percent, 164 of 284), Ben Smith (51 percent, 130 of 258) and Brad Richards (48.5 percent, 163 of 336).

• The Blackhawks have to be pleased with a 23-10-2 record and 48 points at the Christmas break, but they have had better records after 35 games in recent years. The Blackhawks were 23-7-5 with 51 points after 35 games last season and 27-5-3 with 57 points in the 2013 season. They also had 48 points with a 22-9-4 record during the 2011-12 season. The only time they had less than 40 points after 35 games in the last eight seasons came in 2010-11 when they had an 18-14-3 record with 39 points.

• The Central Division continues to be full of tough opponents. The Blackhawks are 7-4-0 in the division so far. The Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues (7-4-0), Winnipeg Jets (6-3-2) and Minnesota Wild (6-1-2) have all accumulated 14 division points so far. The Nashville Predators lead the way with 19 points and a 9-3-1 division record. The Blackhawks were 13-13-2 in the Central last season.

Patrick Kane will be hoping for a better January than usual. It’s the one month that has normally troubled him throughout his career. He has 58 points in 86 career games in January. He has often had quality months leading up to January. He’s had 104 points in 94 games in November and 85 points in 81 games in December. Last season, he had 10 points in November, 16 points in Decembers and five points in January.

• Kane leads the NHL with five game-winning goals. He’s never had more than six game-winning goals in a season. He’s set that mark twice in his career. He is also on pace for 37 goals this season. His career high is 30, which came in the 2009-10 season.

Patrick Sharp leads the Blackhawks with a 59.3 Corsi percentage (minimum 20 games). He had a career-high 59.5 Corsi percentage in the 2009-10 season. Marian Hossa (57.8 percent), Duncan Keith (57.7), Toews (57.7) and Bryan Bickell (56.4) follow Sharp in Corsi percentage in 5-on-5 situations.

• The Blackhawks allowed a power-play goal on Tuesday, but they continue to hold a sizable lead for the league’s top penalty-kill percentage. They are 88-of-97 for a 90.7 percentage. The Detroit Red Wings are second at 87.9 percent.

• One element that has helped the Blackhawks’ penalty kill has been the number of penalties they have taken. The Blackhawks rank second in the NHL at 7.9 penalty minutes a game. They ranked third last season with an 8.5 average per game. Only once this December have they given an opponent more than three power plays in a game. Daniel Carcillo and Shaw share the team lead for 28 penalty minutes. Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson are tied for a team-high 10 minor penalties. Toews had 12 minor penalties in 76 games last season.

• The Blackhawks lead the league with a .929 team save percentage (930 saves on 1,001 shots). The Predators are second at .926. The Blackhawks were 25th with a .905 save percentage last season, second with a .923 save percentage in 2013, 26th with a .901 save percentage in 2011-12, 18th with a .907 save percentage in 2010-11 and tied for 24th with a .901 percentage in 2009-10.

• Hossa ranks seventh in the league with 30 takeaways. He hasn’t finished out of the top 10 in takeaways since the 2010-11 season. Hjalmarsson is tied for second among defensemen with 26 takeaways.

David Rundblad might not have earned Joel Quenneville’s complete trust yet, but his numbers indicate the Blackhawks aren't allowing a lot of goals when he's on the ice. He’s been on the ice for 10 goals for and two goals against in 5-on-5 play this season. His 83.3 goals-for percentage is first on the team (minimum 15 games). Richards (74.2 percent), Kris Versteeg (72.2), Carcillo (66.7) and Keith (63.8) fall behind Rundblad in that category.

Hawks thoughts: Quenneville can't go wrong with Darling or Raanta

December, 15, 2014
12/15/14
11:13
AM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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Here are five thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks after their 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames on Sunday:

1. Plenty of teams around the NHL can only dream of having Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville’s goaltending problem. At some point in the next week, Quenneville will choose between Scott Darling and Antti Raanta to be his backup goaltender. On the one hand, you have Darling who is 5-2-0 with a 1.97 goals-against average and .937 save percentage this season. On the other, you have Raanta is 4-2-0 with a 1.85 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. Neither has played enough games to qualify for the league’s leaders, but Darling and Raanta would both be in the top-5 in goals-against average and save percentage with their current numbers. Since Crawford went down with his injury, Darling and Raanta have combined for a 6-1-0 record and have made 225 saves on 238 shots for a .945 save percentage.

2. Patrick Sharp is finding his groove. You could see he had more of a rhythm against the New York Islanders on Saturday. He attempted nine shots, seven of which were on net, and was a plus-6 Corsi against Islanders. He continued to have that aggressiveness Sunday and attempted seven shots, four on net, was a plus-15 Corsi and scored a goal. The Blackhawks have to like their chances of Sharp scoring when he’s getting four-plus shots on net in a game. Last season, he scored in 22-of-47 games where he had at least four shots on goal. He scored in 5-of-35 games when he had less than four shots.

3. All together, that third line of Bryan Bickell, Andrew Shaw and Sharp has been strong the last two games. They had the Blackhawks’ best possession numbers against the Islanders and the Flames. Shaw is a plus-27 over the last two games. He hasn't had better consecutive games this season.

4. Defenseman Tim Erixon’s debut for the Blackhawks went fine. He nearly made a massive mistake with a cross-ice pass to Michal Rozsival in the offensive zone in the first period. It just missed getting stolen and turned into a breakaway. Other than that, he held his own. He was a plus-7 Corsi with the Blackhawks having 13 shots for and six against with him on the ice in 5-on-5 situations. Considering David Rundblad has had four games out of 13 this season where he’s had a Corsi of plus-5 or better, Klas Dahlbeck was a negative Corsi in all four of his games and Adam Clendening was a plus Corsi once in four games, it’s a good start for Erixon. He also played 14 shifts and 10:43 of ice time, which says Quenneville had some confidence in him in a tight game.

5. I was curious how the Blackhawks’ lines stacked up according to their cap hits. The top line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa totals at $12,339,167, according to capgeek.com. It is followed by the line of Bickell, Shaw and Sharp at $11,900,000, then Kris Versteeg, Brad Richards and Patrick Kane at $10,500,000 and finally Daniel Carcillo, Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith at $3,375,000.

Rapid Reaction: Blackhawks 2, Flames 1

December, 14, 2014
12/14/14
9:51
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Here's a quick look at the Chicago Blackhawks 2-1 win over the Calgary Flames at the United Center on Sunday:

How it happened: Brandon Saad scored the game-winning goal and broke a 1-1 tie off an odd-man rush at 12:57 of the second period. Jiri Hudler put the Flames ahead 1-0 when he scored from the deep slot off a pass from a Johnny Gaudreau at 4:27 of the second period. The Blackhawks answered with a power-play goal from Patrick Sharp later in the period. Blackhawks goaltender Antti Raanta made 23 saves on 24 shots. Flames goaltender Jonas Hiller stopped 26 of 28 shots. The Blackhawks were 1-for-3 on the power play and the Flames were 0-for-3.

What it means: The Blackhawks extended their home winning streak to six games. They improved to 21-9-1 on the season and overtook the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division. The Flames dropped their fifth game in a row. The Blackhawks got contributions for both sides of their special teams. It was the Blackhawks' first power-play goal in five games. They have allowed just two power-play goals in the past 11 games. Chicago also continued its third-period success.

Player of the game: Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews had the primary assist on both goals.

Stat of the game: The Blackhawks won 30 of 49 faceoffs.

What's next: The Blackhawks remain home and play the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. It's their first of five games this season.

Patrick Sharp likely back next week

December, 4, 2014
12/04/14
2:01
PM CT
Powers By Scott Powers
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp likely will return from a lower-body injury next week, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Thursday.

Sharp has been out since suffering an apparent leg injury against the Montreal Canadiens on Nov. 4. He was expected to miss 3-4 weeks. He began practicing with the team again on Tuesday.

“We’re going to count him out for [Friday’s game against the Canadiens],” Quenneville said after practice on Thursday. “Likely, probably next week on the trip.

“We want him to be more than ready. I think whether it’s more contact or he’s comfortable in all areas where he feels that strength underneath him. The pushing and the shoving in the tight areas is what we’re looking at. And we have time, so let’s make sure, like I said, he’s more than ready.”

Sharp has three goals and six assists in 13 games this season. He led the Blackhawks with 34 goals and 78 points last season.

Blackhawks defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson, Duncan Keith and Johnny Oduya did not participate in the team's 20-minute practice on Thursday because they were resting, Quenneville said.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
64 27 37 10
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 27
AssistsP. Kane 37
+/-J. Toews 21
GAAC. Crawford 2.30