The Blackhawks have been working a lot of late nights in recent games, but all of that overtime is paying off.
Out of the team’s six games this month, five have gone past the end of regulation, including Wednesday night's 4-3 win against the first-place Minnesota Wild. However, the team has taken 11 of a possible 12 points, and is becoming more used to playing with the game on the line.
“We’ve definitely grown accustomed to playing in those situations,” Patrick Kane said after Thursday’s practice. “Sometimes practice makes perfect. It seems like every game is going to be like that, whether it’s really close, if it’s overtime or a shootout. I don’t know how many we’ve played this season, but it’s quite a high number. We’re used to it now, and it probably bodes well for tighter games down the stretch.”Click here to read the full post >>
|2011 Blackhawks first-round draft pick Philip Danault (Photo by Getty Images)
Throughout the month of December, the Blackhawks Blog will track the team's prospects as they battle for a chance to make their countries'' IIHF World Junior Championship squads.
Philip Danault (Canada): Danault was left off of Team Canada's World Junior final roster on Wednesday, one of the last cuts from the original 41-man evaluation camp roster. The 18-year-old center tallied twice in Canda's 7-4 win over the CIS All-Stars in their exhibition game on Tuesday night. Danault will return to the QMJHL's Victoriaville Tigres for the remainder of their season, where he has recorded 6 goals and 25 assists in 28 games so far this year.
Mark McNeill (Canada): McNeill was cut from Canada's camp roster on Tuesday after being held scoreless in two intrasquad scrimmages. The 18-year-old center will return to Prince Albert of the WHL. On the season, McNeill has recorded 14 goals and 19 assists in 33 games with the Raiders.
Adam Clendening (U.S.): USA Hockey's WJC Camp will open on Dec. 17 in Camrose, Alta.
Stephen Johns (U.S.): USA Hockey's WJC Camp will open on Dec. 17 in Camrose, Alta.
Brandon Saad (U.S.): USA Hockey's WJC Camp will open on Dec. 17 in Camrose, Alta.
Johan Mattsson (Sweden): Sweden's WJC Camp will open on Dec. 17 in Olds, Alta.
Joakim Nordstrom (Sweden): Sweden's WJC Camp will open on Dec. 17 in Olds, Alta.
Ludvig Rensfeldt (Sweden): Sweden's WJC Camp will open on Dec. 17 in Olds, Alta.
The 29-year-old netminder has gone 6-1-2 in 10 appearances with the Blackhawks this season, while giving up 2.69 goals-against per game. Emery was most recently in net during Sunday's overtime win against San Jose, when he made a season-high 35 saves.
Wednesday's game will pit the top two teams in the Western Conference against one another for the first time all season, as Minnesota leads the Blackhawks by just three points for the top spot in the standings. The game will be can seen on Versus in Chicago, with radio coverage on WGN Radio, starting at 6:30 p.m. CT.
“He just seems to progress in games,” Quenneville told the media at practice. “He’s excited, especially when games are on the line. He’s very solid, he finds pucks and his concentration level is in the right place. He moves well, seems big and looks comfortable and confident in the net.”
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The Blackhawks’ top six featured some changes at practice on Thursday, and could mean a new look to the lineup when the team faces the New York Islanders on home ice tomorrow.
The biggest move saw Patrick Kane – who has been at center since the season began – reunited with Jonathan Toews on the top line at right wing, opposite Viktor Stalberg. Moving Kane off the second line frees up space for Marcus Kruger, who got time between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa at practice.
“Kane at center has been a good option for us,” Blackhawks Head Coach Joel Quenneville said. “Kruger is playing well. We like two of Sharp, Kane, Hossa and Toews playing together. That gives us a different look and something we get to try.”
Though Kane said he was comfortable with the move back to his familiar position, he was quick to add that this may not be the last Blackhawks see of No. 88 in the middle, where he has scored 7 goals, 17 assists and recorded a plus-9 rating in 24 games this year.
"Sometimes you just have to keep things exciting and switch it up,” he said. “I'm familiar with [right wing]. I have to get used to it a little bit but it shouldn’t take long. I'll still try to do some things I did at center where you're trying to get the puck a lot down low, moving up ice. I don't think [playing at center] is totally out of the books; it's something they could go back to if they need it.”
While new linemate Toews was quick to dismiss the importance of the move, he did say that having Kane back on his line will give both of them more opportunities on offense.
“Back to old ways, I guess,” he said. “Kaner’s proven he can play at center, and going back to wing, he’ll be as comfortable as ever. We’ll just go back and make plays – both guys want the puck, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The good thing with Kaner is that sometimes you can shy away from the puck and get away from all of the attention on the ice and sneak back door. He can back opponents off and buy some time. It’s nice to play with a guy like that and I think he’ll fit in with [Stalberg] and me.”
The move also signals a significant promotion for the 21-year-old Kruger, who has just 36 NHL games under his belt, but has caught the coaching staff’s and players’ attention with his impressive play early this season. Playing in between two All-Star caliber players in Sharp and Hossa could give Kruger enough talent around him to prove that he belongs in the top six.
"Marcus gives us an option based on his performance, and we'll see how he handles it with the top guys," said Quenneville. "It's more of an experiment that way as well. Knowing you always have Kane in the middle in your back pocket is a nice option to have."
“We’ll let it play out,” Sharp said. “I don’t think [the line change] is as big of a deal as it seems from the outside. Lines change all the time. The three of us have been together before. We’re excited to try a new line and see how things go.”
News and notes: Corey Crawford will get the start in net against the Islanders… Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland and Steve Montador all sat out of practice Thursday for maintenance, and all are expected to play Friday.
When balloting for the 2012 All-Star Game opens on Monday, a league-high six Blackhawks players will have their name among the 127 nominees, the NHL announced today. Blackhawks Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Marian Hossa and 2011 All-Star Game MVP Patrick Sharp will appear on the league's official ballot. The six Blackhawks are tied for best in the league with Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia and Anaheim.
Of the six Chicago skaters named to the ballot, five - Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith and Hossa - have participated in the NHL's annual exhibition before. Seabrook was on the NHL's ballot last season, as well.
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Imagine for a moment you are an NHL defenseman. Given the choice, which line would you rather see rushing toward you at crunch time: one fronted by Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp, or a second one led by Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa? It’s a coin flip, and whichever side lands facing up is still dangerous and capable of putting a lot of points on the board.
As the Blackhawks near the 10-game mark for the season, this is the question that the team’s opponents are facing night in and night out, and both lines are producing at a solid clip. What many consider to be the Blackhawks’ top line of Andrew Brunette, Toews and Sharp, has recorded a total of 9 goals in 8 games, and includes the team’s leading goal scorer (Sharp) and points leader (Toews) from last season. Meanwhile, the other contains two point-per-game players (Kane and Hossa) with a penachant for highlight-reel goals.Click here to read the full post >>
The Blackhawks will receive a boost Friday in Dallas, as the team will have forward Patrick Sharp in the lineup, according to Head Coach Joel Quenneville.
“He looks good, he’s ready to go, and he’ll be playing Friday,” Quenneville said.
Sharp did not appear in any preseason games for the Blackhawks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy Sept. 12. He has been skating with the team for the majority of the past week.
The Blackhawks’ leading goal scorer in 2010-11, Sharp tallied 71 points (34G, 37) in 74 games with Chicago last season.
Smith skates: Another familiar face in practice Tuesday was forward Ben Smith, who had not been in practice since leaving the game on Sept. 28 with an upper body injury. Though he did not participate in contact drills, Quenneville seemed optimistic that Smith could return to full practice soon.
“He looked good, skated well… and really progressed the last few days,” Quenneville said. “We’ll see how he is tomorrow, and there’s a chance he gets some [contract drills] as well.”
“I feel pretty good,” Smith said. “I’m just taking it day by day.”
Despite the Blackhawks’ 4-1 loss in Washington during the team’s preseason finale, there were some good signs to emerge from the Verizon Center Sunday night.
Among the encouraging news was the announcement by Head Coach Joel Quenneville that forwards Dave Bolland and Ben Smith, both sidelined with upper body injuries, are “progressing very well” and could resume practicing this week. “We’re hopeful,” added Quenneville.Click here to read the full post >>
As the preseason schedule winds down, the Blackhawks could be missing at least two of their forwards for the near future, as Head Coach Joel Quenneville said that both Viktor Stalberg and Ben Smith will miss time after sustaining injuries in Wednesday’s win over Detroit.Click here to read the full post >>