Blackhawks aren't concerned with power outage

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Blackhawks aren't concerned with power outage

Marian Hossa said frustration isnt there right now.

Hossa has been out there on that Blackhawks power play, which is mired in a definite early-season slump. Hes taken his shots and watched his teammates do the same. But no matter the game, the opposing goaltender or the number of chances, the Blackhawks just cant connect on a power-play goal. Zip, zilch, nothing. And on Monday night against Nashville it was 0-for-7 nothing.

But Hossa isnt worried.

Were not really frustrated right now because we do a lot of good things. Were moving, he said. Just about the time when the first puck goes in, then itll come in bunches.

Its an optimistic attitude for a power play that hasnt had many positives. Yes, the opportunities have been there, and in the last two games so have the more choice shots. It didnt help on Monday that Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne was not in a very giving mood on the Blackhawks power plays. But the power play remains anemic nonetheless, as the Blackhawks have capitalized just four times on 45 advantages this season.

The Blackhawks last power-play goal came Oct. 22 against the Colorado Avalanche; theyve gone 0 for 18 in their last four games. Theyre converting just 8.9 percent of the time, which puts them 29th in the league only St. Louis power play is more futile (8.3 percent). Contrast that with their penalty kill, which has scored just one less goal (three) than their power play.

Theres your random stat for the day.

And as much as power-play chances and shots have improved, coach Joel Quenneville said those positives only go so far.

With the number of chances weve had, somethings got to give, he said. Were generating but we need production. Thats what we measure and thats what were looking to attain.

Quenneville loves to switch forward lines and defensive pairings when things arent going right, and hes done the same with the power play. The new combinations have yielded better scoring chances. But the Blackhawks could still shoot more: they had nine shots on seven power plays on Monday, including just two on a 5 on 3 that lasted one minute, 35 seconds.

When the Blackhawks had early shootout issues several players said this group was too talented for that to last. They were right. The mini-drought didnt last and the same is likely for the power play.

The Blackhawks have weathered power-play woes with good work elsewhere: strong goaltending and their ability to pile up goals on even strength among them. They also benefit from a stellar penalty kill, which is third in the NHL (91.7 percent). They probably win some games more handily if the power plays working, but theyre a strong 7-2-2 nonetheless.

Hockeys a game of ups and downs. The power play is decidedly down right now but the Blackhawks say its only a matter of time before it starts producing.

Were doing everything except putting it in the net, Patrick Kane said. Everything else is looking pretty good as far as movement. Breakouts were good tonight and there was good movement on the 5 on 3 and 5 on 4. We just have to score goals.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.