Blackhawks better, but no 'W' all that matters

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Blackhawks better, but no 'W' all that matters

Moral victories are nice, but the longer a team has to settle for them, the less they mean.

The Blackhawks remained stuck at one point in their last nine games and theyve pretty much used up all their mulligans in the Western Conference playoff standings. No, they wont be out of it by the time they take the ice against the NHLs best team Thursday at Madison Square Garden. But who would have thought at the start of this trip that by the time they return to the United Center Sunday morning, they just might be?

The penalty kill held the leagues second-ranked power play off the board in three chances. The compete level and overall defensive coverage was more consistent. They rallied twice from one-goal deficits in a tough arena to tie.

But none of that mattered when Dylan Olsen couldnt get a puck out of the Hawks zone with about six minutes left. Nashville worked it around to Ryan Ellis, who wound up from the point for the second time in the game and the rubber wound up behind Ray Emery. The first time, it was tipped-in by Nick Spaling for a 2-1 Preds lead. This time, it glanced off Duncan Keiths stick, but Emery still had a clear look and maybe time to adjust the deflection.

The moral victory is that Emery was otherwise very good. The fact that a big save eluded him meant the Hawks would go without a victory again when they couldnt rally back a third time. The Patrick Sharp-Jonathan Toews-Patrick Kane line that Joel Quenneville put together was very good. The reality is it didnt get on the scoresheet despite heavy offensive pressure and accounting for 10 of the teams 32 shots.

The Hawks played hard and with urgency. When they skated off, their situation became more urgent.

In five of the seven games so far on this trip, the Hawks have found themselves tied in the third period. In another, they entered the third down just one goal. Theyve been close, but been unable to finish. It wound up being another night that didnt quiet those wondering if they are finished.

As they head to New York, that Giants analogy they used a week ago after the G-men won the Super Bowl despite sporting a 7-7 record late in the season could inspire a trip to Tom Coughlins office. The longer the wait becomes to draw that comparison, no matter the effort, the harder it is to believe it could happen the same way without the results.

Blackhawks: Abbott happy to be back after season in Sweden

Blackhawks: Abbott happy to be back after season in Sweden

Spencer Abbott enjoyed his short stint in Rockford, which came after he was acquired by the Blackhawks in February 2015. At the time, he thought staying here was his most likely plan.

Then he got an offer Frölunda in Sweden.

“I thought, ‘why not give it a shot? Maybe it’ll be a good experience and bring it back with me,’” said Abbott on Monday. “It was worth it, for sure. I have no regrets.”

Abbott, who’s back with the Blackhawks, had never been to Europe prior to getting that Frölunda offer. But his first trip across the pond was a good one as Abbott was part of Frölunda’s run to its Swedish and Champions hockey league titles. Abbott had 14 goals and 21 assists in 51 regular-season games. Abbott got plenty out of the games, but not nearly as much as he did in the team’s training camp.

“The first month and a half you’re over there, you’re there from 8 [a.m.] to 4 [p.m.] every day. I think over here there’s a rule against being here for more than 3-4 hours, but not over there. It’s like a 9-5 job for a month and a half, a lot of working out, a lot of bike riding. So for me, that was good because I had never been in that kind of shape before,” said Abbott, who added he’s trying to incorporate some of that into his routine here. “Training camps here are hard but they’re just different over there. There’s a lot of ice, bigger ice [overseas], so they really condition you. So my conditioning may be a bit better.”

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As much as Abbott loved his time in Sweden, he ultimately wanted to be back in the NHL. So when the Blackhawks offered him a one-year deal, he jumped at it. He’s gotten off to a good start this training camp, scoring a few goals in the team’s early scrimmages.

“I wasn’t sure how it would play out, to be honest. I’m 28 and pretty early in the summer they were showing interest,” Abbott said. “This is one for the places I really wanted to come, because I did l really like the organization when I was here for that brief period of time. Now I get the full effect as long as they’ll have me. It’s such a good organization.”

Abbott probably could have kept playing overseas but he wanted another chance in the NHL. He’s happy it’s once again coming in the Blackhawks’ organization.

“It’s overwhelming. There are so many places to play hockey nowadays in Europe. There are tons of leagues over there. But it didn’t interest me,” he said. “I wanted to come back and give it one more shot.”

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Duncan Keith was already deemed unlikely to play in many, if any, Blackhawks preseason games, when training camp opened. As of now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be in the first few.

Keith will probably not play in the Blackhawks’ first four preseason games, assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Monday’s training camp sessions. As for whether or not Keith will play in any, that’s still up in the air.

“That’s a question that Dunc and the medical staff, Stan [Bowman], Joel [Quenneville], we’ll all get to that. I wouldn’t foresee him certainly in these first four games. I would say that’s not going to happen,” Dineen said. “We’ll let him keep progressing on his timetable that he’s on now.”

Keith has been participating in one practice each day but has not been in any of the scrimmages. Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith has asked to skate in the team’s second practice each day – each session is about 20-25 minutes – but the Blackhawks have told him no. As of now, both Dineen and Kitchen figure Keith will be ready for the regular-season opener but the Blackhawks will continue to be prudent with him.

“He’s out there wheeling around, doing well,” Dineen said. “We had a good chat with him today. He feels like he has a lot of jump but not a lot of stamina right now. We’ll continue the way we’ve handled it so far. We’ll keep moving forward that way.”

Players returning soon

Patrick Kane, who was at the United Center on Monday afternoon, will skate with the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Defenseman Michal Kempny will also join Tuesday’s sessions. Dineen said Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin are expected to join the Blackhawks on Friday.

Neither Kane nor Kempny are expected to play Wednesday vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Pokka is back

Defenseman Ville Pokka, who played for Team Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, skated with the Blackhawks on Monday.

“Anybody coming back from Toronto over the last two weeks is going to have a heck of a lot of confidence,” Dineen said. “A young kid like that getting the chance to represent his country on the international stage is a great honor and a pick-me-up heading into training camp and the season.”

First cuts made

The Blackhawks made their first round of cuts on Monday, sending Radovan Bondra, John Dahlstrom, Nathan Noel and Roy Radke to their respective junior teams. The active roster is now at 57 players.