Blackhawks need core players to step up


Blackhawks need core players to step up

Patrick Kanes game on Thursday night was an example of what he can do when everything is clicking. It was also an example of the leadership the Blackhawks need, be it on or off the ice, in their captains absence.

As Jonathan Toews continues to recover from a suspected concussion, its up to the other core players to pick up the slack, whether its during the game or in that locker room.

Our top guys have to be not just our best players, but they have to lead us through this stretch, coach Joel Quenneville said after the Blackhawks 5-4 victory over Toronto on Thursday. Everybody goes through key injuries. This is the time we need them and we liked what we saw.

Indeed. Obviously the core guys biggest impact comes on the ice. The whole best players need to be your best players bit. Clich as it is, its true. And on Thursday, Kane and Marian Hossa typified that. Coupled with Andrew Brunette, the line was effective and productive, with Kane and Hossa each having two-point nights.

Their second-period work helped the Blackhawks overcome a deficit and avoid what wouldve been another brutal loss.

I think our teams always been about group leadership and I think last night, you saw that in the way Kane and Hossa played, said Duncan Keith. They took over that game. Its tough for guys to stop them when theyre skating like that. That just showed their ability to step up when needed.

And right now the Blackhawks need every healthy guy theyve got, but especially their core players. Kane, Hossa, Keith, Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook, Dave Bolland; the guys who went through the Cup battles together are the ones who have to get the Blackhawks through this final critical stretch.

Missing Johnny, its a huge loss but we still have a lot of good pieces, Hossa said. We have to find a way to win without Johnny. Its not easy but we have to find a way. Who knows how long hes going to be out for, so we cant just wait for him. Especially our top players, we have to be at our top games to win.

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

The Blackhawks (3-3, 6 points) take on the Calgary Flames (1-4-1, 3 points) on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final horn to get analysis and player reaction on Blackhawks Postgame Live.

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.

“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.

The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.

But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.

Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.

“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”

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Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.

“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”

The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.

“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”

In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.

“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”