Blackhawks working on powerless power-play

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Blackhawks working on powerless power-play

The Blackhawks special teams have had their ups and downs. Lately their penalty kill has been the former, the power play the latter. But on Thursday night the Blackhawks advantage really was just that.

The Blackhawks went 2 for 3 on the power play in their 5-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night. It was the first time theyd scored more than one power-play goal in a game since Dec. 18, when they went 2 for 7 against the Calgary Flames.

Sure, it was just one game. But since the Blackhawks scored just two power-play goals in their previous eight games combined (out of 26 opportunities), it was a welcome sight.

Yeah, that hasnt been the best overall; that was key, said Steve Montador, who was on the ice for both of then. They changed up the lineups and it seemed to work tonight.

Yep, hide your surprise: of course there were tweaks. But just like in November when the Blackhawks power play got going again, the second unit was a big part of the success. On Thursday, the No. 2 group of Jimmy Hayes, Dave Bolland, Andrew Brunette, Montador and Nick Leddy got both goals.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks didnt need to be too pretty or fancy on the power play. They just needed to be efficient and get bodies in front of the net.

They did that on Thursday. Jimmy Hayes got his big body about three feet in front of Wild goaltender Josh Harding, the perfect place to get Dave Bollands feed from behind the net. Goal. Then it was Bolland cleaning up around the net, beating the Wild to a rebound and backhanding it past Harding. Goal again.

Jimmy scored a big one for our power play, which wasnt pretty up to that point, Quenneville said. When the power plays struggling, net presence and ugly goals are what were looking for. We got one of them that way (from Bolland).

Yes, its just one game. But the Blackhawks struggled with production and confidence on the power play, and Thursdays performance could help reverse those trends.

Jonathan Toews donates $1 million to community center in Winnipeg

Jonathan Toews donates $1 million to community center in Winnipeg

Jonathan Toews was the highest paid player in the NHL this past year, and he's giving back to the community that helped him become one of the best players in the league.

The Blackhawks captain donated $1 million to the Dakota Community Centre in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised, making it the largest ever private donation to a community centre in Manitoba.

“From my earliest days playing hockey, Dakota Community Centre has always played a pivotal role in my upbringing and my career," Toews said in a statement. “Today, I continue to be honoured to have my name associated with the Sportsplex on the Dakota campus. My parents have instilled in me the importance of giving back, and I believe that in supporting Dakota, we will see endless possibilities for the Community Centre’s future and transformation in the lives of our community members.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jonathan Toews jersey here!]

Toews will also serve as the honorary chairman for the Dakota Futures Capital Campaign, which will support the construction of a new 60,000-square-foot, $20-million fieldhouse and future development of the campus.

The fieldhouse will include a 30,000-square-foot gymnasium that will contain multiple court sports, such as basketball and volleyball, sport training and conditioning, all of which will be connected to the Jonathan Toews Sportsplex. It's expected to open in the fall of 2017.

The Sportsplex was named in Toews' honor in 2010, and includes two indoor ice rinks, a gymnasium, and strength training facilities, among others.

“We are so proud that Jonathan has chosen to give back to the community in this way," said Toews' parents Andrée Gilbert and Bryan Toews. "Our family has such fond memories of hockey practices and friendships made at the Dakota Community Centre. We look forward to the opening of the new Fieldhouse and the continued growth of the Dakota  campus. Through programs for all ages and acting as a gathering place in our community, the Dakota Community Centre transforms thousands of lives each year."

Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen's defensive roots run deep

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen's defensive roots run deep

In Sweden, the defensive tutelage apparently starts very early in your hockey career.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a decent or a great forward: you’re learning to play defense and you’re learning to play it well.

“When we were younger the coaches always taught us to play a team game and be responsible,” Dennis Rasmussen said on Tuesday morning. “I think they have a program in Sweden where they teach the coaches to be a certain way, and that’s one of the things they say: even if you’re a skill guy, you have to play defense, too.”

Outside of the fact that it sounds like Sweden is full of coach Joel Quennevilles, the defensive-minded approach has served Rasmussen well with the Blackhawks. An injury gave him a chance when the season began but thanks to his steady play, especially on defense, he’s carved out a solid spot in this lineup. On Tuesday night he was back at center, where he’s most comfortable, and adding a little offense in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

Rasmussen had a strong training camp. That, coupled with Andrew Desjardins’ injury in the final preseason game meant Rasmussen stayed with Chicago. It’s worked out well, with Rasmussen providing reliability among the bottom six.

“He’s been good,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s helped out penalty killing wise. I have to commend him on how he’s approached the whole year. It looks like he’s taking advantage a little bit more of the opportunity.”

Speaking of that penalty kill, that’s another part of the game Rasmussen was required to do in Sweden. It was one more thing that’s proven beneficial in his time with the Blackhawks.

“If you’re one of the best players when you were younger you were playing PK, too,” he said. “I always played a lot of power play and PK. if I’d only been playing power play when I got here, it would’ve been more of an issue. But I’m used to the PK before.”

If Rasmussen’s a little frustrated with any part of his game, it’s generating offense. He pointed to Sunday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, when he came up empty despite opportunities – “I created a lot of chances but of course I’m not happy with how it developed,” he said. “I had a couple of really good chances last game I should have scored on. That’s one thing I need to do better.” He did capitalize on Tuesday, scoring off a Richard Panik feed in the second period; he nearly scored a short-handed breakaway later in the game.

Rasmussen has been working for a long time on his defensive and penalty killing games. The Blackhawks like what he does and have made him a consistent part of this lineup. He’d like to get the offense going too but if he capitalizes the way he did on Tuesday, it will.

“That’s one thing I have to develop a little bit: take the puck to the net, use my body, have some zone time. That’s been better the last couple of games here,” he said. “As I said before, I need to score on my chances. Hopefully that’s going to come.”