Crawford to start as Blackhawks look to continue momentum

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Crawford to start as Blackhawks look to continue momentum

Corey Crawford will get the start for the Blackhawks and Michal Rozsival will be among the defensive starters again as the Chicago Blackhawks open their home schedule against the St. Louis Blues at the United Center tonight.

The Blackhawks (2-0-0) will face a Blues squad that pulled out a shootout victory in Nashville on Monday. Brian Elliott is slated to start in goal for St. Louis.

For the Blackhawks, the seasons start couldnt have been much better. They outscored Los Angeles and Phoenix by a combined 11-6 and want to bring that power and intensity back home.

That's what we talked about this morning here going into today's game, coach Joel Quenneville said. We're playing a team we know has played very well over the last year and have gotten off to a strong start. We want to make sure we do everything quick, that we've got good energy going into the puck area. We want the puck. Our transition was good, and we want to make sure that's going to be continued on here today.

Each team presents their challenges. The Blackhawks have had a much stronger start on special teams this season, and Marian Hossa is looking as heathy as hes ever been. He has five points in two games. For the Blues, goaltending remains a strong suit. Elliott came in for Jaroslav Halak midway through the Blues game in Nashville on Monday and earned the shootout victory. And rookie Vladimir Tarasenko is off to a five-point start of his own (3-2-5).

Hes a kid that just loves to compete and play, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. He has a real throwback attitude, which I really appreciate, a real sincere menality. He respects the game and veterans. All talent aside, who knows where this thing goes career-wise. But when you have that type of attitude and sincerity to your disposition, it bodes really well for him.

As for stopping guys like Hossa and Jonathan Toews, Hitchcock said its always a challenge.

To me, theres skill and then theres skill with strength. And they both have (the latter), Hitchcock said. They both can buy enough time one on one to make it difficult. Theyre probably best pair in the league because they can buy time to create 2 on 1s, because theyre so strong with the puck. Theyre big difference makers. Hopefully they have an off night.

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Those tremors you felt Wednesday was the hockey world shaking things up.

They were the most exciting 30 minutes of offseason we’ve seen in some time, with the Montreal Canadiens sending P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Oh, and coveted potential unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending teams like Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo to their Plan Bs.

For the Blackhawks, they weren’t players for any of the top-tier guys. But with the free-agent “frenzy” about to begin on Friday, the Blackhawks, who have a little shopping to do, can’t get caught in the ripple effect.

Most of the top UFAs are already off the board, from Stamkos to Keith Yandle to Alex Goligoski. Prices could go up on those remaining, and that could include some guys the Blackhawks were targeting.

As general manager Stan Bowman said last Saturday following the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks no longer have a salary-cap problem. Generalfanager.com shows the Blackhawks have a little more than $5 million in cap space. That’s after the Blackhawks made two cap friendly re-signings with forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival. According to Pierre LeBrun, Mashinter and Rozsival will earn $575,00 and $600,000, respectively, this season.

So the Blackhawks enter the weekend with some spending cash, and they may be spending some of it immediately on a familiar guy. Andy Strickland reported on Thursday that Brian Campbell, who was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, could return on a one-year deal. Nothing would be official until Friday, when free agency begins.

If Campbell does return it probably won’t be for much cash. But Campbell knows the Blackhawks are still built to win and he won’t be hurting for money. It could be another sensible move like Brad Richards from the summer of 2014. Richards, just bought out by the New York Rangers after the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final, just wanted to get back to the final. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million here. While Richards was up and down in the regular season he was great in the playoffs, capping the Blackhawks’ Cup run with that beautiful pass to Patrick Kane in Game 6. The Blackhawks aren’t what they were in 2014 but they’re not in bad shape, either. A good, affordable tweak or two could have them thinking about another lengthy postseason run.

Keep something else in mind: just about every July the Blackhawks pick up someone we didn’t anticipate. Richards was a good example of that, too.

The Blackhawks have a little cash to spend but they also have future considerations; please see Artemi Panarin, who the Blackhawks can start negotiating with on Friday. It’s not just about what they spend this season, it’s about what they save for that potential deal that would start next season.

The options are out there to improve this team but the Blackhawks have to be prudent. They can’t afford not to be.

Report: Brian Campbell likely to rejoin Blackhawks

Report: Brian Campbell likely to rejoin Blackhawks

Free agency officially begins Friday at 11 a.m. CT, but all signs point to Brian Campbell rejoining the Blackhawks for the 2016-17 season.

It's been widely rumored that the 37-year-old defenseman has been open to a return to Chicago, where he helped bring a Stanley Cup to in 2010 and still resides in the offseason. 

The latest report comes from Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest, saying Campbell is likely to sign a one-year deal with the Blackhawks. 

This comes less than a day after Campbell told the Chicago Tribune that he's willing to take a hometown discount if it meant playing for the Blackhawks, a team that ranks No. 1 on his list.

If reports turn out to be true, Campbell immediately gives the Blackhawks a top-four defenseman and alleviates some of the pressure off the bottom pairing, such as Trevor van Riemsdyk, who was asked to take on a larger role last season.

Blackhawks re-sign Brandon Mashinter, Michal Rozsival to one-year deals

Blackhawks re-sign Brandon Mashinter, Michal Rozsival to one-year deals

The Blackhawks have agreed to bring back forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival on one-year deals, the team announced Thursday.

It's a $575,000 cap hit for Mashinter and $600,000 for Rozsival, according to ESPN's Pierre LeBrun. 

Mashinter, 27, scored four goals and one assist in 41 regular-season games during his first year with the Blackhawks last season. Rozsival, 37, registered one goal and 12 assists in 51 games last year.

The moves give the Blackhawks cheap depth up front and on the back end along with flexibility heading into free agency, which officially opens at 11 a.m. CT on Friday.

With the signings, the Blackhawks now had 19 players (10 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders) under contract for the 2016-17 season. They have $5.215 million in cap space to fill out the rest of the roster, per generalfanager.com.