Hawks' defensemen flourishing on offense

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Hawks' defensemen flourishing on offense

Steve Montador didnt draw it up like this, but hes not complaining.

One of the Blackhawks newest defensemen has been on a scoring streak lately, accumulating three goals and an assist in his past two games. Its something he enjoys being a part of, as a player but especially as a defenseman.

I just want to take advantage of opportunities Im getting, he said. And lately its just been that.

And hes not alone.

After a quiet start, at least offensively, the Blackhawks defensemen are making themselves known in the scoring category. In the past three games, they have tallied 16 points; compare that to the 24 points they had in the first 14 games.

Nick Leddy was the only blue-liner putting up points early; now they all are. Montadors ignited his scoring, an aspect that the Blackhawks hoped he would provide when they signed him to a four-year deal this past summer. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook scored their first goals this week. And its made a difference in the Blackhawks games and, naturally, the outcomes.

The defense is a big part of the attack on offense and their results have been showing on the score sheet, coach Joel Quenneville said. We need that for our overall team game.

Its helped improve the power play, too. The Blackhawks obviously have the talent for that to thrive, but they were struggling to get shots through from the blue line. Those shots, and the chances of their being tipped, deflected or rebounded, are big. Now, perhaps thanks to the boost of confidence in back, the shots are reaching down front.

Weve talked about it long before it was happening on the score sheet, Montador said of the defensive scoring. A lot of goals start from point shots for tips and rebounds. It was just a matter of time.

Now it may also be a matter of stepping up even more. Seabrook suffered a leg injury Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers, and his status for Wednesdays game against Vancouver, let alone the rest of this trip, is uncertain. The Blackhawks have depth back there and will have to utilize it if Seabrook is out for any length of time.

The defense is finding its niche right now. Every one of them is contributing with or without the puck especially with it. If they have a gap with Seabrooks absence, theyll have to find a way to fill it. The confidence among the whole group right now could also help get them through.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

There are a lot of similarities between the Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Both have a nice record to start this season and both are getting through recent injuries as best they can.

And thanks to their goaltending, they had a pretty fun little battle on Friday night.

Antti Raanta edged Scott Darling as the Rangers took a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday. It was surprising that Raanta got the start, only because he had started for the Rangers on Thursday against Winnipeg. But he’s been hot, he’s good at the United Center in his career and obviously it was the right decision.

The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday against another team going through its injury issues, the Dallas Stars. Before then, however, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Rangers.

1. A familiar goalie duel. Two seasons ago Scott Darling and Antti Raanta were fighting for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending spot. So it seemed fitting that they face each other on Friday night. They didn’t disappoint. Each goaltender had his share of stellar stops, many coming in the second period as each team looked for an edge. Raanta got the victory, running his record at the United Center to 15-0-3. The two had a quick, good-natured talk at the end of the game. “It was all friendly,” Darling said. “We were just saying, ‘good job’ and we’re happy for one another.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Kane alright. Patrick Kane got the concussion protocol call in the second period a few moments after he was hit into the glass by Nick Holden. After Kane was called for high-sticking he was sent to the locker room, returning as the Blackhawks went on their first power play of the night at 17:28 of the second period.

3. The Rangers’ successful challenge. Just when you thought the Blackhawks were taking a 1-0 lead the third period (Marian Hossa), the Rangers challenged for offside. They won, nullifying Hossa’s attempt at his 15th goal of the season. Hossa was disappointed, and is frustrated at how some of the rule changes are taking away goals when the league is trying to increase scoring. Coach Joel Quenneville, when asked if he’d like the rule changed if he could, laughed. “Right now? Sure.”

4. A better all-around game. We may be harping on the Blackhawks’ injury situation but when you’re missing three key guys (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford) it’s going to alter your game. But the Blackhawks played a strong all-around game against the Rangers and had some good scoring chances. All things considered, and against a very good Rangers team, Quenneville liked what he saw. “We know they’re a dangerous team off the rush, a lot of guys can make plays, a ton of speed. You have to respect that in ways and they check well in their own end,” Quenneville said. “I thought we did some good things. I think on the rush game we did a good job of taking away that danger.”

5. When will the Blackhawks return to health? Yeah, we’re looking ahead a little bit on this one, and we may have a clearer picture by Saturday morning. If Toews and Seabrook are skating and come out of the session well, there’s a chance they could play on Sunday. The Blackhawks have done alright despite the injuries. But you have to wonder when they start feeling a bit depleted.