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.

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Corey Crawford will start but Marcus Kruger won't play yet when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

Scott Darling is coming off a 30-stop shutout in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over Boston on Friday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said there was some consideration given to start Darling in this one, too, but, "at the same time we want Crow playing as much as he can to get back to the great pace he had prior to being away."

"He hasn't been bad. But certainly that's what we're looking for him to get back to," Quenneville said on Crawford. "I like giving Darls some consideration. We'll see but [Darling] certainly enhanced his positioning."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger skated with the Blackhawks for the first time since hurting his hand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 30. He took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice but was not among the line rushes. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is for either Tuesday or Thursday but, "knowing we have that [All-Star] break, we'll see how he feels and what our options are."

Kruger said he felt, "pretty close."

"I tried to take it day by day and prepare to play," Kruger said. "Obviously not tonight, but the next game we will see." 

BLACKHAWKS VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
6:30 p.m.
TV: WGN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks
Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm).

Vancouver Canucks (via Canucks)
Forward lines

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Alex Burrows
Markus Granlund-Brandon Sutter-Jayson Megna
Brendan Gaunce-Michael Chaput-Jack Skille

Defensive Pairs
Alex Edler-Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa-Chris Tanev
Alex Biega-Nikita Tryamkin

Goaltender
Ryan Miller

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Anton Rodin (knee), Ben Hutton (hand), Jannik Hansen (knee), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Philip Larsen (upper body), Derek Dorsett (back).

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.