Hawks fighting for their playoff lives once again

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Hawks fighting for their playoff lives once again

The Chicago Blackhawks wanted to avoid last seasons mad dash to the playoffs. They wanted a great start to this season to give them some cushion, to put themselves in a good spot so they werent sweating out those final regular-season games.

They got the start. But a rough February has them exactly where they didnt want to be: uncertain and fighting for their postseason lives.

The Blackhawks have 17 games remaining to hold onto their current sixth-place spot, or to move up, in the Western Conference. They had that leeway on Jan. 20, when a victory over the Florida Panthers had them sitting pretty with 64 points. But with a nine-game winless streak and generally skittish play since, the Blackhawks have gained just 11 points since then (75 points).

Theyve gotten into that dangerous territory again. And now with the pressure of staying in the top eight, every one of their remaining regular-season games is going to feel like a playoff game.

You try not to think about it but thats how its going to feel. Either you like it or you dont but right now were in that spot, Marian Hossa said. Now we have to go game by game, especially on this road trip. Its going to be a good challenge; were going to see where were at.

And the Blackhawks hope they see themselves somewhere in the top eight. With 17 games remaining, how many points will it take to assure then of that? Last season, the Blackhawks took eighth place with 97 points. The season before, it was 95 points; 91 points earned eighth place in 2007-08 and 2008-09.

Duncan Keiths had his eye on the standings.

Its important to understand that, first and foremost, to know where were at, he said. Its just about knowing our situation and knowing how important every game is.

Now its about getting there. The Blackhawks have struggled for consistency for more than a month now, and their schedule wont be breezy. Theyve got Central Division foes Detroit, St. Louis and Nashville two more times each. This trip of Ottawa, the Red Wings and Blues on the road will be tough.

We have to be better on the road, said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks are 12-17-3 away from the United Center this season. With three teams playing as good as any are, we need to be strong in a lot of areas. We need our A game tonight. We dont want to look past tonights game. Lets be ready from the start, sound, responsible.

The Blackhawks will focus on one at a time but the big picture looms large. It looked like they were going to avoid this intense finale this season. Now theyre battling once again for their postseason lives.

Report: Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen a 'major candidate' for Avalanche coaching job

Report: Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen a 'major candidate' for Avalanche coaching job

The Colorado Avalanche are looking for a new head coach, and Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen is reportedly a "major candidate" to land the job, according to Mike Chambers and Terry Frei of The Denver Post.

Dineen, 52, has spent the last two seasons as Joel Quenneville's right-hand man, and helped guide the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup victory in 2015.

He previously served as the head coach for the Florida Panthers, where he went 56-62-28 in two and a half seasons with the team.

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Dineen is familiar with the Colorado area as well, playing collegiate hockey at the University of Denver from 1981-83. He scored 26 goals and 23 assists in 67 games across two seasons with the Pioneers, and was named captain as a sophomore.

Because he's under contract with the Blackhawks for the 2016-17 season, the Avalanche would have to seek permission to interview Dineen, and it's possible it already happened.

The Avalanche are looking to replace Patrick Roy after he resigned on Aug. 11 due to philosophical differences with management.

Roy was 130-92-24 in three years with the Avalanche, guiding his former club to a Central Division title in his first season but missing out on the playoffs the past two years.

Patrick Sharp, Paul Konerko take photo together at Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field

Patrick Sharp, Paul Konerko take photo together at Pearl Jam concert at Wrigley Field

Patrick Sharp is back in Chicago, and spent Saturday evening at Wrigley Field taking in the Pearl Jam concert, one of his favorite bands.

The former Blackhawks forward happened to bump into another fan-favorite athlete Chicago is well familiar with: Paul Konerko of the White Sox.

Together, the two of them have helped bring four championships to the city.

Sharp couldn't resist tweeting the photo Saturday night to document the moment:

Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin named best Russian player in 2015-16

Blackhawks' Artemi Panarin named best Russian player in 2015-16

Artemi Panarin is bringing home some more hardware after his stellar rookie campaign with the Blackhawks.

The 24-year-old winger was named the 2015-16 Kharlamov Trophy winner, given annually to the best Russian hockey player in the Kontinental Hockey League and National Hockey League. Panarin led the way with 15 first-place votes and 43 total.

Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin came in second followed by Metallurg's Sergei Mozyakin, Washington's Alex Ovechkin (a seven-time winner of the award) and Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov.

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Panarin ranked first among all NHL rookies in multiple categories last season, including goals (30), assists (47), points (77) and game-winning goals (7) in 80 regular-season games, which earned him the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

He was presented the award over the weekend:

https://twitter.com/NHLPA/status/766682940466139136

The award is voted on by the committee of the Russian Hall of Fame, Russian hockey legends/veterans, a group of KHL general managers, members of the media and past winners.

Check out the full voting results here.