Lengthy meetings still lacking progress

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Lengthy meetings still lacking progress

So much for lengthy talks getting the NHL and NHLPA anywhere in their quest for a new collective bargaining agreement. After a weeks worth of talking in New York City, it appears the sides are no closer to getting a deal done than they were when they began on Tuesday.

The league and players association had three more talks on Friday, but little if anything was accomplished regarding a new CBA. And based on a leaked memo (obtained from Pro Hockey Talk) from NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to the players, theres still a big gap between the two parties. In the memo, Fehr said the league still wants more than the future salaries the NHLPA has offered.

Then, later on Friday, things took an interesting turn. NHL sources, citing that memo, told Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Fehr didnt fully inform players of the leagues latest offer.

The Star-Tribune reported the NHL would guarantee existing contracts at 1.883 billion (or their 57 percent revenue share from last season). Players would agree to an immediate 50-50 split; but a reduced portion of their salaries (12.3 percent) would be deferred one or two years. It would be repaid with interest from one year to the next and by the third year, every contract would be made whole.

Fehr disputed this when he spoke to reporters late Friday night, saying that players would not be receiving the full value of their contracts.

Fehr said hes informed the players of every proposal the league has made, and added that the players association doesnt think the gap on core economics is as wide as the league does. That last statement differs from what Fehr said in the memo to players on Thursday, when he stated theres still a lot of work to be done and bridges to be crossed before an agreement can be made.

Several Blackhawks past and present, including Jonathan Toews, Steve Montador, Jamal Mayers and Troy Brouwer have often said Fehr has kept players in the loop on talks progress and proposals.

Montador, the Blackhawks player representative, called the accusations toward Fehr laughable.

Its clearly a tactic to drive a wedge between Don and the players. Its nothing but a reiteration of how strong we are, Montador said. Its laughable, really, that the league would resort to tactics like this. They locked us out when they didnt have to, and we didnt want it, weve conceded massive amounts of dollars in their favor (this time and 7 years ago) and we say enough is enough, and now this. They're trying anything now.

Brouwer talked earlier this week of the NHLPAs weekly conference calls.

We always have them to inform players to make sure everyones up to speed, he said. Anyone whos an NHLPA member can jump on so everyone knows whats going on.

So here we sit once again: only this time both sides are talking and the situation still isnt closer to being solved. Gary Bettman talked to reporters following Fridays meeting.

I don't want to raise or lower expectations, he said. I won't be happy until we get to the end result and that means we are playing again.

Bettman said he would also do whatever it takes to continue talks with the players association through the weekend.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Keep it simple.

There is no team in the league that scores fewer goals per game (2.00) and allows more goals per game (3.32) than the Avalanche, who are 4-18-1 in their last 23 games, including 1-7-0 in their past eight. The Blackhawks need to keep it simple, get bodies in front of the net and take advantage on special teams against a team that ranks in the bottom-seven in both the power play and penalty kill.

2. Will Jonathan Toews' success against Colorado continue?

It's been a tough year for the Blackhawks captain, who has only seven goals and 21 points in 37 games, including three points in his last seven. Earlier this season he went 13 consecutive games without a goal, and snapped that on Dec. 23 against Colorado in a 2-1 overtime loss. He recorded a season-high seven shots on goal in that game, and has scored a goal in each of his last four contests against the Avalanche. They seem to be his slumpbuster, so perhaps he'll come through again.

3. Marian Hossa's impact.

In the first meeting of the season, Hossa scored two goals in a 4-0 win over Colorado. In the second, the Blackhawks were without him after he was sidelined with an upper-body injury, and fell 2-1 in overtime. The Blackhawks are nearly at full strength this time around, with Marcus Kruger the lone injured player who's recovering from an apparent hand injury.

4. Nathan MacKinnon.

After a solid showing at the World Cup of Hockey last fall, MacKinnon was considered a strong candidate to have a breakout season with a new head coach that preaches an up-tempo style of play, right up MacKinnon's ally. But he hasn't reached that level yet, with 28 points in 41 games. Not bad, but not great by his standards as the No. 1 overall pick in 2013. He scored the overtime winner and added an assist in last month's victory against Chicago at the United Center.

5. Short shifts.

This will be the third meeting of the year between the two teams, but the first one in Colorado. Due to the high altitude in the Mile-High City, expect Joel Quenneville to distribute the minutes more evenly throughout their four lines and intstruct the Blackhawks to be short with their shifts, no longer than 40 seconds.

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Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

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Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"