Little advantage for Blackhawks on power play

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Little advantage for Blackhawks on power play

The power play, the man advantage: either way you say it, its the chance for a team to gain an edge on its opponent by taking, well, advantage of it.

But the Blackhawks power play this season has shown anything but power. Its been anywhere from so-so to downright anemic. And on Sunday night, in a big Central Division tilt against Nashville, it was completely invisible.

Four power plays, four opportunities to hurt the Predators, and the Blackhawks couldnt even record a shot on goal on any of them. They couldnt win opening faceoffs on them, could barely get into the Predators zone on them and definitely couldnt get any opportunities on them. It was a tough night for a lot of reasons, but the Blackhawks futility on the power play made it even tougher.

Were trying to find answers for it, especially at this time of year. Its a big part of the game, Patrick Kane said on Monday. It couldve gotten us back into the game last night.

The Blackhawks power play is currently 23rd in the league, scoring just 15.1 percent of the time. It would seem theyre the only solid NHL team thats struggling with it, but thats hardly the case. The Pacific-leading (at the moment) Dallas Stars are ranked 28th (14.5 percent) and the Eastern Conference-best New York Rangers are 29th (also at 14.5 percent).

But the Blackhawks arent worried about those other teams. This is about them. Outside of a 2-for-2 performance against Columbus, the Blackhawks are 0 for 14 on the power play in four of their last five games:

vs. DAL: 0 for 4

vs. WSH: 0 for 1

vs. CBJ: 2 for 2

vs. VAN: 0 for 5

vs. NSH: 0 for 4

Other than Sundays game, the Blackhawks have been fortunate: their lack of power-play prowess hasnt cost them lately. Still, special teams are huge, especially come playoff time, and the Blackhawks want to make their advantage advantageous again.

It can be a huge factor for you every game, especially in the playoffs. Thats something were working on to improve on, Patrick Sharp said. Hopefully we score some big goals down the stretch.

The Blackhawks would love to get some late-season success on the power play. Their 5 on 5 scoring fueled them lately when their advantage let them down. But were getting to that time of the season when all parts of the game need to be clicking. The power play needs to find its power again.

Every year is different. Some teams go through the playoffs and excel in certain areas, but you need special teams to be successful to win, coach Joel Quenneville said. Were not waiting for the playoffs to get a power play going. We need to get it better now. We need more consistency, whether were scoring or not, and not lose momentum off it.

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews practices but won’t play vs. Flyers

Jonathan Toews sounded somewhat frustrated but cognizant of the situation.

If it were the postseason there’s no doubt he would be playing right now. That’s not a surprise to hear, considering what hockey players put themselves through when the playoffs start. But this is early December. There are too many games remaining. And with it coming down to making sure he’s healthy for the long haul, it’s an easy call.

Toews practiced on Friday for the first time since being hurt, but he won’t travel to Philadelphia when the Blackhawks face the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. It will be the fifth consecutive game Toews has missed since he was hurt against the San Jose Sharks on Nov. 23. Still, him skating on his own and then practicing with teammates for a few minutes is a good sign that Toews is closing in on a return.

“Just come back and check in again [Saturday], see how it is and hopefully, I guess as they say, re-evaluate for Sunday,” Toews said on Friday. “It’s never fun to miss any time, especially when the team is playing as many games as they are. So nice to get back out there and move around and get going a little bit.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Toews was placed on injured reserve on Friday, retroactive to Nov. 24, the day after he was injured.  Coach Joel Quenneville said he’ll see how Toews feels on Saturday and, “we’ll get a better idea going forward. But he’s not on the trip.”

“You gotta be fully recovered and want to make sure guys are 100 percent before they can play,” Quenneville said. “Jonny plays at a certain pace and it’s all out, so let’s make sure he’s more than ready when he’s coming back.”

Several have reported that Toews has a back injury, and the captain was doing several back stretches during Friday’s session. Toews left in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Sharks, moments after he went down awkwardly. But Toews said he wasn’t hurt on that play. 

“I think it was just something that started to aggravate in the first period. I tried playing in the second and that instance right there, just went down like a ton of bricks,” Toews said. “I was trying not to aggravate the injury more than I already had. That wasn’t where I got hurt; [it was] probably the instance people were looking for to see what the explanation was.”

If this were April and the playoffs were about to begin, Toews probably wouldn’t be as patient with his injury. But it isn’t, and he will be. It’s not worth making worse. The Blackhawks have managed to get points in his absence, going 3-0-1 so far.

“It’s the type of thing most guys would be able to suck up and play if it were a playoff game and putting everything on the line. But at this point, with the amount of games left in the season, it’s not something you want to continuously deal with,” he said. “If you aggravate it, it’ll keep coming back to haunt you. It’s tough to hold back and do less than you know you can, but in the long run, trying to make sure I get back to 100 percent.”

BRIEFLY

- Trevor van Riemsdyk was activated off the injured-reserve list and is expected to play against the Flyers.

- Marian Hossa took practice off. He is expected to play.

-  Corey Crawford will start vs. Philadelphia.

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Blackhawks Road Ahead: Feasting on the East

Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers have the latest on Joel Quenneville's group in this edition of the Blackhawks Road Ahead, sponsored by Chicagoland NW Indiana Honda dealers.

The Blackhawks are once again taking care of business, going 3-0-1 with their captain Jonathan Toews on the sideline. They're also 6-2-2 against the East this year, and they'll get another chance to add to that record when they take on the Flyers this week.

Here's what our Blackhawks Postgame Live crew had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Aehad.