With the NHL still locked out, players truck on

795710.png

With the NHL still locked out, players truck on

The NHL remains mired in a lockout, Day 60 coming on Wednesday. But for the AHL, the hockey world keeps on spinning. And for those Rockford players who wouldve been with the Blackhawks at some point this season, hockey and their lives are going on just fine.

Talks have gone quiet once again in the big league. And after things looked so promising early last week, when the league and NHLPA were talking nonstop, the outlook for NHL hockey is looking grim again. But for the IceHogs, as with the rest of the minor-league hockey organizations, games continue. Practices continue. Regular-season routine continues.

Hockey continues. And for them, its not so much about listening to lockout rhetoric and speculation as much as it is focusing on their jobs.

It has to be (the focus), IceHogs forward Brandon Bollig said. You cant take anything away from this league. Its very talented, especially right now. And if you dont have your mind on the game youll be behind the 8-ball. Its unfortunate (about the lockout). But theres no room to focus on whats going on there. Im lucky, along with a few other guys, to be playing right now instead of sitting around and doing nothing.

Guys like Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Brandon Saad lost the chance to compete for a Blackhawks roster spot this season at least for now. But in the hockey world, theres always a competition for something.

In this lifestyle, youre always fighting, always competing for something. Even here in Rockford youre competing for power play, penalty kill and ice time, Smith said. Being a hockey player, no matter where you are you have to bring your best. If not, someones trying to pass you. We want to be (in the NHL), thats the goal. But have to bring compete and passion every day here.

Not only are guys enjoying their usual hockey routine, but theyre getting that welcome distraction from lockout talk which theyre starting to avoid.

Well have a group chat going, and me and a few guys will read about it and stay informed. But thats mainly it for me, said defenseman Nick Leddy. Its good to focus on a season down here and develop.

And, when the NHL season does resume, some of the potential Blackhawks can hit the training-camp ground running.

Thats the good thing. We can stay sharp and fine tune some things that got you to the NHL, Bollig said. Were fortunate to be so close. If it starts up, and were lucky enough to be called up, were there and ready.

So while the NHL stays quiet, the AHL keeps playing. For these guys, the welcome routine of practices and games continues.

Were hoping something gets done and its something fair, Smith said of a potential collective bargaining agreement. At the same time were working on our games and hoping when the time comes, were all playing good hockey.

Blackhawks tinker with lines vs. Avalanche

Blackhawks tinker with lines vs. Avalanche

Corey Crawford will get the start and the Blackhawks' lines will have a very different look when they face the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

Not surprisingly, the Blackhawks' second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane remain the same. Those three are still doing the bulk of the scoring. The top line is now Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik with Jonathan Toews while Marian Hossa goes to the third line with Vinnie Hinostroza and Tanner Kero.

As with any line changes, it's clear the Blackhawks, who are riding a two-game losing streak, aren't happy with how things have been going. 

"You gotta get the message and I think everyone can compete harder, at least a little harder than we have the last few games," Toews said. "Sometimes you go through spurts when you're not playing with the most energy or firing on all cylinders. You just have to find ways to play smart and still create but still limit the chances you give up against."

Hossa said everyone else needs to help the second line.

"[There's] one line consistent on the offensive side. The other lines have a good stretches and then we have dry stretches. We're trying to find where it's no longer just one line consistent on production," Hossa said. "It's going good for a little bit but then we have a dry stretch and I don't know way, exactly. But we have to find [a solution] before the playoffs start."

Marcus Kruger did not make the trip with the Blackhawks. Coach Joel Quenneville expected Kruger to skate in Chicago on Tuesday. Quenneville added that he's going back to 12 forwards and six defensemen in tonight's game. The defensive scratch was unknown.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Meanwhile, the Avalanche have had an awful season and now trade rumors abound for a team that could part with several players. Colorado general manager Joe Sakic told the Denver Post there were only three untouchables in the organization. Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57 million cap hit through 2020-21) and Matt Duchene ($6 million hit through 2018-19) would be coveted at the trade deadline by teams that can afford them.

This is the third meeting between these two teams. The Blackhawks beat the Avs 4-0 on Nov. 3 before the Avalanche took the Dec. 23 game 2-1. The Avalanche have been especially bad at home, going 5-15-1 at the Pepsi Center this season.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

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
Brian Campbell-Brent Seabrook
Michal Rozsival-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Marcus Kruger (right arm)

Avalanche forward lines

Mikko Rantanen-Nathan Mackinnon-Gabriel Bourque
Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Matthew Nieto
Blake Comeau-Carl Soderberg-Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen-John Mitchell-Mikhail Gregorenko

Defensive pairs

Fedor Tyutin-Tyson Barrie
Francois Beauchemin-NikitaZadorov
Patrick Wiercioch-Cody Goloubef

Goaltender

Semyon Varlamov

Injuries

Erik Johnson (broken leg)

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.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse