Sharp-Kruger-Stalberg line experiencing success

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Sharp-Kruger-Stalberg line experiencing success

Patrick Sharp rolled off his linemates talents, and why, combined, theyve been so successful. There was Marcus Krugers tenacity and fearlessness and Viktor Stalbergs speed and burgeoning confidence.

Sharps contribution?

Im just out there to look pretty and shoot the puck, he said to laughs.

Yes, between Sharps shooting and Kruger and Stalbergs work, the Blackhawks second line has been potent lately. And despite not getting on the score sheet much in the teams 4-3 shootout victory over St. Louis on Thursday, theres no doubt it was the Blackhawks best line of the night. Theres chemistry among the three of them, and its paid dividends for the Blackhawks.

Weve got a little bit of everything, Stalberg said. Weve got a shooter in Sharpie. And (Kruger) gets the pucks in our hands with a lot of speed, and thats something you look for in a center.

As much as Sharp could play center if need be, just looking at his numbers reminds you why hes best on the wing. Despite missing eight games with a broken wrist, Sharp has 31 goals, just three shy of last years total and five away from his career-best 36 of 2007-08. Sharp has never been shy about taking his shots, and he had a team-high seven against St. Louis.

The rookie Kruger has emerged as a solid No. 2 center for the Blackhawks. Hes not the biggest guy 6-foot, 181 pounds but Kruger nevertheless plays a crashing, fearless style that compliments the lines speed and shooting.

Hes been doing it all year for us, Quenneville said. I think whether hes productive offensively, you know that he brings so many other things to the table and to his linemates. He sustains a lot of pucks offensively, he can make some plays, hes sneaky good offensively and very reliable and predictable defensively.

As for Stalberg, his game is starting to come full circle. While the scoring potential has always been there Stalberg has 19 goals entering the final four regular-season games his puck possession has improved throughout the season. Quenneville said, I know hes had some good games and Id put that in the list at the top of it, as far as the impact and the influence he had shift to shift.

Stalberg said hes felt more confident as the seasons progressed.

Ive been getting roles to hold onto the puck a little more. Its something I like, something I used to play more in college and in the minors, Stalberg said. I havent had the chance or confidence to do it in this league yet, but the last 20 games I feel like I can do things and try to be a threat every night. Playing with those guys, its a good combination.

It has been a good combination. The three have built good chemistry, good instincts around each other. All in all, its been pretty successful.

That line has, in the last two games, been outstanding, Quenneville said. They have some speed off the rush, a lot of cycle time and a lot of puck possession, and theyre a threat with their quickness off the rush. They all complement one another.

Jonathan Toews donates $1 million to community center in Winnipeg

Jonathan Toews donates $1 million to community center in Winnipeg

Jonathan Toews was the highest paid player in the NHL this past year, and he's giving back to the community that helped him become one of the best players in the league.

The Blackhawks captain donated $1 million to the Dakota Community Centre in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised, making it the largest ever private donation to a community centre in Manitoba.

“From my earliest days playing hockey, Dakota Community Centre has always played a pivotal role in my upbringing and my career," Toews said in a statement. “Today, I continue to be honoured to have my name associated with the Sportsplex on the Dakota campus. My parents have instilled in me the importance of giving back, and I believe that in supporting Dakota, we will see endless possibilities for the Community Centre’s future and transformation in the lives of our community members.”

[SHOP: Buy a Jonathan Toews jersey here!]

Toews will also serve as the honorary chairman for the Dakota Futures Capital Campaign, which will support the construction of a new 60,000-square-foot, $20-million fieldhouse and future development of the campus.

The fieldhouse will include a 30,000-square-foot gymnasium that will contain multiple court sports, such as basketball and volleyball, sport training and conditioning, all of which will be connected to the Jonathan Toews Sportsplex. It's expected to open in the fall of 2017.

The Sportsplex was named in Toews' honor in 2010, and includes two indoor ice rinks, a gymnasium, and strength training facilities, among others.

“We are so proud that Jonathan has chosen to give back to the community in this way," said Toews' parents Andrée Gilbert and Bryan Toews. "Our family has such fond memories of hockey practices and friendships made at the Dakota Community Centre. We look forward to the opening of the new Fieldhouse and the continued growth of the Dakota  campus. Through programs for all ages and acting as a gathering place in our community, the Dakota Community Centre transforms thousands of lives each year."

Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen's defensive roots run deep

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen's defensive roots run deep

In Sweden, the defensive tutelage apparently starts very early in your hockey career.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a decent or a great forward: you’re learning to play defense and you’re learning to play it well.

“When we were younger the coaches always taught us to play a team game and be responsible,” Dennis Rasmussen said on Tuesday morning. “I think they have a program in Sweden where they teach the coaches to be a certain way, and that’s one of the things they say: even if you’re a skill guy, you have to play defense, too.”

Outside of the fact that it sounds like Sweden is full of coach Joel Quennevilles, the defensive-minded approach has served Rasmussen well with the Blackhawks. An injury gave him a chance when the season began but thanks to his steady play, especially on defense, he’s carved out a solid spot in this lineup. On Tuesday night he was back at center, where he’s most comfortable, and adding a little offense in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

Rasmussen had a strong training camp. That, coupled with Andrew Desjardins’ injury in the final preseason game meant Rasmussen stayed with Chicago. It’s worked out well, with Rasmussen providing reliability among the bottom six.

“He’s been good,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s helped out penalty killing wise. I have to commend him on how he’s approached the whole year. It looks like he’s taking advantage a little bit more of the opportunity.”

Speaking of that penalty kill, that’s another part of the game Rasmussen was required to do in Sweden. It was one more thing that’s proven beneficial in his time with the Blackhawks.

“If you’re one of the best players when you were younger you were playing PK, too,” he said. “I always played a lot of power play and PK. if I’d only been playing power play when I got here, it would’ve been more of an issue. But I’m used to the PK before.”

If Rasmussen’s a little frustrated with any part of his game, it’s generating offense. He pointed to Sunday night’s game against the Winnipeg Jets, when he came up empty despite opportunities – “I created a lot of chances but of course I’m not happy with how it developed,” he said. “I had a couple of really good chances last game I should have scored on. That’s one thing I need to do better.” He did capitalize on Tuesday, scoring off a Richard Panik feed in the second period; he nearly scored a short-handed breakaway later in the game.

Rasmussen has been working for a long time on his defensive and penalty killing games. The Blackhawks like what he does and have made him a consistent part of this lineup. He’d like to get the offense going too but if he capitalizes the way he did on Tuesday, it will.

“That’s one thing I have to develop a little bit: take the puck to the net, use my body, have some zone time. That’s been better the last couple of games here,” he said. “As I said before, I need to score on my chances. Hopefully that’s going to come.”