Two games in, Blackhawks getting a 2010 feeling about 2013

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Two games in, Blackhawks getting a 2010 feeling about 2013

PHOENIX The Blackhawks lines rolled out at their respective times, each doing its part against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday, then the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday. Some scored. Some defended. But all played good, effective minutes.

It was enough to get Marian Hossa reminiscing.

Right now, it feels like 2010.

The Blackhawks have been yearning to get four lines going again since that Stanley Cup-winning season. And in their first two games, theyve been getting them. Everyone is playing, everyone is contributing in some fashion. And that four-line effort gave the Blackhawks two victories on that opening road trip out West.

We have the four lines going. Its only two games, but I feel good about us rolling four lines, Hossa said. Everyones more energized instead of playing two or three lines and getting tired.

Sure, every team wants four lines going. But in this frenetic 48-game season, the more that can occur the better off a team will be. On training camps opening day, coach Joel Quenneville stated it was a must in the abbreviated season. And whether its his new combinations, the familiarity players have with each other or the fact everyones so happy to be playing again, hes getting it.

Just like he did three seasons ago. That Cup-winning squad had been building and getting familiar with each others style for a few seasons. It all came together that year when their talent and familiarity allowed for four lines rolling consistently. This seasons team didnt change much from last year, so players are once again getting comfortable with each other. And its showing in the lines.

The 2010 team had four lines we were rotating; everybody was going. Thats what were talking about this season, Quenneville said. I like how all our players are capable of playing together and playing against anyone. Especially on the road, we trust everybody out there. I like the depth; well probably get challenged with it, but itll help us.

The time-on-ice numbers say it all for the Blackhawks. Fourth-liner Brandon Bollig had the lowest TOI tally of 5 minutes, 40 seconds, but probably wouldve had more if not for his fight with Coyotes forward Paul Bissonnette. The rest of the Blackhawks forwards had 10 minutes or more each. Brandon Saad, in his season debut, had 13:31 with top liners Jonathan Toews and Hossa.

The numbers dont lie; the four lines were rolling on a weekend when the Blackhawks needed to conserve energy, needed everybody to be involved. In turn, theyve been fresher, and have capitalized on plenty of scoring chances. The Blackhawks have 11 goals in their first two games; 15 of the 20 skaters who played in the first two games have at least one point.

The cores been here for a while; we know each other and how its going to be, center Dave Bolland said. And with other guys who have come in, weve bonded pretty quick to adapt to what we have to do.

Quenneville said, Guys want the puck. We have good speed in our team game right now. Weve had some odd-man breaks, had some fortunate luck around the net. You look at how hard it was to score against (the Coyotes) in the playoffs and tonight they went in.

The Blackhawks got off to the start they wanted. Theyre getting more consistent contributions across the board. And theyre getting a sense that this 2013 group, right now, has that 2010 feel to it.

We need all four lines rolling. And we have the team that can do that, whether were down or up (on the scoreboard), Bolland said. We have a great team, with great depth.

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

Blackhawks recall Johansson, assign Schmaltz

The Blackhawks will be without their No. 1 goaltender for a few weeks, so the obvious backup call-up came on Sunday morning.

At the same time, the Blackhawks are going to give one of their forwards a little work in the minors.

The Blackhawks recalled goaltender Lars Johansson from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning. They also assigned forward Nick Schmaltz to the IceHogs.

Johansson has a 6-7-1 mark with 2.63 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 16 games. This comes one day after Corey Crawford had an appendectomy in Philadelphia prior to the Blackhawks’ 3-1 loss there. Crawford, according to the team, is expected to be out 2-3 weeks.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz has a goal and three assists in 26 games with the Blackhawks this season. Schmaltz is one of several forwards who got a top-line opportunity this season and, much like most of the others, couldn’t stick there. He has struggled to find a consistent game.

The Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday night. Scott Darling is expected to get the start.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 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. Seeking revenge.

In their first meeting of the season, the Jets ended the Blackhawks' 11-game point streak by shutting them out 4-0 in Winnipeg. The Blackhawks will look to get even tonight when the Jets come into their building, where the Blackhawks are 10-1-2. The Jets haven't been as successful away from home, carrying a 4-8-2 road record into the United Center.

2. Tired legs? Not so fast.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Blackhawks, who will play their second game in as many days traveling from Philadelphia to Chicago. But don't expect fatigue to play too much of a role. Well, maybe it will, but the Blackhawks have been close to perfect in the second of a back-to-back with a 4-0-1 record compared to 3-3-0 in the first game. It also helps that Saturday's game against the Flyers was at 12 p.m., giving the team some extra time to recover for a divisional matchup. The Jets, on the other hand, will being playing in their second game in as many nights as well, having played St. Louis last night which ended in a 3-2 overtime win for the Jets. 

3. Who's in, who's out on D?

Trevor van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup Saturday, and certainly showed some rust after missing more than six weeks with an upper-body injury. With it being the second of a back-to-back, the Blackhawks could look to rotate the blue line and reinsert Gustav Forsling, who was a healthy scratch for the first time, back into the equation and perhaps Michal Rozsival, too.

4. Patrik Laine.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2016 has scored four goals and an assist in his last three games, continuing his phenomenal rookie campagin. He's on pace to reach almost 40 goals, which is incredible for a rookie in an era where scoring gets harder and harder. He's tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead with 16 goals, one of which came against Chicago in the first meeting. 

5. Capitalize on special teams.

The Jets haven't been particularly good on special teams lately. They're 3-for-26 on the power play in their last 10 games, which is an 11.5 percent success rate, and are 26-for-36 on the penalty kill (72.2 percent) in their last eight. Their power play percentage ranks 20th in the league at 15.2 and penalty kill ranks 25th at 79.0. They're trending in the wrong direction. The Blackhawks are still struggling to find a rhythm on the power play, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to break through.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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