Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.

Blackhawks still stunned, 'embarrassed' by quick exit

Blackhawks still stunned, 'embarrassed' by quick exit

The Blackhawks convened on Saturday for their annual locker clean-out/player evaluation day. It was a day that came a lot quicker than they expected, and two days after being swept out of the postseason, the bitter feelings hadn’t diminished a bit.

“Yeah, it’s embarrassing,” Duncan Keith said. “When you go into the playoffs you expect a long run and all of a sudden you’re out four straight. There’s no other way to describe it. Shocked, embarrassing, to me those are the words.”

There really wasn’t much to say on Saturday, as the Blackhawks still tried to figure out what went wrong in their lopsided series loss to the Nashville Predators. It wasn’t about losing that Stanley Cup-winning feeling, they said. But there was no doubt the Predators were the hungrier team; that, nobody among the Blackhawks denied.

“I don’t think there’s any doubt,” Patrick Kane said of the Predators wanting it more. “If you watch that series or re-watch games, they seem like the faster team, the hungrier team. Maybe we were in a situation where we were maybe looking past a team like Nashville and thinking that we were going to go on, and it was going to be an easy series and we were just getting ourselves ready for what was to come down the road. It’s easy to say all of this stuff now, but I guess if you look back and watch the games, you could say they wanted it a bit more.”

Marian Hossa agreed.

“You know, there’s something right about it,” he said of Kane’s assessment. “In the regular season we had games where we beat them and maybe he’s right. But you have to give them so much credit because they gave us a hard time to try and make something happen. I don’t remember a series ending so early like this in my career and so few goals. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

It’s tough because any resemblance between the Blackhawks who garnered 109 regular-season points and the Blackhawks in that first-round series was purely coincidental. It was night and day.

“I think everyone thought they were at their best and it was the exact opposite. I think we’re missing what we had all year and it showed. It showed and against a team that maybe payed or had one of the best defensive efforts I’ve seen. They were all over the ice and it was a tough series to play in, especially when you expect so much,” Corey Crawford said. “We just weren’t the same team. I think anyone who was watching could pretty much see that.”

There was plenty of blame to go around and all among the Blackhawks, be it the brass or the coaches or the players, took their share of it. General manager Stan Bowman said it fell on him to field the best team. Coach Joel Quenneville said it was up to him to have the Blackhawks ready. Individual players pointed to what they didn’t do. But what’s done is done for this season. The Blackhawks failed, and while they say and know they need to move on, this will stay with them for a while.

“It’s not the fact that we lost. It’s how we lost I think when you look at it. I’m embarrassed — the way we played,” Brent Seabrook said. “It’s going to be a tough summer and that’s about it.”

Several Blackhawks veterans will sit out vs. Ducks

Several Blackhawks veterans will sit out vs. Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Blackhawks have two more regular-season games, with no significant attachment to either. So on Thursday, with the season nearly done, the Blackhawks will rest a few more veterans.

Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are expected to take the night off when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Niklas Hjalmarsson will also be out; he's still back in Chicago attending to family matters. The moves give veterans the chance to rest up for the postseason and younger players to show what they can do.

"I mean, if you can skip a game towards the playoffs it's a luxury," Hossa said. "Some guys can get the rest. We have a lot of extra guys, so coaches can make decisions in the first round. They can show the potential, too. So it's a luxury we have right now."

There could be more veterans back in the lineup on Saturday, when the Blackhawks finish the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings.

Gustav Forsling, who the Blackhawks recalled on Wednesday, will draw into the lineup. Forsling had a good start to this season but didn't progress as the Blackhawks hoped he would, prompting a trip to Rockford.

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"His best stretch was at camp. It looked like he was going to be one of those guys that could play in all situations, meaningful minutes. Down there, he's played more, and we're probably looking for progression when he does play tonight," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He has an upside to his game, just the way he moves and anticipates and offensively sees and makes plays is a great asset to have. We're looking for that progression. That's the area that, down there we probably didn't see it like we were hoping, but we still think he has all the intangibles to capture."

Meanwhile, Artem Anisimov continues to skate back in Chicago. Quenneville said Anisimov is progressing well but the second-line center will not join the Blackhawks on this final regular-season trip.

Broadcast information

Time: 9 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live Stream: CSNChicago.com
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Tomas Jurco-Nick Schmaltz-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Andrew Desjardins
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs 

Johnny Oduya-Gustav Forsling
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Rozsival-Michal Kempny

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Ducks forward lines

Nick Ritchie-Ryan Getzlaf-Patrick Eaves
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Rickard Rakell-Antoine Vermette-Corey Perry
Chris Wagner-Nate Thompson-Logan Shaw

Defensive pairs

Shea Theodore-Brandon Montour
Korbinian Holzer-Josh Manson
Jaycob Megna-Kevin Bieksa

Goaltender

John Gibson

Injuries

Cam Fowler (lower body)