Back-and-forth affair sends Hawks to 7th straight loss

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Back-and-forth affair sends Hawks to 7th straight loss

SAN JOSE, Ca. The response to Jonathan Toews getting knocked around was much like the Blackhawks overall performance on their winless skid: it was there, but it needed to be more and it needed to be quicker.

Toews was roughed up early, and the Blackhawks couldnt get retribution on the scoreboard as the San Jose Sharks beat them 5-3 at HP Pavilion on Friday night. It was another frustrating game for the Blackhawks, who are now winless in seven straight (0-6-1).

The Blackhawks are still somehow in sixth place in the Western Conference, but theyre still losing ground in points. First-place Detroit is now 11 points ahead of them.

The Hawks talked positives after Fridays game but that was little consolation in the grand scheme of things. They still allowed three Sharks power-play goals, two of which put them in an early 2-0 hole and those little gaffes once again turned into big opposing goals.

The Sharks used their physical edge early and often, with Toews in the crosshairs. When Sharks captain Joe Thornton took a few shots at Toews, the Blackhawks didnt respond as quickly as they should have. And when defenseman Sean ODonnnell and Duncan Keith did respond it somehow became a Sharks power play.

Its a little confusing how we get the extra penalty there. Im not sure how many free shots theyre allowed to get. We defend ourselves and get the extra two minutes, Toews said. Its tough to look on the bright side of things but we played hard out there. We saw some fights, saw some scratching and clawing, some battling in front of the net. We played the way we had to. We just gave them too many opportunities on the power play and thats how they separated themselves.

Corey Crawford struggled again, allowing five goals on 27 shots. Asked about goaltending after, coach Joel Quenneville said that has to be better.

The Blackhawks did show their best mettle in the second period, when two Marcus Kruger goals tied the game at 2. Jamal Mayers, who fought Ryan Clowe and was also part of the scuffle with Toews -- was also put on the top line for protective measure. It worked, by the way.

I think that there were a few things said to get us back on track and to be a little more resilient, Mayers said of the first intermission. We know how we have to play. Weve been talking about it for a couple days. Its about executing.

But it was the poor execution that overshadowed things once again. Viktor Stalberg had another costly turnover he didnt play much after committing it, either the Blackhawks gave up another power-play goal and Crawford was too far out of the net again.

The Blackhawks keep trying to find the positives in this skid. There were some here and there, and their second period was a reminder of what they can do when they want to. But the good moments, like physical retaliations, havent been enough to outweigh the problems.

These are tough times right now, said Marian Hossa. We need to get out of the slump. We talk about it, but we cant just put our heads down. We just have to battle through it. Obviously its not a fun time right now.

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.”