Blackhawks aren't concerned with power outage

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Blackhawks aren't concerned with power outage

Marian Hossa said frustration isnt there right now.

Hossa has been out there on that Blackhawks power play, which is mired in a definite early-season slump. Hes taken his shots and watched his teammates do the same. But no matter the game, the opposing goaltender or the number of chances, the Blackhawks just cant connect on a power-play goal. Zip, zilch, nothing. And on Monday night against Nashville it was 0-for-7 nothing.

But Hossa isnt worried.

Were not really frustrated right now because we do a lot of good things. Were moving, he said. Just about the time when the first puck goes in, then itll come in bunches.

Its an optimistic attitude for a power play that hasnt had many positives. Yes, the opportunities have been there, and in the last two games so have the more choice shots. It didnt help on Monday that Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne was not in a very giving mood on the Blackhawks power plays. But the power play remains anemic nonetheless, as the Blackhawks have capitalized just four times on 45 advantages this season.

The Blackhawks last power-play goal came Oct. 22 against the Colorado Avalanche; theyve gone 0 for 18 in their last four games. Theyre converting just 8.9 percent of the time, which puts them 29th in the league only St. Louis power play is more futile (8.3 percent). Contrast that with their penalty kill, which has scored just one less goal (three) than their power play.

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And as much as power-play chances and shots have improved, coach Joel Quenneville said those positives only go so far.

With the number of chances weve had, somethings got to give, he said. Were generating but we need production. Thats what we measure and thats what were looking to attain.

Quenneville loves to switch forward lines and defensive pairings when things arent going right, and hes done the same with the power play. The new combinations have yielded better scoring chances. But the Blackhawks could still shoot more: they had nine shots on seven power plays on Monday, including just two on a 5 on 3 that lasted one minute, 35 seconds.

When the Blackhawks had early shootout issues several players said this group was too talented for that to last. They were right. The mini-drought didnt last and the same is likely for the power play.

The Blackhawks have weathered power-play woes with good work elsewhere: strong goaltending and their ability to pile up goals on even strength among them. They also benefit from a stellar penalty kill, which is third in the NHL (91.7 percent). They probably win some games more handily if the power plays working, but theyre a strong 7-2-2 nonetheless.

Hockeys a game of ups and downs. The power play is decidedly down right now but the Blackhawks say its only a matter of time before it starts producing.

Were doing everything except putting it in the net, Patrick Kane said. Everything else is looking pretty good as far as movement. Breakouts were good tonight and there was good movement on the 5 on 3 and 5 on 4. We just have to score goals.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.

Blackhawks sign prospect Matheson Iacopelli to entry-level contract

Blackhawks sign prospect Matheson Iacopelli to entry-level contract

The Blackhawks officially agreed to terms with prospect Matheson Iacopelli on a two-year entry-level contract that begins next season and runs through the 2018-19 campaign.

He will report to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 22-year-old forward recently completed his sophomore season at Western Michigan, where he scored a team-high 20 goals and added 16 assists in 40 games. It was a huge bounce-back year after recording only one goal and six assists in 27 games during his freshman season.

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A third-round pick (No. 83 overall) by the Blackhawks in 2014, Iacopelli possesses a dangerous shot and is a big-bodied winger at 6-foot-3, 206 pounds. His two-way game still needs fine-tuning, something he will certainly work on in Rockford, but he gives the IceHogs another much-needed scorer.

Iacopelli is the fourth Blackhawks prospect to sign this season out of college, joining John Hayden, Anthony Louis and Luc Snuggerud.