Blackhawks bonus: Defense has a 'strong night'

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Blackhawks bonus: Defense has a 'strong night'

Getting points isnt the top priority for defensemen, but any that they can get is certainly a bonus.

And for the Chicago Blackhawks, bonuses abounded on Wednesday night.

Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook each had two assists, as the Blackhawks defensemen were prevalent on the score sheet in their 6-2 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday night. Five of the six Blackhawks defensemen got at least a point on Wednesday, as their shots turned into several goals.

But Keith said it was about the guys in front as much as it was the ones in back.

I think the lanes were there; we got our shots on net and we had traffic in front, he said. It was a good job by the D to get our shots through but we have (Andrew Shaw) in front, (Jonathan) Toews in front battling. That makes a difference. We knew we were playing fine. We just stuck with it.

It was Nick Leddys third consecutive game with an assist. Keith, meanwhile, is now fifth in assists (24) and 10th in points (26) among NHL defensemen.

Be it on the power play or even strength, the defensemen were shooting. And the guys in front were turning them into goals.

Our D across the board had one of their better games all year, coach Joel Quenneville said. They were very active in the attack: odd-man breaks, support off the attack. Our shots on the power play were better because we were shooting from the point. It was a strong night.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.

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.