Blackhawks have fun practice, defend Coach Q

670662.png

Blackhawks have fun practice, defend Coach Q

With the 1,800-pound gorilla also known as an eight-game losing streak weighing on his team as it took the ice for a practice at Johnnys West before departing for Nashville to open the final leg of their nine-game road trip, Joel Quenneville encouraged what else? a little fun.

We tried to have a pulse thats positive, Quenneville said. Coming off two tough road trips here, the moods down, and low, and we tried to instill some positive things, some fun drills, and try to get a little life.

The Hawks ignored the too-many-men-on-the-ice rule and skated up and down, clogging every lane and zone possible to begin the session, and goals were met with whoops and hollers. Leading the way was Mr. Light-hearted (and team prankster) Patrick Sharp, who ended the 50-minute workout flicking a puck or two up to young fans in attendance.

I try to keep it light, have fun, goof around. I feel I play my best when its loose, and the team does, too, the alternate captain said.

That said, theres one of many schools of thought citing with regards to Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as the guys who will have to lead the way out of this with so many areas springing leaks. Hossa went into the All-Star break with a nine-game point streak, but has exactly zero in the six games since.

100 percent (that its up to the stars to lead the way). We say we need everybody but we have to be the couple (of players) and lead this team, Hossa agreed. Im expecting myself to be better and help the team get a win after a long time.

In being outscored 34-15, the goals-against average now sitting at even 3 per game, the power play 1-for-21 during the skid, and the penalty kill just 17-of-24 starting with the two meetings with Nashville prior to the break, there are a multitude of areas that need improvement, and the trade market remains dormant. That has led many to believe Quennevilles job could be in jeopardy, something general manager Stan Bowman denied in a Monday interview with Comcast SportsNet.

Asked his reaction after practice, the head coach who reached 600 career regular-season wins earlier this season remained focused on whats directly in front of him and his team.

Im confident in what I do and look forward to the challenge of instilling in our group a way to win and an environment in having to get better as we go along. Coming out of this were going to need everybody to find a way to be together, and when we look back over time, hopefully we can talk about being better as a team and I can be better as a coach. Its something you dont think about as you go along as a coach, but with the situation, it can be a reality.

Theyre trying to do everything I think they should do, Hossa said. I think the coaching staffs doing a great job addressing what we have to do. We just have to do it on the ice.

Theres no doubt about Joel in our locker room, Sharp stated. Id tell you if that happened (Quenneville getting fired), thered be a lot of guys in this room upset with themselves. We know as players were the ones who put the puck in the net and need to keep it out of our net. Theres no question Joels our leader.

News and notes

Keith was given a maintenance day and was not practicing, but will face Nashville Tuesday night. Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador (upper body injuries) were not on the ice and did not travel with the team to begin this portion of the road trip. Ray Emery will get his second-straight start in goal.

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade rumors abound

Blackhawks mailbag: Trade rumors abound

We interrupt this mid-January Blackhawks mailbag for an important announcement:

We are reaching that time of the season when trade rumors abound. There will be names galore, some that could make sense, some that will make absolutely no sense. Unfortunately, the latter will get as much attention in some circles as the former. That's the way this time of year goes.

One more note: On any name that's bandied about right now, check where his team is in the standings. If it's close to reaching a postseason spot, tap the brakes until things shake out a little more. I know, kids, I know: patience is not a virtue for many people, let alone Twitter. It'll all be OK.

With all that said onto the mailbag which, as you can imagine, asks a few trade-centric questions.

I agree on not trading the first-round draft pick. The Blackhawks have done that in the past but, with the draft in Chicago this summer, they’re going to want to hold onto that as well as a good amount of draft picks. This is their showcase.

I agreed with Jamal Mayers on CSN's latest podcast that the Blackhawks will likely look for someone with no term left on his contract past this season. I know there's been mention of guys with several years and big cap hits remaining on their deals, but how do the Blackhawks do that, especially with Artemi Panarin's new contract also kicking in next season? They'd have to get rid of a big contract and most of their big contracts also have no movement clauses.

Piggybacking off the last question, I do believe the Blackhawks have to do something to bolster their forward depth. They need someone who has some experience but won't cost them a lot (easy for me to say). Who that guy is right now, I'm not sure (don't worry, I'll be doing one of these in February, too). I wouldn't go for a Jarome Iginla or Shane Doan, as much as I like both of those guys. The Blackhawks don't have the forward depth to take a chance on a player who, while he may have been great several years ago, may not have much left now.

I've got three thoughts on this one.

First, the Dallas Stars fall into the above-mentioned category regarding potential playoffs. Despite a slew of injuries and inconsistent play, the Stars are 11th in the Western Conference but are just two points out of a playoff spot.

Second, Sharp has struggled with his health this season, as concussions have led to two lengthy absences.

Third, and this is my biggest question: Can you go home again? The Blackhawks have brought back Cup winners a few times, from Kris Versteeg to Andrew Ladd to Brian Campbell. Versteeg’s return here was up and down, Campbell's has been OK (there have been a few healthy scratches in there) and Ladd's didn’t work at all. Yes, six years passed from when Ladd left to when he returned; a lot changes over six years. But the bottom line is the attempt to rekindle line magic between Ladd and Jonathan Toews failed. Just wonder if this would go the same way.

We talked to Jonathan Toews on Tuesday morning and he said the back is not the issue. I don't believe it's another injury. The problem is, I don't know what the problem is. Toews has snapped out of these slumps before but this one seems to be lingering. I'm sure the confidence is shaken; how can it not be? We're all human, and even the best question themselves at times. I still think Toews will find the offense again but I don't think his current performances have anything to do with an injury.

Let's address Toews’ faceoff percentage first: it's fine. For the season, he's winning 57.5 percent of his faceoffs, good for sixth in the NHL. Outside of that awful Washington game, he's been around 50 percent or better in recent games.

Regarding Kruger, it's tough to say. The Blackhawks are looking for more balance and more scoring, and if those two categories don't improve the changes will continue regardless of who's in the lineup. Does coach Joel Quenneville go back to the third line that was working before Kruger was hurt (when he was with Dennis Rasmussen and Richard Panik)? He could. Just depends on how the Blackhawks are trending when Kruger does return.

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

They could. Whether or not they do, I'm not sure yet. The Blackhawks did that with Brandon Saad back in the spring of 2012 once the Saginaw Spirit’s season ended. He played in two postseason games. My opinion, if the Blackhawks did it with anyone it would be DeBrincat. Even if he doesn't play, it’s a good chance to be around and practice with the team.

I know what you're referring to and all that article said was Vanek could be a possibility. As of Wednesday, the Red Wings are 14th in the Eastern Conference with 46 points. Sounds like they’re out of it, until you see they’re only four points from eighth place. As I said above, some of these teams are going to want to see where they are in a few weeks. As for cost, I wouldn't give up much past a pick, maybe two, but not high ones.

As of now, according to Cap Friendly, Hartman is eligible for the expansion draft. As far as the likelihood that Las Vegas takes him, it’s possible. It depends on what Vegas wants and needs. The Blackhawks, like everyone else, will lose one (and only one) player. Will Vegas want defensemen? Will they want a two-way player? But absolutely, Hartman would be available.

I'm guessing I've had a few of those and, to my recollection, I didn't dislike them. Honestly, I'm not as much of a wine aficionado as I've led the Twitter world to believe. Pinot noirs aren't my favorite (pretty light), love Malbecs, most French and Italian wines and you really have to talk me into a Chardonnay (I do like the ones that are out of steel drums now; just not a fan of the oak taste). Cheers!

Which current Blackhawks would Jeremy Roenick like to play with?

Which current Blackhawks would Jeremy Roenick like to play with?

Is there anyone who wouldn't want to play with Patrick Kane?

Jeremy Roenick joined In The Loop on Wednesday to discuss which current Blackhawks he would like to play with, and naturally, the reigning MVP topped his list.

"He would be my No. 1 choice," Roenick said. "There's no question about it."

But Roenick said there are two more Blackhawks he would like to lace them up with.

"I wouldn't mind playing with (Artemi) Panarin also," he said. "I would love to play with Jonathan Toews. I think I'd play well with all three of them."

Roenick also gave high praise to coach Joel Quenneville, saying he is one of the best coaches in all of sports. Roenick even compared Quenneville to "the Bill Belichick of hockey."

See what else the Roenick had to say in the video above.