Blackhawks need goals from everybody, but especially from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

Blackhawks need goals from everybody, but especially from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Coach Joel Quenneville was asked about seeing more out of Jonathan Toews this postseason. Same with Patrick Kane. In each instance, the response was pretty much the same: The Blackhawks needed more out of everyone, not just those two.

"We look across the board," he said. "We always find that when we're in some tough spots our top guys always find a way to lead the charge and find a way to overcome all obstacles. And we're going to need (Toews and Kane), but we're going to need everybody else too. It's a tough challenge. You can't just rely on one guy to get it done."

Well, that's true to a point. The Blackhawks certainly need more across the board in a series that has been very lopsided in the Nashville Predators' favor. But if they want to continue past tomorrow, let alone pull off the comeback to get to the second round, they really need their top players to get going.

The Blackhawks are on the brink of elimination when they face the Nashville Predators in Game 4 of their first-round series on Thursday night. It's been an all-too quiet series overall for the Blackhawks, whose two second-period goals in Game 3 are their only ones of the first three games. The silence from their top players has been at the forefront of that.

Kane's goal on Monday was only his second in his last 10 playoff games. Toews has gone goal-less in the postseason since Game 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2015 Stanley Cup final (12 games).

"That's something I'm obviously well aware of and no better moment than a game like (Game 4). I've waited long enough," Toews said of his goal drought. "You've got to go out there feeling lucky like you're going to work for that bounce. I'm just trying to stay patient and smart and do the right things. Obviously no more waiting. [Thursday] is a big game and a great time for it to come through and make a big play, and contribute…"

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With two goals in three games, clearly Toews and Kane aren't the only ones who are too quiet on the scoresheet. But Toews and Kane have been the offensive backbone of this team for many postseasons now. They've come up with the clutch games and goals over and over again.

"You need your best players this time of year to step up and be your best players. Throughout the playoffs, as time goes on, you kind of see some depth guys step up and have big games," Kane said. "but at times like this, I think it's the top guys who probably need to lead the charge."

The Blackhawks look to their top players for leadership, be it their words or their play. The latter is especially needed now. And the faster they get going the more there's a ripple effect throughout the lineup, with confidence and offense.  

The last time the Blackhawks were swept in a postseason series most of the players on their current roster were kids (1993 division semifinals against St. Louis). They still believe they can come back in this series. To do that they'll need contributions from everybody but they'll really need it from the guys who have done it so often in the past.

"We know what we have to do. It just comes down to what we haven't accomplished yet," Toews said. "We're getting closer and closer to getting that win. So [Thursday] we've just got to go out there and find a way to win that game."

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

Blackhawks agree to terms with Nathan Noel on entry-level contract

The Blackhawks strengthened their organizational depth Thursday, announcing the signing of forward Nathan Noel to a three-year entry-level contract that kicks in next season and runs through the 2019-20 campaign. 

Noel, a fourth-round draft pick (No. 113 overall) in 2016, tied a career high with 24 goals — including six game winners — and added 26 assists for 50 points in 52 games during his fourth regular season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He was sidelined for a little more than a month in December and January due to an upper-body injury.

The 19-year-old center has raised his game in the postseason, racking up eight goals and 18 assists in 33 games from 2015-17, including six assists in 12 contests so far during the 2017 QMJHL playoffs. Across four years at Saint John, he amassed 208 points (85 goals, 123 assists) in 242 career regular-season games.

Noel is teammates with forward Matthew Highmore, who leads the Sea Dogs in scoring and was signed by the Blackhawks in March to a three-year deal as an undrafted free agent.

Noel is an undersized forward at 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, but he's a fast skater with offensive upside. He'll likely start the 2017-18 season in the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs, who desperately needed scoring last year. 

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz added to USA's roster for 2017 IIHF World Championship

Nick Schmaltz will be joining Blackhawks teammate Trevor van Riemsdyk on Team USA at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, the club announced Thursday.

It will be his first career appearance on the U.S. men's national team and third time representing his country in world-championship play, most recently winning a bronze medal at the 2016 World Juniors. He scored two goals and added six assists in seven games during that tournament.

Schmaltz just completed his first professional season with the Blackhawks, where he tallied six goals and 22 assists in 61 games. 

After the year ended, he spoke about the possibility of playing for USA in this tournament and what it would mean to him.

"I think it's a great tournament," Schmaltz said. "You get to play with a lot of great players. Look like a lot of great players are going to the tournament, so it's definitely a big stage. It would be a fun tournament."

The roster now includes 13 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders. Among the other NHLers going for the Americans: Danny DeKeyser, Noah Hanifin, Jimmy Howard, Dylan Larkin, Anders Lee, Charlie McAvoy, Connor Murphy, Brock Nelson and Jacob Trouba.

Blackhawks forwards Marcus Kruger (Sweden) and Artemi Panarin (Russia) will also compete in the tournament, which begins May 5 and runs until May 21 in Cologne, Germany and Paris, France.