Blackhawks on outside of standings looking in

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Blackhawks on outside of standings looking in

Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011Posted: 4:20 PM
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

CALGARY, Alberta The Chicago Blackhawks may have been a bit surprised when they looked at the standings this morning: the reigning Stanley Cup champions are in 11th place in the West.

Yes, there are miniscule points separating them from the top eight, but there it was nonetheless: Blackhawks 11th.

When you looked at the standings and (coach Joel Quenneville) said it this morning at the meeting, you could see the disbelief on guys faces, Troy Brouwer said.

It is a little hard to grasp for the Blackhawks, who have lost three of their last four entering Monday nights tilt against the Calgary Flames. They are on the outside looking in, and its unfamiliar territory. Still, the Blackhawks are keeping it in perspective.

Its not discouraging for us because of the way we played, but we have to continue to that aspect of our play and going into the next couple of games well be successful, Brouwer said.

The Blackhawks have been a calm bunch since Fridays loss, despite bad calls and another missed chance at two points. But theyre looking at the games ahead of them, not behind.

You look at the standings, everyones really close and we just happen to be in 11th place. Its not a position you want to be in, especially after the 82 games are over. But we have about 30 games left and playing some teams were competing with, too, Patrick Kane said. Every games important. Weve got some tough games ahead of us but I think if we put it all together we should be OK.

Itll start again on Monday against the Flames. As of Sunday, Calgary was one point ahead of the Blackhawks thanks to one of those three-point games about which Quenneville often talks, the Flames 4-3 shootout victory over Los Angeles on Saturday.

Those type of games, and the Blackhawks inability to finish late, have led to 11th place.

We didnt take advantage of a lot of games, 11 games tied or leading in the third period and we come up with no points, Quenneville said. We have to be better no matter where we play here on out.

The Blackhawks were still feeling encouraged by their level of play in Fridays 4-3 loss to Vancouver. If they want extra motivation for Monday, they can always think back on their Nov. 20 game here, when the Flames beat them 7-2. Then again, just getting back into the top eight is motivation alone.

Were sitting in 11th place today. We can all sit around and panic but thats not really the kind of group we have, Kane said. Everyones confident with what we have in here what we can do when we play at the top of our game.

Kanes pain

Patrick Kane just has to deal with and work through his left ankle sprain he suffered on Dec. 5. He was reminded of that on Friday morning when he went down for a few minutes prior to the Blackhawks game against Vancouver.

With this injury, pain goes through the roof for a minute, two minutes, even five minutes sometimes. That one in practice the other day, I definitely felt it right away, after I was OK with it, said Kane, who looked fine in playing 21-and-a-half minutes and taking seven shots on goal -- that night.

If its a nerve or something, I dont know what it is. The pains tough for a bit, Kane said. And it messes with your head because youre down for a little bit and then a couple minutes later youre fine. But Id rather have it that way than the other way around.

Power-play switcheroo

Troy Brouwer took Marian Hossas place on the Blackhawks top power-play unit at Sundays practice. Quenneville said it was just a little adjustment, a little alteration.

Our power play couldve been difference in the game (against Vancouver), Quenneville said. It could be (Brouwer providing more net presence). Weve had it before, but either way we need the net presence.

Crawford in

Corey Crawford will start against Calgary on Monday night, making his first start since suffering a 4-2 loss to Minnesota on Jan. 25. Crawford doesnt anticipate any rustiness after the layoff.

Ive been practicing hard and getting ready the best I can. Thats the only thing I can do is make sure Im good and battle hard, he said. Ill try to do the best I can and hopefully Ill bring my best game.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco lingered near the end of the Blackhawks' practice on Saturday, watching as fellow Slovak/now-teammate Marian Hossa drew a few things up on the dry-erase board.

Having a few familiar countrymen's faces (Hossa and Richard Panik) in the room helps. But for Jurco, just getting a fresh start is a welcome sight.

Jurco skated on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Hossa, and it looks like he'll make his Blackhawks debut there when the team hosts St. Louis on Sunday night. Jurco spent the last few seasons with the Detroit Red Wings but couldn't find a steady place in the lineup. Now here, he's hoping to change his fortunes.

"I mean, it's been tough couple of years for me in Detroit, so I was talking to [general manager] Ken Holland and we were discussing some options. I wasn't progressing in the last year or so, so I think this is a great time to push my game to another level," Jurco said on Saturday. "Like I said, this is another fresh start for me and I'm very excited for it."

[MORE: Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues]

Jurco joins a Blackhawks team that is surging (winning eight of nine) these last few weeks of the season. He and Hossa played together in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, so there's some familiarity as well as friendship there.

General manager Stan Bowman said Friday night that, based on Jurco's skills and the Blackhawks' style of play, Jurco should fit in well.

"I think he's going to get better here," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's going to get a little bit more comfortable with how we have to play, knowing that you want to go right through the puck and you want to pressure. Offensively I think he's got a chance to recapture some confidence. I think he moves well. I like his size. [It's] just getting a little more comfortable with our game and trusting his own instincts right off the bat."

It was time for a change for Jurco. Whether he blossoms like Panik, who came here from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and is now putting up career numbers as part of the Blackhawks' top line, remains to be seen. It's an opportunity nonetheless, and Jurco is ready to take advantage of it. 

"It was a number of different reasons in Detroit it didn't work out for me. I wasn't playing much, so that's obviously tough. And when you don't play for a few weeks and you play a couple of games, it's very tough," Jurco said. "I'm very happy that I'm here and excited for tomorrow."

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Niklas Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury but he will not play on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Hjalmarsson left with a little over eight minutes remaining in Thursday night's 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. He missed morning skate that day and, prior to the game, was seen wearing a wrap around his back. Whether or not that is the injury, however, is unknown. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will give Hjalmarsson time to regain full health, especially at this point of the season.

"I think he knows his body and he knows when he can fight through certain things. Giving him enough time to get back to where he's basically 100 percent is what we want," Quenneville said. "That's why he left the game last game. We want to make sure that when he comes back – you know, there's certain things you can fight through, and with him he can go through anything. Let's make sure at this time of the year that he recovers from this."

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Quenneville said the Blackhawks will go with the six defensemen they currently have. The last time Hjalmarsson missed a game due to injury was late February/early March of 2012 (six games with an upper-body injury).

"He's a warrior, he gives you everything you want in a big game like tomorrow's. Certainly missed him in the last game," Quenneville said. "We haven't exposed too much not having Hammer out there in important shifts, but it's a good chance for other guys to get critical and important shifts, and hopefully that helps them in their games as well."

Briefly

- Jordin Tootoo also missed practice (illness).

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Blues.