Blackhawks stay hot, beat Jets for fourth straight win

Blackhawks stay hot, beat Jets for fourth straight win

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – The Blackhawks came into the back half of this Ice Show trip knowing some of their opponents had had their way with them this season. On Wednesday, the Blackhawks exacted some measure of regular-season revenge against the Minnesota Wild.

On Friday, they did it to the Winnipeg Jets.

Corey Crawford stopped 28 of 30 shots and Duncan Keith's goal proved to be the game winner as the Blackhawks beat the Jets 5-2 at MTS Centre. The Blackhawks remain in second place in the Central Division but still trail the Minnesota Wild by five points. The Wild beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in a shootout on Friday.

Patrick Kane scored his 269th career goal, moving him to sixth place all-time among Blackhawks goal scorers. He's also now the team's leading U.S.-born goal scorer. Artem Anisimov scored his 19th goal of the season. Keith, Kane and Anisimov all had two-point nights while Artemi Panarin turned in a three-point game.

As much as the Blackhawks would've loved to gain some ground on the Wild, this trip has been about snapping losing streaks against some of their foes and improving their overall game. So far, they've done both.

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"I liked our game, I liked our trip here. I think each game we've done a lot of good things, may have been our most complete game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Crow was good in the net and made some big, timely saves for us. We've always been chasing the game against them. Last game we got ahead of them late but couldn't hold on. Tonight I like how we finished it."

The finish came in the form of late empty-net goals, first from Marian Hossa for his team-leading 20th goal of the season, then from Artemi Panarin. But from defense to offense to goaltending, the Blackhawks played well. Crawford nullified the Jets' prime opportunities. Brent Seabrook's late second-period save kept the momentum – and the lead – for the Blackhawks. And the late third-period offense stymied any last-second comeback chance the Jets hoped to have.

"We did what we had to," Kane said of the third period. "We were not generating much throughout the first 17-18 minutes there but we didn't give up much, either. You get a [Keith] shot through you get a goal, all of a sudden it's 3-1 and a couple of empty netters and it looks like a good third for us."

Kane also noted the Blackhawks' start, which was also strong. His goal gave them a 1-0 lead and the Blackhawks dominated the Jets in the first 20 minutes, outshooting them 16-9. One of the Blackhawks' big problems in previous games vs. the Jets was not getting enough shots or traffic around Winnipeg's goaltending. They did both on Friday.

The Blackhawks will be going into a break soon. During that time other teams, including the Wild, will catch up to them on games. The Wild could pull ahead more. The Blackhawks can't control what happens during their bye week but they can finish this trip positively in Edmonton on Saturday night. So far, they've been trending the right way in just about every facet of their game.

"Just a solid game from us," Crawford said. "We've gotta keep rolling here, build more momentum. That could be one of our best games here. We have to keep playing like that."

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

When the news came down that Marian Hossa would miss the 2017-18 season, most first thoughts were about his health. But it was only natural to look at the business implications, and the possibility of Hossa going on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

That would solve the Blackhawks’ cap issues, right? That would give them more money to spend, right? Well, not exactly. See, the LTIR can be a bit complicated. It can also be tricky to explain. And right now, even Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is trying to figure out how this all develops for the team.

“I think there’s a little bit of a misconception on the LTI provision in the salary cap, and understandably so. It’s very complicated. It’s not as simple or as easy as people think it to be,” Bowman said on Thursday, the day before the Blackhawks hosted the 2017 NHL Draft. “I don’t want to get into too many details because it’s hard to explain it all, but there’s a couple different ways it can work.

"You can use offseason LTI and in-season LTI and there’s drawbacks to both, and there’s limitations the way that the league handles those things. It’s not as simple as people might think that we just have this ability to suddenly replace Marian with another player. It’s way more involved than that.”

Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.

Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.

It’s not about the Blackhawks finding a guy this summer that makes an equal cap it.

“If you did that you would be essentially starting the year with an inability to make any transactions," Bowman said. "And that’s why, it’s a harder discussion to have because you’ve got to give you examples of if this happens. But it just doesn’t work that way. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. It’s a much more complicated provision than people think. It’s not some easy cap solution where we just go sign a player for the same amount and off we go. It’s much more problematic than that.”

The NHL will be looking at the situation, although there doesn’t seem to be anything that would keep the Blackhawks from putting Hossa on LTIR. Bowman wasn’t concerned about it.

Still, the Blackhawks will still be doing their share of offseason math.

“I know how it works. What’s going to happen is a different question," Bowman said. "You don’t make those decisions overnight, but I think that understandably there’s probably a lot of confusion, because it’s not your job to run the salary cap for a team. So, I can get why you don’t know all the little details, and it is a very intricate provision in the CBA. So, we understand it. We’ve used LTI before, so it’s not like it’s something we’ve never been faced with. It’s just a factor that we’ll get through.”