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.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!] 

"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 make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

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.