Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks try to avoid third straight loss on CSN

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Blackhawks try to avoid third straight loss on CSN

Wednesday Feb. 16, 2011
10:19 a.m.
Associated Press
With desperation about to set in, the Chicago Blackhawks believe now is the time to string together some wins.

The reigning Stanley Cup champions can start by trying to beat a team they're chasing in the Western Conference standings.

The Blackhawks return from a disappointing trip trying to avoid a third straight loss overall and at the United Center on Wednesday night against the Minnesota Wild.

With less than two months remaining in the regular season, Chicago (28-22-6) has no choice but to get hot in order to defend its Cup title. The Blackhawks are 11th in the West, four points out of the eighth and final playoff spot with 26 games left.

"We're looking for our own run," coach Joel Quenneville told the Blackhawks' official website. "Every game is huge, every game is important."

The Blackhawks, who suffered shootout losses at Dallas and Phoenix to conclude a 2-2-2 road swing, have lost six of eight. They're returning to the United Center for the first time since falling 4-2 to Minnesota on Jan. 25.

"We have a lot of character," rookie goaltender Corey Crawford said. "We need the points."

After Tuesday's 4-1 loss to Vancouver, the Wild (30-21-5) remained ninth in the conference. They are three points ahead of Chicago and one behind eighth-place Calgary.

Minnesota overcame a 2-1 first-period deficit last month to drop Chicago to 16-13-0 at home. The Blackhawks were 29-8-4 at the United Center in 2009-10.

The Wild, meanwhile, have won 12 of 17 on the road.

"They are playing very well right now," said Quenneville, whose club plays six of the next nine at home. "It's a very meaningful game."

Chicago has been outscored 8-3 in its last two home contests. The challenge in the offensive zone could get tougher if Patrick Kane is unable to play after dealing with the flu this week.

Though Kane didn't score in Saturday's 3-2 loss to the Coyotes, he had four goals and three assists the previous three games. Kane has two goals with six assists his last seven versus Minnesota.

Despite losing four of five, Crawford is expected to start Wednesday. He stopped just 18 of 22 shots last month in his first career start against the Wild.

Pierre-Marc Bouchard had a goal with an assist and ex-Blackhawk Martin Havlat scored for the Wild at Chicago in January.

Havlat has that goal and three assists in six games versus Chicago since leaving as a free agent in 2009. However, he was held without a point for the second straight contest Tuesday as the Wild had their three-game winning streak snapped with their third loss in 12 games.

"We had a nice little winning streak and now we lost," coach Todd Richards said. "We have to regroup and come out (Wednesday) and try to start another winning streak."

Though Minnesota outshot the Canucks 29-14, it was stymied after totaling 11 goals the previous three games.

"It's definitely frustrating. We've been playing so well," Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner said.

Minnesota's Cal Clutterbuck scored Tuesday, giving him four goals in three games.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Brandon Saad back in veteran-like form for Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Brandon Saad back in veteran-like form for Blackhawks

Brandon Saad seems like more of an NHL veteran than he is. From his size to his composed style of play to what he’s already accomplished at this level, Saad gives off that vibe that he’s been around much longer than he actually has. Even his teammates forget that.

“You think he may be 27, 28 years old. He’s only 24 years old. He’s still a young kid,” Patrick Kane said. “Guys like [Ryan] Hartman and [Vinnie] Hinostroza are only 23 so he’s not much older than them, even though he might seem it. He’s got a great future.”

Saad’s future is once again being played out in Chicago and he couldn’t feel better about returning. Back in a familiar city and a familiar spot on the ice – alongside Jonathan Toews – Saad is ready to reignite the top line with Toews and Richard Panik. Outside of some scrimmages the line hasn’t gotten much of a chance to see where things are yet – their first preseason game was against Columbus on Saturday. But Saad said things are coming together.

“It was still [Toews’] first game back and my first time with him but we’re pretty familiar with each other. I don’t think it’ll take long at all,” he said following the team’s first practice at Notre Dame on Sunday. “Any time you come from a five-month summer into the season your timing’s always a little off, and then with a new player going back to a familiar player, I think that’s the biggest thing.”

Toews recognized Saad’s desire to be a big part of this team when the left wing was a rookie. That drive hasn’t diminished.

“His rookie year I kept saying you could see that intangible quality in him, that he wanted to get better every single night,” Toews said. “You see players with raw, physical talent and ability but don’t take it upon themselves to be one of the guys every single night. Saader was showing that right away and you could tell he was just going to get better and better.”

The powerful part of Saad’s game the Blackhawks missed the most was evident in his first preseason contest back with him, against Detroit on Thursday. The Red Wings didn’t have their top squad but Saad was nevertheless dominant, recording a hat trick in which all three goals were within a few feet of the net. The top line has had that element here and there the past two seasons but no doubt felt Saad’s absence.

“He’s a high-end player or potential player that should develop into a regular scorer and who knows what he could do,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think there’s room where maybe he could go to a better level as far as production goes, because he gets so many looks around the net with his quickness and the way he protects the puck and the way he can shoot it.”

Saad reaching another level. Again, you see what he’s done so far and you forget that he’s only 24. He still has a lot of time – and potential – ahead of him.

“He’s stepping in here knowing he’ll be one of those guys heavily keyed upon for us,” Toews said. “And he’s ready for that and excited for it.”

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”