Blackhawks visit Blues in Monday matinee

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Blackhawks visit Blues in Monday matinee

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011
10:31 a.m.

Associated Press

A pair of new acquisitions already helped the St. Louis Blues continue their recent success.

Chicago, meanwhile, is making its own push to get back into the playoff picture while awaiting the return of a familiar figure.

The new-look Blues try for a fourth consecutive victory Monday against the visiting Blackhawks in a matchup of Central Division rivals desperate to move into playoff position.

Hours after being traded by Colorado to St. Louis (27-21-9) for former overall No. 1 pick Erik Johnson and Jay McClement, third-year forward Chris Stewart scored twice in a 9-3 win over Anaheim on Saturday.

"It was a perfect start," said Stewart, who had two goals his last 13 games with Colorado after returning from a broken hand. "It was an easy adjustment."

Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who came over with Stewart a day after the Blues traded captain Eric Brewer to Tampa Bay, added an assist as the Blues posted their highest-scoring game of the season.

"We lost three teammates, great guys, and it was a bit of a shock," forward Andy McDonald said. "It wasn't like we had a few days to adjust. I think the guys handled it pretty well."

St. Louis is 13th in the Western Conference, five points out of the final playoff spot. The Blues are three points behind 11th-place Chicago (30-23-6), which is two points in back of the eighth and final postseason berth.

Looking to win consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 16-22, and trying to avoid a fourth straight loss at St. Louis, the Blackhawks could be without coach Joel Quenneville for a fourth straight game.

Quenneville was released from the hospital Saturday after being treated for gastrointestinal bleeding brought on by a small ulcer.

The Blackhawks improved to 2-1 under assistant Mike Haviland after Sunday's 3-2 shootout win over Pittsburgh, but they still have plenty of work left in order to defend their Stanley Cup title.

"We've got to be confident we can find a way to pull it out," captain Jonathan Toews said.

Though the teams split four meetings this season, the Blues have outscored the Blackhawks 7-3 to win both in St. Louis. The Blues have outscored opponents 15-5 during their current three-game winning streak.

McDonald and T.J. Oshie each had two goals with an assist against the Ducks. McDonald has four goals and five assists in six games, but only one assist versus Chicago this season.

Oshie has three goals with two assists in two games, and three assists in two against the Blackhawks in 2010-11.

Despite being pulled after allowing three goals on five shots Saturday, Ty Conklin could be in net. He was roughed up in a 7-5 loss at Chicago on Nov. 30, but stopped 25 shots in a 3-1 win over the Blackhawks on Dec. 28.

Three of Patrick Sharp's team-leading 31 goals have come against St. Louis, but the All-Star MVP was held without a point in that December contest.

Sharp scored his third in two games Sunday and Patrick Kane had the lone shootout goal as the Blackhawks won for the fourth time in 11 games.

Kane has two goals and two assists against the Blues this season, but he's been held without a point his last three trips to St. Louis.

Chicago plays 14 of its final 23 games on the road where it has lost four of five.

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

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. How will Blackhawks respond to worst loss of season?

The Blackhawks suffered their worst loss of the season on Saturday in a 7-0 rout at the hands of the Panthers. It was the first time they've lost by at least seven goals since 2011 when Edmonton beat them 9-2 and the first time they lost 7-0 since 2001 against San Jose; the Blackhawks lost to Washington 6-0 earlier this year. But by no means was Saturday their worst effort of the season. A questionable interference penalty by Marcus Kruger led to a two-man advantage, which Florida cashed in on with a goal and another shortly after, and it opened up the floodgates. Expect a big bounce-back against a hungry Lightning team.

2. Lightning fighting for playoff lives.

Every game is a must-win for the Lightning with eight games remaining on their schedule. They're three points out of the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference with a game in hand on the Bruins, who currently occupy that spot, but still have to jump the Islanders. The Lightning didn't do themselves any favors by losing three straight in regulation last week, but they've won two in a row and tonight will be the first of a four-game homestand for them.

3. Keep the puck off Nikita Kucherov's stick.

There isn't a hotter player in the NHL right now than Kucherov, who has seven goals and two assists in his last four games. He's had two hat tricks in the past month, and he ranks sixth in the league with 78 points and second in goals with 38. You know how lethal Artemi Panarin's slapshot is from the left faceoff circle? That's Kucherov, but on the right side.

4. Staying disciplined.

The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team in the league, but they acted out of character Saturday by racking up 30 penalty minutes. They were also slapped with a pair of unsportsmanlike penalties, which isn't something you normally see from Joel Quenneville's teams. Ryan Hartman, who along with Marcus Kruger was penalized for "yapping" at the officials, accepted responsibility for it after the game, and insisted it "won't happen again."

5. Special teams to play key factor?

On the flip side, the Lightning are the second-most penalized team, averaging just over 11 penalty minutes per game. Power plays will be key for the Blackhawks in an effort to keep Tampa Bay's collection of talented young goal scorers off the ice. The Lightning also boast a top-five power play unit with a 22 percent success rate. Both teams would be better served staying out of the box and making this a 5-on-5 battle.

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Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

Will lopsided loss shake Blackhawks from their slumber?

The Blackhawks have talked the past several games now about how they need to play better, how they need to get back to their 60-minute game. But even when you tell yourself you have to improve the message doesn't always translate into immediate action. That's especially true if, despite so-so play, you're still managing victories or still eking out a point.

Sometimes, you need a jolt to realize you have to get better. Well, that thud the Blackhawks made in South Florida ought to get their attention. 

The Blackhawks' 7-0 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday night, that "ugly, ugly game," as coach Joel Quenneville, is the latest in what's been a mediocre stretch for the team. They've been leaning on their goaltending again (please see Minnesota, Montreal, Ottawa and Dallas games). Or they've been leaning on their ability to wake up in the third period after sleepwalking through the first two. Sixty-minute games and four-line rotations, such a big part of the Blackhawks' success through February and early March, have been absent.

Call it the Blackhawks' mid-March malaise.

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It hasn't been more painful because the Blackhawks have still found ways to get points. Or at least they did until Saturday night, when two "yapping" penalties – Quenneville's (accurate) description of Ryan Hartman and Marcus Kruger's unsportsmanlike calls – started the Blackhawks' demise against the Panthers. Players told the traveling media following the game that this was a wake-up call. It ought to be.

Granted, the Blackhawks' late-season issues aren't as bad as some of their fellow Western Conference teams. The Minnesota Wild are 3-10-1 in March. The San Jose Sharks have lost six in a row. This also isn't the first time the Blackhawks have gone through this late-season mediocrity.

Entering the 2015 postseason they struggled to score goals and lost four in a row (five goals in those four games). It turned out alright. Still, best to avoid bad habits.

Perhaps the Blackhawks are in a bit of a swoon because, really, there's not much for which to play in these final few games. They don't care if they win the Presidents' Trophy (and they probably won't). They're currently in first place by seven points following the Wild's 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit on Sunday. Whether the Blackhawks finish first or second, they'll start this postseason at home. 

So is this panic-inducing? No. Is it a concern? Certainly. The Blackhawks can't start thinking they'll automatically flip the switch as soon as the postseason begins.

The Blackhawks want to get their four-line rotation going again. Artem Anisimov returning in the next week or two will certainly help that. They want to get their overall game going again. The Blackhawks have been telling themselves what needs to be done for a few games now. Maybe they needed a wake-up call. On Saturday, they got it.