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.

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Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

Blackhawks acquire Michael Latta from Kings in swap of minor leaguers

The Blackhawks made a minor league deal on Saturday, announcing the acquisition of forward Michael Latta from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.

Latta, 25, has two goals and four assists in 29 games this season with the Ontario (Calif.) Reign of the American Hockey League.

He has four goals and 13 assists in 113 career games in the National Hockey League, all with the Washington Capitals from 2013-16.

Latta, who was a third-round pick (No. 72 overall) by the Nashville Predators in 2009, will report to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs. He carries a $600,000 cap hit, and is a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Schilling ranked second among defensemen on the IceHogs with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in 40 games, and had a minus-3 rating. The 28-year-old blue liner signed a two-year contract worth $575,000 per season with the Blackhawks in July 2015.

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

One-goal victories are great but Blackhawks’ method has to change

See the Blackhawks get off to a slow start. See the Blackhawks get outshot. See the Blackhawks lean on their goaltending. See the Blackhawks find some offense in the third period. See the Blackhawks win.

This is a story the Blackhawks have written and played out plenty this season. Despite all evidence that it should work out to the contrary, the Blackhawks continue to pull out victories. But as we're well into the second half of the season, how much longer can they win with this formula? And is this, more than anything, a testament to how much they need to acquire someone (or plural) at the deadline to bolster their forward lineup?

Entering Sunday night's game against Vancouver the Blackhawks remain second in the Western Conference, two points behind Minnesota. Not surprisingly, they enter Sunday coming off another one-goal victory, a 1-0 decision over Boston on Friday night. Friday's game was cut from the same cloth as so many other one-goal games this season (please see above for the script). 

Here's how the Blackhawks are doing in one-goal games (through 48 games played this season) and how they've done in previous seasons:

Year Record
2016-17 18-7-5
2015-16 17-7-9
2014-15 22-13-6
2013-14 17-8-15
2012-13 19-3-5 (lockout yr.)
2011-12 22-6-11
2010-11 16-13-9
2009-10 23-9-8

The Blackhawks played 41 one-goal games (half of their regular-season games) in the 2014-15 season. Thirty of their 48 games this season have been one-goal games. But again, it comes down to how you're winning those games, and the Blackhawks are winning just about all of them in the same way: deal with a slow start and come back in the third period, relying on goaltending the entire time.

Being outshot the amount of times the Blackhawks have this season remains alarming. Sure, sometimes a lot of shots don't mean a lot of quality chances. But it's still better than minimal shots, and any shot can be an opportunity for a rebound, a deflection, something. From our stats guru Chris Kamka, here's a breakdown of the Blackhawks' shots per game vs. opponents, dating back to 2008-09:

Year Shots/Gm Opp. Shots/Gm Diff.
2008-09 32.7 28.6 +4.2
2009-10 34.1 25.1 +9.1
2010-11 32.2 28.7 +3.6
2011-12 31.5 28.6 +3.0
2012-13 31.1 26.2 +4.9
2013-14 33.1 27.2 +6.0
2014-15 33.9 30.2 +3.8
2015-16 30.5 30.8 -0.3
2016-17 29.3 31.1 -1.7

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

It's no surprise that the Blackhawks' differential was especially good in their Stanley Cup-winning seasons (and even 2013-14, when they went to the Western Conference Final). Those Blackhawks teams were deep, especially at forward. They weren't waiting for the perfect shooting opportunities as much as just firing. They had great four-line rotations, something they've sorely been lacking the past two seasons, which makes a difference with puck possession.

The Blackhawks will see what's available at the trade deadline. As I wrote a few days ago, there will be names out there but, considering some teams are still hoping for playoff spots, you take mentions for what they are right now. Over the next few weeks the picture will become clearer, and adding the right depth could rekindle that four-line rotation.

We've said throughout this season that the Blackhawks can't keep this up. We said it in November, and December, and now. Understand where we're coming from here; the Blackhawks can absolutely keep winning one-goal games. They've shown that in recent seasons and in the postseason, when the ability to do that is critical. But it's doubtful they can keep doing it the way they have most this season.