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.

Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling taking advantage of No. 1 reps

Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling taking advantage of No. 1 reps

Life as a backup goaltender can be difficult. 

The job entails being prepared at all times and performing at a high level when your number is called despite going sometimes weeks without seeing any action.

With Corey Crawford backing up Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey, Scott Darling is getting the No. 1 reps in the crease for the Blackhawks.

And he's taking full advantage of that.

"Yeah, obviously I miss Corey, but it's fun to be the guy right now," Darling said following a 2-0 loss in Wednesday's preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins. "I'll take any starts I can get. I don't care if it's regular season or preseason, I just want to play as much as I can. It was nice to get the first game under my belt."

After facing just three shots in the first period, Darling stayed on his toes by denying all 23 shots he saw in the second period — a handful of them on the penalty kill.

"I definitely don't like sitting there," Darling said of the first period. "I don't think they had a shot for about 12 minutes, but you've got to learn how to play in those situations too. It's nice to get some game feels."

Darling finished with 33 saves overall in the Blackhawks' loss and was sharp in the first dress rehearsal of the year as both goals were out of his control — a redirect on the power play and a rebound tap-in at the doorstep, both by Chris Kunitz.

Credit his strong play to working hard in the offseason and maximizing on the opportunity he's been given.

"Darling certainly was a standout, not only when we got a little bit overwhelmed in the second period, but really throughout the game," Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. "He was certainly a positive, which we always expect out of him but I think it's a testament to the way he prepared himself this summer and I think it certainly showed tonight." 

Darling doesn't get many chances to anchor the blue paint on a nightly basis.

He started in 24 games last season, 11 of which came during the final portion of the season in March and April when Crawford was dealing with an upper-body injury.

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Darling said that stretch was "probably the best I've ever felt" because you know you're the guy, which eliminates the stress factor of turning in a great performance to earn your next start.

He finished the 2015-16 campaign with a 12-8-4 record, 2.58 goals against average and .915 save percentage, including one shutout.

Not bad, not great. 

This season is a chance to prove he can continue to be a consistent and reliable goaltender in any situation, and when the 27-year-old Lemont native gets the opportunity to represent the team he grew up rooting for — something he never loses sight of — Darling expects to be on top of his game when called upon.

"I'm seriously excited to be on the Chicago Blackhawks still," he said. "I just want to play the best I can when they give me a chance to play."

Nick Schmaltz making good early impression with Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz making good early impression with Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz figured it would be different at this level.

Yes, Schmaltz had played against some of college’s best en route to that national title with the University of North Dakota. But the pro level is the pro level for a reason.

“It’s a big transition from the college level. Guys are faster, more skilled, and you have less time and space,” he said. “But as camp’s gone on everyone’s gotten a little more comfortable and making more plays and I think we’ll continue that into tonight.”

Schmaltz looked pretty comfortable on Wednesday night, when the Blackhawks lost their preseason opener to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 2-0. Schmaltz logged 18 minutes, 30 seconds of ice time, including 2:53 on the power play. For the Madison, Wisc., kid who used to come to Blackhawks playoff games, playing that first game at the United Center was “surreal.”

“It was good,” he said after the game. “Obviously we didn’t get the results we wanted, but we had some good opportunities. We can get more pucks on net. We let the goalie off a little easy, but hopefully just keep building and keep getting better every day.”

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Schmaltz has practiced some on the left wing, and that’s where he was in Wednesday night’s scrimmage (with Vinnie Hinostroza centering and Richard Panik on right wing). The Blackhawks always love versatility, but Schmaltz going on the wing is more of a need than an option right now.

“Most of the openings in the organization are on the wing. We’re pretty full down the middle. It’s something we’re trying to see if he can fit in there and play well there,” assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “And he’s got a nice set of hands, a nice skill set, so hopefully he’ll be comfortable on the wing there.”

Schmaltz has played more right wing than left, but he said the adjustments aren’t so bad.

“Just wall work. Might have to make some backhand plays off the wall but other than that, nothing, really,” Schmaltz said. “Since me and Panik are playing off wing, we’ll get across the blue line, cut across and make plays to each other. It’ll be fun out there.”

Schmaltz held his own in his first game in a Blackhawks uniform. There are high expectations for him entering this season, but he’ll let his game dictate where he ends up.

“If I play my game, play hard, I should put myself in a pretty good spot,” he said. “But I can’t control what decisions they make, so I’ll compete as hard as I can every night and show them what I can do.”