Blackhawks visit Blues in Monday matinee

350362.jpg

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 notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”