Blackhawks will be well represented at NHL All-Star Game

Blackhawks will be well represented at NHL All-Star Game

The Blackhawks players started banging their sticks on the ice following coach Joel Quenneville’s announcement.

One year after having just one representative at the NHL All-Star Game, the Blackhawks are slated to have four this year.

Patrick Kane, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and Jonathan Toews were named to this year’s All-Star Game, which will be Jan. 29 in Los Angeles. It was a privilege for all selected and for one, somewhat of a surprise.

“I really didn’t expect to hear my name get called for the all-star game this year, knowing how great of a season (Marian Hossa, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov) are having. No doubt about it, they’re much more deserving,” said Toews, who was also selected last season but had to bow out due to illness. “In some ways maybe they can take advantage of the rest and continue the way they’re playing after the game. But definitely would like to see those guys get what they deserve and get that recognition.”

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Indeed, based on their performances this season, there’s certainly a case for all three of those players who aren’t going. Anisimov leads the Blackhawks with 18 goals. Hossa has 16 goals and Panarin is second on the team with 41 points (Kane leads with 44).

For Kane and Toews, this is the sixth time they’ve been selected for the game. This is Keith’s fourth selection and Crawford’s second. Kane, last year’s lone Blackhawks representative after Toews fell ill, said it’ll be nice to have a few teammates along.

“It’s a lot more enjoyable, a lot more fun when you have your teammates there,” said Kane, who agreed others could have easily been selected, too. “You could throw Anisimov in there, Hossa, Hjalmarsson, [Brent Seabrook], we could have a bunch of guys going. I guess there are only so many spots given.”

There are always guys who get left off these rosters. It’s the way it goes with trying to get other teams’ represented. But the Blackhawks will still get a good group of players headed to the game, and they’ll enjoy the weekend.

“Every time you get named to something like this, special feeling. A lot of great players in the league who could go but aren’t going,” Keith said. “I’m fortunate to be part of a group of great players that make me play better, too.”

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.

Jonathan Toews will make 'little changes' to offseason prep

Jonathan Toews will make 'little changes' to offseason prep

Jonathan Toews gave a succinct "no" when asked if he'd consider playing in the World Championships next month in Europe. For the Blackhawks captain, his 2016-17 season wasn't where it needed to be.

So instead of helping Team Canada across the pond, he'll prepare to help the Blackhawks more next season.

Toews will use this offseason in a variety of ways, including taking some time completely off to heal and rest. And while there's a lot of time between now and the Blackhawks' training camp, Toews said competing in the World Championships would take up a good amount of time he'd rather use to be ready for the fall.

"At this point of my career, going through the last couple of years the way things have played out, there are some little changes here and there with how I approach my preparation, especially the last summer being a long offseason and coming in feeling I was as prepared as I could be and still not getting to the level of play I wanted to this season," Toews said on Saturday. "There are some things I have to re-evaluate and think about this offseason. There's no satisfaction there but definitely take a different approach with how I prepare for next season. I didn't get to the level I needed to be to help our team survive a little bit longer in this last series, so I have to be responsible for that as well. Just look back, assess and see what you can do differently."

Toews had a slow start to the season and then missed three weeks with a reported back injury. Much like the rest of the Blackhawks he started heating up in February and finished the regular season with 21 goals. But it was another quiet postseason for him, as Toews had just one goal in the four games against the Nashville Predators, and that was a late-regulation power-play goal in Game 4.

So was Toews dealing with a physical issue? Asked how healthy he was, Toews said, "well, that's kind of one of the things I'm hitting on," but didn't get more specific than that. Coach Joel Quenneville said some of the Blackhawks' key players, "have some issues they're taking care of, but I don't think it's going to be to that extent to where it's long term care." Quenneville also said any health issues had nothing to do with what happened in this series. Toews certainly wasn't using it as an excuse, either. As for the future, Toews said he'll reconfigure his workout, training regimen, whatever necessary to be better next season.

"Just the way the speed of the game has changed the last few years. I've always been the type of player who likes to play heavy and protect the puck in the corners. It seems the strength has been a factor but also the speed in my game that I used to have in my younger years," Toews said. "I have to get back to playing more puck possession, more speed on the rush. That right there is one little thing. But I think the skill part is another thing I'll have to focus on and trying to get back to playing the way I can."