Blackhawks working to improve power play

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Blackhawks working to improve power play

DENVER Five Blackhawks gathered on one side of the Magness Arena ice at the University of Denver on Wednesday afternoon. Next five had their turn. Repeat. Practice makes perfect. Or at least, hopefully, it makes production.

The Blackhawks power play has been another source of frustration this season, and especially during this recent 0-5-1 skid. So on Wednesday, with several players out with illnesses, the Blackhawks spent practice solely on that listless power play.

It worked out that the guys who were on the ice are power-play guys. We were moving it around pretty good, said coach Joel Quenneville. That has to be a point of emphasis; that we have to rely on that to get us through tough times. We dont want it to lose momentum for us like it has recently.

That happened as recently as Tuesday night in the Blackhawks 5-2 loss against the Colorado Avalanche. They were down 3-2 in the third period when they went on two power plays within four minutes of each other. The Blackhawks didnt even get a shot on goal in either. Same goes for a first-period power play.

We know if we score a power-play goal last night its a different game. But we didnt, Marian Hossa said. Were just trying to make things more simple, more flowing, get the basics and just take shots at the net. Right now we feel like we can win the games by the power play and were not scoring any goals.

Theyve now gone four consecutive games without a goal on the man advantage (0 for 10). The Blackhawks road power play was ranked eighth in the league prior to Tuesdays game, but recent outings arent helping that figure or the Blackhawks win-loss record.

Its been letting us down and could be a key part of us winning games, said Patrick Kane, who was on the first power-play unit with Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Hossa and Brent Seabrook. We practiced it and I think we have some different setups, things to be excited about. Hopefully it starts clicking soon because its a big part of us losing games here.

The Blackhawks are trying to improve a bunch of parts to their game right now. The power play is just one portion thats been struggling.

The power plays huge for us, Sharp said. We want to put teams away and a big goal does a lot. Today we saw some good units and a lot of guys playing different schemes. Its a work in progress.

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco lingered near the end of the Blackhawks' practice on Saturday, watching as fellow Slovak/now-teammate Marian Hossa drew a few things up on the dry-erase board.

Having a few familiar countrymen's faces (Hossa and Richard Panik) in the room helps. But for Jurco, just getting a fresh start is a welcome sight.

Jurco skated on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Hossa, and it looks like he'll make his Blackhawks debut there when the team hosts St. Louis on Sunday night. Jurco spent the last few seasons with the Detroit Red Wings but couldn't find a steady place in the lineup. Now here, he's hoping to change his fortunes.

"I mean, it's been tough couple of years for me in Detroit, so I was talking to [general manager] Ken Holland and we were discussing some options. I wasn't progressing in the last year or so, so I think this is a great time to push my game to another level," Jurco said on Saturday. "Like I said, this is another fresh start for me and I'm very excited for it."

[MORE: Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues]

Jurco joins a Blackhawks team that is surging (winning eight of nine) these last few weeks of the season. He and Hossa played together in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, so there's some familiarity as well as friendship there.

General manager Stan Bowman said Friday night that, based on Jurco's skills and the Blackhawks' style of play, Jurco should fit in well.

"I think he's going to get better here," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's going to get a little bit more comfortable with how we have to play, knowing that you want to go right through the puck and you want to pressure. Offensively I think he's got a chance to recapture some confidence. I think he moves well. I like his size. [It's] just getting a little more comfortable with our game and trusting his own instincts right off the bat."

It was time for a change for Jurco. Whether he blossoms like Panik, who came here from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and is now putting up career numbers as part of the Blackhawks' top line, remains to be seen. It's an opportunity nonetheless, and Jurco is ready to take advantage of it. 

"It was a number of different reasons in Detroit it didn't work out for me. I wasn't playing much, so that's obviously tough. And when you don't play for a few weeks and you play a couple of games, it's very tough," Jurco said. "I'm very happy that I'm here and excited for tomorrow."

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Niklas Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury but he will not play on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Hjalmarsson left with a little over eight minutes remaining in Thursday night's 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. He missed morning skate that day and, prior to the game, was seen wearing a wrap around his back. Whether or not that is the injury, however, is unknown. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will give Hjalmarsson time to regain full health, especially at this point of the season.

"I think he knows his body and he knows when he can fight through certain things. Giving him enough time to get back to where he's basically 100 percent is what we want," Quenneville said. "That's why he left the game last game. We want to make sure that when he comes back – you know, there's certain things you can fight through, and with him he can go through anything. Let's make sure at this time of the year that he recovers from this."

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Quenneville said the Blackhawks will go with the six defensemen they currently have. The last time Hjalmarsson missed a game due to injury was late February/early March of 2012 (six games with an upper-body injury).

"He's a warrior, he gives you everything you want in a big game like tomorrow's. Certainly missed him in the last game," Quenneville said. "We haven't exposed too much not having Hammer out there in important shifts, but it's a good chance for other guys to get critical and important shifts, and hopefully that helps them in their games as well."

Briefly

- Jordin Tootoo also missed practice (illness).

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Blues.