Despite the fact the Blackhawks were already hovering near the top of the West, theyve moved into a tie for the lead with the idle Wild thanks to two factors that had been preventing them from playing to their full potential.
For the third straight game, they got offensive contributions from players not named Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa or Patrick Kane. And for the first time since before the Circus Trip, they set the tone early and controlled the tempo most of the way at home. After all, they trailed at some point in all four home games since returning, going 2-1-1.
Ray Emery continued looking sharp in net -- and after originally thinking Corey Crawford might get a chance for a start in one of these two weekend games -- Im starting to think Joel Quenneville keeps going with Emery Sunday against Calgary and Tuesday in Pittsburgh before Crawford gets a shot Wednesday back at the United Center versus his hometown team, Montreal.
The special teams continued rolling the 1-for-3 power play improves their marksmanship to 18-for-59 the last 17 games. Another perfect night on the penalty kill brings that unit to 25-for-27 in the nine games since beating the Ducks in Anaheim the day after Thanksgiving.
The signs are pointing up. This team remains healthy, save for the Daniel Carcillo upper-body injury that the coach says isnt serious. They took it to a vulnerable team Friday night, and will try to hit the repeat button against a team in a similar state Sunday evening.
Michal Kempny was in and out of the Blackhawks lineup last season but he’ll likely get a bigger opportunity this coming season. On Saturday, he was assured of coming back to get that chance.
Kempny and the Blackhawks agreed to a one-year extension, the team announced on Saturday morning.
“Michal’s style of play is an asset to our defense,” general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He is the type of player who will continue to improve now that he has transitioned to the National Hockey League. We look forward to his continued development on the ice for the Blackhawks.”
Kempny was part of a very crowded blue line last season — he was one of eight defensemen at the start of it — and played 50 regular-season games. He recorded two goals and six assists in those contests but did not play in the Blackhawks’ four postseason contests. With Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell likely not returning, however, Kempny should get a bigger opportunity this season.
The 26-year-old Kempny also had two goals and an assist in eight games for the Czech Republic team at the 2017 World Championship.
With exactly a month to go until Chicago hosts the 2017 NHL Draft for the first time ever, the Blackhawks and league announced Wednesday their plans for Fan Fest held outside the United Center on June 23 and 24.
A handful of Blackhawks players and alumni will be in attendance and made available for photo opportunities, as will the Stanley Cup. Fans will also be able to explore the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, "a 53-foot museum truck with an innovative interior featuring more than 1,000 square feet of interactive digital displays, original video content, one-of-a-kind historical memorabilia, unique photo moments and a social media wall," according to the press release.
A full list of activities, special guest appearances and schedule will be posted at a later date.
Friday's events will run from 3 to 9 p.m. while Saturday's festivites will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Parking Lot C, north of the United Center.
Additional passes for the weekend will be made available to the public starting June 9. For more information, visit chicagoblackhawks.com/fanfest.