Carcillo, Kane and the power play

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Carcillo, Kane and the power play

When the Blackhawks signed Daniel Carcillo last July 1st to cap off a day that also included free agent deals with Andrew Brunette, Jamal Mayers and Sean O'Donnell, they were fully aware of the wide range of what they were getting -- and getting themselves into -- as part of addressing their needs.

If you didn't know already, CarBomb-in-a-Can was right there for all to see since his return from a six-game injury absence in the four-and-a-half periods he played Friday and Monday.

There was the nice clean hit on Todd Bertuzzi that his teammates and Hawks fans absolutely loved, and Bertuzzi absolutely hated in that first period against the Red Wings. There was his second assist in as many games by creating a neutral zone turnover versus Edmonton, skating in and perfectly setting up Jonathan Toews for the game's first goal.

And there was his cat-and-mouse game with Tom Gilbert seven minutes into the second, sending the puck in, probably capable of winning a race to it, but playing the body full-speed below the goal line extended for a violent crash into the boards.

While Gilbert sat out Tuesday night's game in Buffalo with an apparent knee injury, the injury it looks like Carcillo sustained as Gilbert bounced back onto him might be longer-term, on top of the suspension he's sure to receive.

This high-speed game involving split-second decision-making about the consequences of contact has required an adjustment over the past year for players like Carcillo, Mayers, Ben Eager, Cal Clutterbuck, Raffi Torres, etc.

Some have learned more quickly than others, but a poor decision on a bang-bang play could only be a shift away.

You can see the potential in the signing of Carcillo with what he provided in the first four periods of his return. But between the injury and whatever discipline Brendan Shanahan and company hand down, who knows how soon we'll see Carcillo again as he recovers, serves and searches for the fine line in his style of play. And when he does come back, will the drastic swings in how he helps and hurts the team remain? It certainly won't be in what would've been his return to Philadelphia Thursday night.

Kane

Speaking of Philadelphia, it'll be the Hawks' first trip back to the scene of their greatest triumph over the past half-century.

Patrick Kane's Stanley Cup clincher turned him into the conquering hero, the toast of Chicago, and the life of the party. My bet is with Carcillo not around, Kane will hear the most grief from the City of Brotherly Haters when he takes the ice.

Here's also hoping it gets things going for him. Kane will admit to a certain extent that having just nine goals as 2012 begins is bothering him a bit. I have to think it's eating away at him more than he lets on.

With just two goals in his last 20 games, it's probably starting to reach snake-bitten levels. And while he leads the team and is among the league leaders in assists, "88" is probably wondering what his off-season conditioning commitment (before wrist surgery) and goals for a huge, Hart Trophy-worthy career year has gotten him.

He's been the good soldier, switching back and forth between center and wing, and says the most important thing is that the team is still among the best in the NHL without his hoped-for goal production. I -- and probably Kane himself -- can't believe he'll wind up with under 20 goals. He's way too gifted for that to happen, but we wait.

And yes, the good news is the team is where it is despite those numbers.

Power play unit

Kane was moved to the second power play unit at Tuesday's practice.

Back on the first unit was Andrew Brunette -- who has as many goals this season as Kane while averaging six-and-a-half fewer minutes of ice time. After scoring four power play goals the first month of the season, and with that unit in a 1-for-22 funk, the veteran with the soft hands and the "strong base" who doesn't mind camping out in front deserves the opportunity.

It's a big reason they made him one of those July 1st signings. Besides Kane, the second unit included the guy 16 years Brunette's junior to see if he can handle that position. Jimmy Hayes started his NHL career skating on a line with Brunette, and we're sure some secrets about playing that role to jump-start the PP will be shared to see if the kid can earn a longer stay with the big club than the Saads, Pirris, Morins and Smiths.

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.