Crawford can't save listless Hawks

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Crawford can't save listless Hawks

RALEIGH, N.C. Coach Joel Quenneville warned his team about this.

He knew the Carolina Hurricanes would come out fast, they would come out hungry and the Blackhawks had better be ready for it.

The Hurricanes did, and the Blackhawks werent.

Corey Crawford was strong once again but the rest of the Blackhawks were stymied in a 3-0 loss to the Hurricanes on Friday night. The Blackhawks struggled out of the gate and didnt challenge Carolina goaltender Cam Ward with enough tough shots.

Quenneville did not like the Blackhawks compete level or lack thereof.

We got dominated in all areas and we werent very good tonight, he said. They were the more determined team and that was clear from the outset. I didnt like how we played.

Tim Brent, Brandon Sutter and Jiri Tlusty scored for the Hurricanes. The Blackhawks fired 30 shots at Ward but most were of the distant and unscreened variety.

We were playing against one of the top goalies in the league. We made it fairly easy on him, shots from the oustide and not a whole lot of traffic, Patrick Sharp said. Maybe were being too cute up there. Sometimes simple is the best.

Jonathan Toews, who was stopped on a breakaway in the second period, said Ward saw everything. Hes one of those goalies thats so technically sound and he also has that coordination and quick reaction. When we had guys at the net we tried to make plays instead of shooting the puck. We have to be a better judge of when to let those shots go and get traffic there.

The Blackhawks came up empty on three power plays, although they had their best chances on that final advantage. Still, Carolina made them pay as that last one ended, with Sutter streaking out of the box for a breakaway goal and a 2-0 lead.

Crawford, meanwhile, was once again giving the Blackhawks a chance at the other end. He stopped 30 of 33 shots, getting beat on Brents double-deflected goal, Sutters breakway and Tlustys 2-on-1 score. He also stopped an Eric Staal penalty shot.

He was great again, Sharp said. The guys in front of him could be better to put some pucks on net and score some goals for him.

The Blackhawks had a lousy game. They were on a seven-game point streak entering this one, so it was bound to happen at some point. The Blackhawks werent using that as an excuse and Quenneville wasnt worried about the one-game total lack of compete. But theyd rather not repeat the same mistakes again on Saturday night.

Everyone still wants to be best they can be. (The Hurricanes) may have come off a game where they were disappointed, but tonight they were certainly better than us.

Emerys chance?

Ray Emery hasnt played since the Blackhawks third game of the season, but it looks like he may get another shot Saturday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Emery has done his best to be prepared.

Youre just working on different things and brushing up on certain areas, said Emery, who was coming off a flu bug when he helped the Blackhawks beat Winnipeg 4-3 on Oct. 13. But when the game comes around it helps to do your homework and study that teams top players. Obviously if theres a layover between games, you have to make sure youre sharp. But you can compensate in those other areas.

Emery may also debut his new goaltending mask, which he just got Friday morning.

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Coyotes: Nick Schmaltz shines on 21st birthday

The Blackhawks were finally getting healthy and now may be missing a key player once again. That depends on how Niklas Hjalmarsson feels after suffering an upper-body injury against the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night.

It was certainly the toughest part of the Blackhawks' victory, a 6-3 triumph that has the Blackhawks closing in on the Wild. We'll see what the Hjalmarsson update is over the weekend. Until then, let's look at the notables from this one.

What Worked: The offense. We'll give an honorable mention to the penalty kill, which snuffed out all of the Coyotes' chances including a double minor that overlapped the second and third periods. But the offense was just buzzing again. Here's another shocker: the top line is still working just fine. The trio got things started with Nick Schmaltz's goal just 37 seconds into the game (Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik assisted). And much like in their meeting with the Coyotes earlier this month, the Blackhawks needed just about every bit of that offense. While we're on this topic...

What Didn't Work: The first-period defense. The Blackhawks looked like they were in good shape up 3-1 but then they gave up two goals within a minute late in the period. Michal Rozsival had a rough start in his first game since Jan. 15, but overall, the Blackhawks' defense through that first period looked discombobulated. Obviously, it didn't help that the Blackhawks lost Hjalmarsson during the first, either.

[RELATED: Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes]

Star of the game: Patrick Kane. One game after Jonathan Toews recorded a hat trick Kane did the same, scoring his 21st, 22nd and 23rd goals of the season. On a night in which the Blackhawks dressed 11 forwards and seven defensemen, Kane got a little extra playing time. His first goal came on a first-period shift with Ryan Hartman and Tanner Kero, the second off a long pass from Brent Seabrook and the third with his usual line mates.

He Said It: "I didn't play much before I got hurt, then I missed four weeks with my injury. It wasn't easy but definitely the way the team's playing now, it made it easier for me. It felt like the first game of the season for me but glad we got the victory and glad I was back playing. I enjoyed it." — Michal Rozsival on returning to the Blackhawks' lineup. 

By the Numbers: 

6 – Number of times, in their last eight games, the Blackhawks have scored five or more goals.

342 – Assists for Jonathan Toews, who tied Dennis Hull for 12th all-time in franchise history in that category.

35 – Combined points for the Blackhawks' top liners Jonathan Toews, Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik in their nine games together. The breakdown in those nine games: Toews has 16 points, Panik 10 and Schmaltz nine.

1997 – The last time the Blackhawks had hat tricks in back-to-back regular-season games. Alexei Zhamnov and Eric Daze had them on April 11 and April 13, 1997, respectively.

Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes

Patrick Kane nets hat trick as Blackhawks cruise past Coyotes

It seems like ages ago when the Blackhawks struggled to score goals.

Line combinations were scattered, production was low and the Blackhawks were relying heavily on their goaltending. Now, however, the offense is rolling and the Minnesota Wild are back within striking distance.

Patrick Kane had a hat trick and Michal Rozsival's first goal of the season proved to be the game winner as the Blackhawks beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3 on Thursday night. The Blackhawks have now won eight of their last nine and are just three points back of the Wild, who are on their bye week.

Kane's hat trick came one game after Jonathan Toews recorded one against the Wild. It was the second time the Blackhawks have had hat tricks in consecutive games since May 5-7, 2010 (Dustin Byfuglien and Toews vs. Vancouver in the postseason that year).

With the victory, however, came a loss. Niklas Hjalmarsson pulled up in the first period with an upper-body injury. Coach Joel Quenneville said Hjalmarsson will be re-evaluated today – "we're hoping he's going to be OK but not sure," Quenneville added.

Nick Schmaltz (celebrating his 21st birthday) and Ryan Hartman each had a goal and an assist. Toews had two assists. Corey Crawford stopped 34 of 37 shots in the victory.

[RELATED: Niklas Hjalmarsson to be re-evaluated Friday after suffering upper-body injury]

The Blackhawks got their offense on track on their Ice Show trip and, outside of their 3-1 loss to Edmonton out of the break, the production has been steady. That continued on Thursday as they tallied six more goals, including Kane's third career regular-season hat trick. That just so happened to come one game after Jonathan Toews had a hat trick against the Wild.

"Yeah, we were kind of laughing about that on the bench there after I scored the third one. It's funny how it worked out," Kane said. "Those guys played amazing in a huge game. Jonny with five points and a plus-5. You can look across the board at that line – they've been playing awesome. I'm just trying to contribute in any way I can and hopefully let them lead the way and just follow up after that."

But as Quenneville said, the Blackhawks were a little more loose on the other end than they'd been in recent games. The Coyotes took advantage of that, erasing the Blackhawks' 3-1 lead and tying it 3-3 by the end of the first period. 

Rozsival, dressed as a precaution with Hjalmarsson apparently ailing, got the game winner 2:56 into the second period. The goal helped Rozsival, who hadn't played since Jan. 15, get over a bad first. 

"I did not have a good start to the game, I think I was minus-2 in my first for shifts. It didn't go the way I wanted early on but in the second period, when I scored that goal, I got my confidence back a little bit," said Rozsival, who missed four weeks with a foot injury. "Even the coaches put a little more trust in me and I was able to finish the game. At the end, we were able to win. That's the most important thing, so definitely big win."

The Blackhawks are on a roll right now. How Hjalmarsson is, and how that affects the team defensively moving forward, remains to be seen. Obviously, that would be a big loss. But offensively the Blackhawks are doing a lot of things right, and another productive game has them closing in on the Wild.

"We're chasing [the Wild] and they have a bye week, so we're trying to close the gap as much as we can," Schmaltz said. "These are huge games for us. We have a little stretch at home so we want to take advantage of it."