Defense strikes, Emery shines in Blackhawks win

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Defense strikes, Emery shines in Blackhawks win

Ray Emery has just focused on improving his game in his short time with the Chicago Blackhawks. And on Friday, it culminated in his best game this season.

Emery stopped 24 of 25 and Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook scored their first goals of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Calgary Flames 4-1.

The victory was the Blackhawks second in as many nights; it was also their seventh consecutive victory over the Flames at the United Center.

Emery was solid from start to finish, denying the Flames early when the Blackhawks, who played last night in Columbus, were committing some early mistakes. One of his biggest stops came on a Curtis Glencross breakaway, when the Blackhawks were holding a 2-0 lead in the second period.

We were joking with him; we thought hed be one of the stars of the game. We definitely thought he deserved it, captain Jonathan Toews said. But he stepped in there when we needed him to. He was a big help in the win tonight.

Emery said hes felt better as the season has gone on.

You want to get more comfortable in there and Im definitely working on things, said Emery, who wasnt upset when Olli Jokinens third-period goal denied him the shutout. You just want to win and they buzzed around a bit from the start. Its good when you get the early lead. You just want to keep the lead and limit the other teams chances.

Viktor Stalberg also scored for the Blackhawks; Patrick Kane added an empty-net goal with 3.4 seconds remaining in the third. Patrick Sharp had three assists and Marian Hossa had two.

Emery did his job in net, and once again the Blackhawks defensemen did theirs on the score sheet. Keith, playing in his 500th career NHL game, gave the Blackhawks a 1-0 lead midway through the first period. Seabrook added his, a power-play goal from the blue line, in the second.

Blackhawks defensemen now have 10 points in the last two games.

I think thats part of our game that needs to be there, Keith said. Its nice to get points and things like that, but the main thing is keeping plays alive, having good gaps and supporting our forwards.

The Blackhawks are back on the winning side. Theyre back atop the Western Conference standings and theyre getting that team game they know they need.

I thought that the whole team played great tonight, really fast paced out there on both sides, Keith said. It was nice to get the first (goal) and gather the momentum.

Blackhawks: Abbott happy to be back after season in Sweden

Blackhawks: Abbott happy to be back after season in Sweden

Spencer Abbott enjoyed his short stint in Rockford, which came after he was acquired by the Blackhawks in February 2015. At the time, he thought staying here was his most likely plan.

Then he got an offer Frölunda in Sweden.

“I thought, ‘why not give it a shot? Maybe it’ll be a good experience and bring it back with me,’” said Abbott on Monday. “It was worth it, for sure. I have no regrets.”

Abbott, who’s back with the Blackhawks, had never been to Europe prior to getting that Frölunda offer. But his first trip across the pond was a good one as Abbott was part of Frölunda’s run to its Swedish and Champions hockey league titles. Abbott had 14 goals and 21 assists in 51 regular-season games. Abbott got plenty out of the games, but not nearly as much as he did in the team’s training camp.

“The first month and a half you’re over there, you’re there from 8 [a.m.] to 4 [p.m.] every day. I think over here there’s a rule against being here for more than 3-4 hours, but not over there. It’s like a 9-5 job for a month and a half, a lot of working out, a lot of bike riding. So for me, that was good because I had never been in that kind of shape before,” said Abbott, who added he’s trying to incorporate some of that into his routine here. “Training camps here are hard but they’re just different over there. There’s a lot of ice, bigger ice [overseas], so they really condition you. So my conditioning may be a bit better.”

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As much as Abbott loved his time in Sweden, he ultimately wanted to be back in the NHL. So when the Blackhawks offered him a one-year deal, he jumped at it. He’s gotten off to a good start this training camp, scoring a few goals in the team’s early scrimmages.

“I wasn’t sure how it would play out, to be honest. I’m 28 and pretty early in the summer they were showing interest,” Abbott said. “This is one for the places I really wanted to come, because I did l really like the organization when I was here for that brief period of time. Now I get the full effect as long as they’ll have me. It’s such a good organization.”

Abbott probably could have kept playing overseas but he wanted another chance in the NHL. He’s happy it’s once again coming in the Blackhawks’ organization.

“It’s overwhelming. There are so many places to play hockey nowadays in Europe. There are tons of leagues over there. But it didn’t interest me,” he said. “I wanted to come back and give it one more shot.”

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Duncan Keith was already deemed unlikely to play in many, if any, Blackhawks preseason games, when training camp opened. As of now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be in the first few.

Keith will probably not play in the Blackhawks’ first four preseason games, assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Monday’s training camp sessions. As for whether or not Keith will play in any, that’s still up in the air.

“That’s a question that Dunc and the medical staff, Stan [Bowman], Joel [Quenneville], we’ll all get to that. I wouldn’t foresee him certainly in these first four games. I would say that’s not going to happen,” Dineen said. “We’ll let him keep progressing on his timetable that he’s on now.”

Keith has been participating in one practice each day but has not been in any of the scrimmages. Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith has asked to skate in the team’s second practice each day – each session is about 20-25 minutes – but the Blackhawks have told him no. As of now, both Dineen and Kitchen figure Keith will be ready for the regular-season opener but the Blackhawks will continue to be prudent with him.

“He’s out there wheeling around, doing well,” Dineen said. “We had a good chat with him today. He feels like he has a lot of jump but not a lot of stamina right now. We’ll continue the way we’ve handled it so far. We’ll keep moving forward that way.”

Players returning soon

Patrick Kane, who was at the United Center on Monday afternoon, will skate with the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Defenseman Michal Kempny will also join Tuesday’s sessions. Dineen said Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin are expected to join the Blackhawks on Friday.

Neither Kane nor Kempny are expected to play Wednesday vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Pokka is back

Defenseman Ville Pokka, who played for Team Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, skated with the Blackhawks on Monday.

“Anybody coming back from Toronto over the last two weeks is going to have a heck of a lot of confidence,” Dineen said. “A young kid like that getting the chance to represent his country on the international stage is a great honor and a pick-me-up heading into training camp and the season.”

First cuts made

The Blackhawks made their first round of cuts on Monday, sending Radovan Bondra, John Dahlstrom, Nathan Noel and Roy Radke to their respective junior teams. The active roster is now at 57 players.