'Dependable' Emery will start vs. Avalanche

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'Dependable' Emery will start vs. Avalanche

Updated: Monday, Feb. 6 at 6:09 p.m.

Joel Quenneville rolled out his reasons for going with Ray Emery against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

Hes been solid, predictable and dependable. The guys played well in front of him the other night and he gave us a chance to get a point or two, he said. Unfortunately we didnt, but he deserves another start.

Basically, Quenneville said of Emery, every time hes been in the net for us this year hes been consistent.

Yes, Emery has been consistent. And right now, thats what the very inconsistent Chicago Blackhawks need.

Emery will get his second consecutive start on Tuesday night, as the Blackhawks look to end a five-game winless skid (0-4-1) in Denver. Corey Crawford will take a step back once again, much like he did in early December when Emery took the reins and went on a winning streak.

Perhaps that could happen again.

I think in Rays situation, he hasnt had a great chance to run with it, Quenneville said. Coreys had a lot of key games here recently. Well see how it plays out.

Ideally, Quenneville would like to have both his goaltenders as reliable, go-to options. But outside of a run from late December to mid-January, when Crawford and Emery were swapping in and out and both winning, that hasnt happened.

Granted, the differences in their goals-against average and save percentages arent tremendous. Crawford has a 2.94 GAA and a .900 save percentage while Emerys numbers are 2.73 and .904, respectively. But when Emery plays he wins, as hes compiled an 11-4-2 mark this season.

While Crawford cant be blamed for all of the Blackhawks recent woes the team defense has been suspect at best he hasnt been as strong as he could be. He certainly hasnt been as strong as he was last season, when his work down the stretch helped push the Blackhawks into the postseason.

Crawford admits he hasnt been as good as he could be, but doesnt think its about teams solving him from one season to the next.

Its still pretty much the same game, the same shots. I dont think thats the case where teams are figuring me out. The only problem is the consistency.

Is this going to be another case of backup replaces No. 1 goaltender for the top job? The Blackhawks have been down this path a few consecutive seasons already. But Quenneville isnt willing to commit to that road again just yet.

We dont want to get too far in advance. (Emerys) done well so well see how it goes, he said. Goaltending is a key part of our game. A lot of times a team in front responds to how the goaltender is playing.

The Blackhawks need a response to their current slide. Theyll see if Emery can provide the presence to spark it.

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: What's the cause of recent struggles?

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Steve Konroyd discuss the latest slump and how much does Artem Anisimov's injury play a role in their struggles?

Konroyd tells us he was surprised by Ryan Hartman's benching in Tampa.

The guys play the game, playoff minutes or press box minutes?  They run through the players who are on the bubble when it comes to postseason play.

They also discuss the Hawks chances of overtaking Washington for the President's trophy.

Plus, Konroyd breaks down possible first round opponents: St Louis, Calgary and Nashville.

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

Tanner Kero latest to try and fill Artem Anisimov's skates

PITTSBURGH – Tanner Kero's been thrown into a lot of different situations in his time with the Blackhawks, be it third- or fourth-line center or penalty kill.

But with Artem Anisimov out, the second-line center spot has become new top-line, left-wing spot: The Blackhawks will keep trying guys out until they find one that works. Kero's the latest to get that opportunity, and since it worked well on Monday, he'll be there again on Wednesday.

Kero will center Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane again when the Blackhawks host the Pittsburgh Penguins. The line had a good start to Monday's game against the Lightning in Tampa, scoring the team's first two goals — Kero assisted on Panarin's opener.

Coach Joel Quenneville liked Kero's first go-around there.

"Defensively he's in a good spot — he's usually in a reliable spot in his own end — he made a couple of nice plays offensively and didn't change his game too much," Quenneville said. "It's not easy playing with guys at that next level. It's certainly a great challenge and a great opportunity, so I thought he did a great job, took advantage of it. We'll see how he does going forward but we'll keep him in there for [Wednesday's] game and that gives us some more options."

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Learning on the fly can be part of a rookie season, especially when injuries arise. Jonathan Toews said Kero's handled everything well this season.

"Come to think of it, it's one of those little things that maybe goes over my head but he's definitely one of those versatile players who's as consistent as ever," Toews said. "He has, for his age, an incredible level of maturity and he carries that with him wherever he goes. You're seeing offensive improvement, too. He was making some good plays with Bread Man and Kaner. He's showing he can do it all and I think his work ethic and attitude's a source of that success."

Earlier this season Kero was with guys like Ryan Hartman and Vinnie Hinostroza. They were all familiar with each other from their Rockford days, and that showed. Playing with two guys you don't know so well? It's a bit of a challenge, and one the three talk out. But ultimately, Kero said you have to rely on your instincts. 

"You go over things before the game and on the bench, get a feel for what you might want to do. But then you just have to play hockey," Kero said. "You have to trust your game, make plays. You know they're going to make plays with the puck so you try to use your speed and get open and try to go to the net, create space for them and a little traffic in front and try to capitalize on opportunities."

Anisimov will be out another 1-2 weeks. Asked if Anisimov has started skating back in Chicago yet, Quenneville said, "I don't think so but I'm not positive. But he's progressing." Filling Anisimov's skates isn't easy, as evidenced by the Blackhawks' search for his temporary replacement. Kero is the third guy to get that shot, and he took advantage of his first showing.

"Obviously it's a great opportunity to play with two great players," Kero said. "You just try to do everything you can and do the little things right."

Briefly

- Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith didn't practice on Tuesday but both are expected to play against the Penguins.

- Corey Crawford gets the start against Pittsburgh.

- Hartman, scratched after a rough game against the Florida Panthers, is probably back in against the Penguins.