Hawk Talk: Defense must get tenacity back

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Hawk Talk: Defense must get tenacity back

Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010
7:00 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville had a brief--but pointed--laundry list of things that went wrong for his team defensively on Monday night.

It might have been giveaways, it might have been coverage, it might have been mental mistakes, he said.

It might have been all of that. No, as defensive games go, this was one of the Blackhawks worst. They couldnt get the puck out of their own zone early. They gave the Colorado Avalanche one delectable scoring opportunity after another, chances so prime and open that defenseman Brian Campbell said afterward that every one of us owes (Marty Turco) an apology. Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were each minus-4 for the game.

Now heres whats really troubling: this is the Blackhawks healthy group. The forward side has been decimated by injuries Dave Bolland was out with an upper-body injury on Monday, joining Marian Hossa, Fernando Pisani and Patrick Kane on the sidelines. Between Rockford call-ups and defensemen playing the part of forwards, Quenneville has been able to cobble lines together.

The defensemen havent had to go through that much shuffling. They have been in their usual pairs for some time now. Theyve all been in the active lineup for some time now. If you want to really go back in time, this is the bunch that was least altered with all the offseason moves.

On Monday, the forwards were not the problem. The Blackhawks scored five goals; when you score five goals, you should win. And despite all the problems on Monday night, the Blackhawks were on the cusp of doing just that. Until that final two minutes, 24 seconds.

Even in recent victories, the Blackhawks have been flirting with disaster. They had big leads against St. Louis and Dallas at home, 5-1 and 4-1, respectively. But both advantages went from sizeable to slim, forcing the Blackhawks to score late to pad their leads again.

The Blackhawks have a big opportunity to rack up some points now, with all but one of their remaining December games here at the United Center. They are about to get some of their forwards back. They also need to get their defensive tenacity back.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

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.