Hawk Talk: Fighting through Flu-bruary

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Hawk Talk: Fighting through Flu-bruary

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 4:20 PM

By: Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Jake Dowells done with his bout with the flu, and Joel Quennevilles optimistic the same can be said of Patrick Kane in time for Wednesdays opener of a crucial three-game homestand.

Kane missed a second straight day of practice with apparently the same bug thats bitten Corey Crawford, Fernando Pisani and Marian Hossa over the past couple of months. It comes as Kane was starting to heat up, with four goals and seven points over the previous four games (including being held off the scoresheet Saturday night against the Coyotes).

With Kane out, Viktor Stalberg moved up in practice Tuesday to share line time with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. While Toews, Kane and Sharp have provided the expected production since Quenneville put them together in Edmonton, the other lines, five-on-five, have sputtered. Thats why he has high hopes for the trio of Dave Bolland, Hossa and Michael Frolik. Theres potential for them to jump-start each other offensively, with Bolland being the most productive of the three lately, despite enduring a three-game point drought sandwiched between 10 over the previous nine games and a pair of power play assists Saturday.

We want to get the best from everybody, Quenneville said after Tuesdays practice. Fro, Bolly, Hoss. All three have the potential to make a real nice line for us. We need that group to be effective and hopefully they can all max-out for us.

Frolik seems really skilled and sees the ice well, according to Hossa. Hopefully, we can get things going. We need it, especially five-on-five goals.

A familiarity between Frolik and Bolland comes from the YoungStars Game at the 2009 All-Star Weekend in Montreal, when they opposed each other, aside from the two meetings between the Hawks and Florida Panthers some nine months later in Helsinki. Froliks now in a 25-game goal drought, while Hossas lit it up just four times in his last 24 games. Each desperately needs a spark from which their team would greatly benefit.

Hes an incredible player and hes done so many things here, Frolik says of his fellow eastern European. Its so much of an experience to play with him, especially for me to play on the same line.

Seven of the next eight games are against Western Conference teams in the same playoff dogfight. After an Edmonton paper last week hinted the defending champs have spent all season talking the talk but not walking the walk, the right things continue to be said in the locker room now that theyre back home, looking to improve on a 16-13 record. It starts with the team that handed them that 13th loss in their last home game three weeks ago, the Minnesota Wild.

Brent Seabrook: Yknow its one of those games thats a must-win. Weve got to come out, have a really good start to that game, then put in a full 60 minutes.

Hossa: The race is tight and we can climb up, but we need, from these games, two points. Thats the only way were going to climb up and it starts tomorrow.

Bryan Bickell: Weve gotta come after em hard and quick. We need the two points to at least get going on this homestand.

Quenneville: A lot of teams have had their runs and put us in a spot now where we have to do something about it. Were looking for our own run ourselves to put us in a spot we really want to be.
Other Stuff

Besides Kane, the only practice absentees were Fernando Pisani and Ryan Johnson. Theres been no update on their progress from injuries sustained Friday in Dallas.

Corey Crawford makes his second straight start in net. Four even-strength shots got past him versus the Wild in the final game before the All-Star Break.

Frolik had never been to Chicago before coming back with the team from Phoenix, so Wednesday will be his first United Center experience.

They say its an incredible atmosphere and a great hockey town, so I cant wait for that, he said.

The Wild have won 9 of their previous 11 heading into Tuesday nights home game against league-leading Vancouver. Both losses during the run have been by one goal. John Madden scored the deciding goal (one in the ninth round of a shootout) in back-to-back wins last week.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

The Blackhawks may want to forget this weekend.

Their captain is struggling health-wise and the rest of the team is struggling in other aspects. That led to a point-less pair of games, something the Blackhawks haven’t dealt with often this season. Even a return home on Sunday, where the Blackhawks had collected points in 12 consecutive games, couldn’t help them.

Still, the show must go on. So before we trudge home in the slush, let’s look at Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets.

1. Jonathan Toews isn’t improving. The captain isn’t getting any worse but his injury isn’t getting better. That’s what coach Joel Quenneville said prior to the game, the sixth in a row Toews has missed with a reported back injury. Toews skated on Sunday morning but will not shut it down for a few days. That’s discouraging news, especially for Toews. You could hear the frustration in Toews’ voice when he talked following Friday’s practice. It’s likely growing.

2. Scott Darling did all he could. We could have “goaltending buoys the Blackhawks” on a save/get key this season. It was true again on Sunday as Darling was stellar in stopping 30 of 32 shots. The Blackhawks have gone through their troubles this season but goaltending hasn’t been one of them. Darling will take the bulk of the work while Corey Crawford is sidelined. If he plays the way he did on Sunday night, the Blackhawks won’t have to worry about that part of their game.

3. Little generated again. Both teams played on Saturday but the Blackhawks were the ones really looking lackluster on Sunday night. The Blackhawks once again didn’t have many great scoring opportunities; through two periods, you could count their quality shots on one hand. They woke up some in the third period but not enough.

4. Second line drawing all the attention? OK, again, right now Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane are the Blackhawks’ top line. And with that, the trio has become the prime target of attention for the opposition. Other lines have had opportunities but these are not the balanced Blackhawks teams of previous seasons. That second line is what did the bulk of the damage last season, and teams are focusing on it –  and being more successful against it – this season.

5. Power plays a problem again. The Blackhawks’ first power play was as forgettable as they come. It was so unproductive, spent so little time in the Jets’ zone that fans started to audibly groan. And when the Blackhawks got a four-minute power play late in regulation they couldn’t get the game-tying goal. Again, this isn’t the first season the power play has struggled. But when the offense overall dries up, the issues here are that much more glaring.

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

The Blackhawks’ offense has been struggling for some time now. Nevertheless, the Blackhawks, more often than not, have found a way to get just enough to get them a point or two.

But this weekend, their mediocre offense was downgraded to anemic, and the inevitable disappointing results followed.

Artemi Panarin scored his second goal in as many games but the the Winnipeg Jets scored late to take a 2-1 victory over the Blackhawks on Sunday night. The Blackhawks dropped their second in a row. It was also the first time they didn’t record at least a point at the United Center since their season-opening loss to the St. Louis Blues on Oct. 12.

Jonathan Toews missed his sixth consecutive game with a reported back injury that coach Joel Quenneville said is “not getting better.” Toews will stay off the ice for a few days and be re-evaluated in the middle of the week.

Scott Darling was strong, stopping 30 of 32 shots. But it was one more game in which the Blackhawks leaned on their goaltending and provided little offensive support.

“Yeah, it’s been frustrating,” Duncan Keith said. “We’re obviously not doing what we need to do to create enough offense, putting pucks on the net or getting to the net or even just having enough offensive zone time.”

No, the Blackhawks’ zone time wasn’t so good in this one. That was especially true on their first power play, during which the Jets were more of a threat on Darling than the Blackhawks were on Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck.

Still, thanks to Panarin’s goal with less than seven minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks once again had a chance. Andrew Copp diminished those chances some with his goal with 4:45 remaining. The Blackhawks got a four-minute power play with less than three minutes left in the third period but couldn’t get one past Hellebuyck. Their best chance, coming from Marian Hossa, was stopped with 2.6 seconds remaining in regulation.

“That was a good chance to get the equalizer and we had a couple of decent looks but not the finish we were looking for,” Quenneville said. “We didn’t generate much tonight. It was one of those games. They came into our building, what was it a year or two ago, where they beat us back-to-back Sunday nights. They shut us down. The first two games [this season] they’ve shut us down pretty good.”

There’s no doubt the Blackhawks are missing the void left by Toews. Sure, they got points in four of the first six games he missed. But as Patrick Kane said, eventually you start feeling the void left by a top player.

“When you’re missing a guy right away for a couple of games, it may not really show up and guys are excited to get that chance. The longer you go, missing a great player, there’s going to be a hole,” he said. “Nothing we can control. It’s something guys like myself and other guys have to step up and try to [help], whether it’s taking on more ownership and leadership, playing the right way and do whatever you can to help this team win.”

The Blackhawks are going to have to find ways to win without Toews, as they did when he was first absent, because it sounds like he’ll be missing at least a few more games. Even when Toews was in the lineup, however, the scoring issues were there. Are the Blackhawks lacking confidence? Darling said no – “I’d be surprised [at that] with the great offensive players we have in here.”

Still, the Blackhawks need to find answers, no matter who’s in their lineup.

“We just have to figure out a way to get that chemistry going,” Darling said. “Because when it’s going it’s pretty lethal.”