Hawk Talk: Important back-to-back looming

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Hawk Talk: Important back-to-back looming

Thursday, March 10, 2011
9:08 a.m.

by Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

There were impressive displays of urgency (if not always 60 minutes of playoff-like intensity) during the Blackhawks eight-game winning streak. They'll need even greater degrees of that on Sunday and Monday, when they visit Washington and return home to host San Jose.

The availability of Brian Campbell and Dave Bolland will be in question. Campbell's lower body injury made him unavailable Wednesday in Tampa Bay after perhaps his best stretch of the season -- five points in as many games to lift him to an NHL-leading plus-28 on the season. Bolland had not only generated 22 points in his previous 24 games but had helped get Marian Hossa back on his game, before being on the receiving end of Pavel Kubina's cheap-shot elbow to the head early in Wednesday's game. It's ironic that Campbell could be unavailable against Alex Ovechkin, who ended his regular season a month early a year ago with his hit on Campbell from behind and into the boards. The Hawks also have yet to prove this season they can beat San Jose in general, and former teammate Antti Niemi in particular. It would be nice to have the proof they can, should a playoff date loom down the road.

READ: Three strikes by Hawks' top line not enough

That was an important point earned Wednesday, and very well could've been two if the NHL had followed its own shootout guidelines when it came to Martin St. Louis' shot. Then again, the Hawks have shutout in the shootout on the road this season. Yes, getting four points against the Caps and Sharks would be ideal, especially considering the possible health issues. But grabbing two to three points out of that back-to-back is of utmost importance when you survey the schedule beyond that. After Monday's game, the defending champs play just three games over the following 11 days, potentially getting passed in the standings by several teams in that stretch. Consider what most of the other Western contenders will be doing over that week-and-a-half:

Detroit and San Jose (already ahead of the Hawks) will play five times, as will Calgary, Los Angeles and Anaheim. While the Hawks still have three meetings left with the Wings, just one meeting with the Ducks remains from among those other four after Monday. Nashville and Phoenix will play six times over those 11 days, including a Coyotes-Hawks matchup in Glendale. The Hawks are done with the Preds, who'll play five times at home over the six they'll play. Dallas and Minnesota each play four games in that span, including the Stars' final matchup with the Hawks in Big D in a week.

Sure, the schedule will eventually even out when all's said and done exactly one month from today. But as we've been preaching before and during the hot streak that's positioned what's been a healthy Hawks squad in a good spot for the time being, continuing to move forward (unlike the puck on St. Louis' shootout attempt) makes the job later easier. But nothing really seems very easy, since no one in the West seems willing to stand still.

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

Blackhawks switch up lines vs. Coyotes

Blackhawks switch up lines vs. Coyotes

Jonathan Toews will miss his seventh consecutive game and Scott Darling will make his third consecutive start when the Blackhawks host the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday night at the United Center.

Toews is not skating right now; he last skated briefly on Sunday morning. Coach Joel Quenneville is hopeful that Toews can get back on the ice later this week. As of now, it looks like Toews could return when the Blackhawks go on their New York trip.

The Blackhawks made some lineup changes, including moving Marcus Kruger up with Ryan Hartman and Marian Hossa. It’s an attempt to get more offense; the Blackhawks have just two goals in their previous two games.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“We’ve had some lines the last couple of games and we haven’t generated enough,” Quenneville said. “Hopefully we get more offense and threat to score on not just the one line.”

Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy on Saturday, has already started doing a few exercises. Quenneville said, “hopefully [Crawford] will be in his equipment next week and we’ll get a better assessment as to when” he’ll return.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.

TV: CSN

Live Stream: CSNChicago.com/NBC Sports App

Blackhawks lines

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger -Marian Hossa

Tyler Motte-Dennis Rasmussen-Richard Panik

Andrew Desjardins-Vinnie Hinostroza-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairings

Duncan Keith-Brian Campbell

Trevor van Riemsdyk-Brent Seabrook

Gustav Forsling-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Goaltender

Scott Darling

Injuries

Jonathan Toews (upper body), Corey Crawford (appendix)

Coyotes lines (via Arizona Republic)

Tobias Rieder-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata

Max Domi-Christian Dvorak-Shane Doan

Brendan Perlini-Jordan Martinook-Jamie McGinn

Lawson Crouse-Tyler Gaudet-Ryan White

Defensive pairings

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Connor Murphy

Alex Goligoski-Michael Stone

Jakob Chychrun-Luke Schenn

Goaltender

Mike Smith

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight on CSN+ and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. A high-scoring affair?

In three meetings last season, the Blackhawks amassed 18 goals and captured victories in all three of them by final scores of 7-5, 5-4 (OT) and 6-2. The Blackhawks could use a high-scoring game, having scored only one goal or fewer in six of their last eight games. Of course, they could also use a win to avoid losing three straight for the first time this season. The good news is, they've had their way with the Coyotes for a while now, owning a 9-1-2 against them since the start of the 2012-13 season.

2. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

The dynamic duo of Kane and Panarin gave the Coyotes headaches last year, combining for four goals and eight assists in those three contests. Even before that, Kane has given them problems. The reigning Hart Trophy winner has 10 goals and 26 assists in 29 career games against the Coyotes, averaging 1.24 points per game. It could be a long night for Mike Smith.

3. Get shots on net.

The Blackhawks have been outshot in six of their last seven games, which isn't exactly a formula for success despite them having a 3-3-1 record during that span. The Coyotes are coming to town as the worst team in the league, by far, in shots allowed per game at 35.4 and gave up 60 shots on goal to Columbus over the weekend. This should be a confidence-building game for the Blackhawks.

4. Control the puck.

To get shots on goal, you have to have the puck. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they should have it a lot tonight. The Coyotes are the worst puck possession team in the league, controlling only 44.6 percent of the even-strength shot attempts while the Blackhawks rank near the middle of the pack at 50.4. There's no excuse for the Blackhawks not to be in the offensive zone more than their own.

5. Rookies gone quiet.

Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Tyler Motte all stepped up in large roles during the Circus Trip, but have been quiet on the scoresheet since the Blackhawks returned to Chicago. With Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews out, two of the Blackhawks' most important players, it's crucial to get contributions from every player to make up for those losses. The veterans have been leading the way lately, but it hasn't been enough for an offense that has dried up. Perhaps one of the young guns can provide that spark the team is looking for.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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