Hawk Talk: Shut down and score? Check

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Hawk Talk: Shut down and score? Check

Thursday, Dec. 23, 2010
6:22 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks checking line has one big concern when they take to the ice: theyre supposed to stop the oppositions best scorers. And lately, that has been working just fine for Bryan Bickell, Dave Bolland and Fernando Pisani.

But looking at those box scores lately you notice something else. Those guys who are stalling scorers on one end have been the big offensive producers on the other.

Yes, the checkers are on a hot streak. Theyre generating turnovers. Theyre spending as much, if not more time, in the oppositions zone scoring than in their own defending. And the results are speaking for themselves.

So why is the checking line so score-happy right now?

Were just playing it simple and smart, said Bolland, who had a goal and an assist in the Blackhawks 4-1 victory over Nashville on Wednesday. With Bick and (Pisani), we just keep it simple. We dont make anything too flashy out there. We just get the puck and go.

Theyve been going at a clip lately, with Bickells productivity garnering the most bells and whistles. The rookie who went from fourth liner to healthy scratch back to fourth liner to emerging checker has points in seven of his last eight games, including goals in four of his last five. When asked whats led to his offensive outburst, Bickell said whats quickly becoming the Blackhawks mantra: Im keeping it simple.

Bolland has three points in his last two games. Pisani - whos been back for three games - has a point in each one of them. Troy Brouwer, who was on that right side when Pisani was hurt, had points in three of his last four games with the then "Killer Bs" line.

Playing simple has gotten the Blackhawks through this stretch without top scorers Marian Hossa and Patrick Kane, and its benefited that checking line, too. It doesnt hurt that Bickell, Bolland and Pisani had built up some chemistry earlier this season before Pisani was sidelined through early December. The three feed off each other and off whatever the opposition is giving them, which right now seems to be quite a bit.

When you get that assignment you get quality ice time and you get juicier opportunities when youre going out there against top guys, coach Joel Quenneville said. Theyre finding the net.

Bolland said Wednesday night that were finding our way right now, were finding our roles. He was talking about the Blackhawks as a whole right now, but he couldve easily been talking about his own line.

Be it the Red Wings, Kings or Predators offensive threats, Bolland and company are shutting them down. Theyre comfortable with each others game and it shows. And that lines scoring has balanced the Blackhawks and taken pressure off the top line to be the game-in-game-out contributors.

There will probably be some line changes when Hossa and Kane return. That Bickell-Bolland-Pisani line shouldnt be one of them.

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

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.