Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

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Hawk Talk: Sky-high again, eyeing 7th heaven

Monday, April 25, 2011
Posted: 5:34 p.m. Updated: 12:03 a.m.
By Chris BodenCSNChicago.com

The Blackhawks weren't flying quite as high as they would've liked en route to Game 7 in Vancouver Tuesday night. Left Wing Bryan Bickell could miss the remainder of the playoffs, no longer how long they last, but definitely the first-round series finale and whatever else could be immediately beyond.

"Bryan Bickell underwent surgery with our hand surgeon to repair a tendon lacerated during Game 2 of the Western Cnbference Quarterfinals," said Head Team Physician Dr. Michael Terry in a statement. "While the surgery was anticipated since the injury occurred, Bryan wanted to play before time ran out to complete the procedure appropriately. We anticipate a full recovery in approximately six to eight weeks."

Bickell had two goals in helping the team rally over the last three games, opening the scoring in Games Four and Six. He missed Game 3 after Canucks defenseman Sami Salo accidentally cut him near his wrist after a fall near the Blackhawks bench in Game 2.

Joel Quenneville did announce that Tomas Kopecky was (unlike for Game Five) on this trip and "progressing" from his upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the series opener, raising hope he might be available if the Hawks become the first 8th seed to rally from a 3-0 series deficit to beat a top seed.

But first things, first. The defending champs claim they're not spending much time worrying about who starts in goal for Vancouver Tuesday night, even if Cory Schneider was helped off the ice with only muscle cramping, and not anything more serious.

This will be the first Game 7 in Blackhawks history since 1995, when Denis Savard and company rallied from a 2-0 first-round deficit to defeat Toronto. The only players on the current roster who've played in playoff Game 7's are Marian Hossa, Brian Campbell, and Marty Turco. Quenneville coached in three of them in St. Louis.

While Jonathan Toews may be having a quiet offensive series, Quenneville noted that he's been neutralized - and is neutralizing - 41-goal scorer Ryan Kesler, who's expected to be a Selke Trophy (Best Defensive Forward) finalist this week. Each center's been held to no goals and three assists.

There are some interesting things to note about the new faces on each side as this series has progressed. Aside from the injured Manny Malhotra, Canucks GM Mike Gillis added Dan Hamhuis, Keith Ballard, and Raffi Torres. Torres' hit on Brent Seabrook seems to have worked in reverse against his team. Ballard has been a healthy scratch the past two games. Hamhuis pushed Dave Bolland's head into the glass in Game 5, then got his come-uppance from Bolland behind the net Sunday night, setting up the first goal. Then he set up the third by tripping Michael Frolik, leading to his penalty shot.

On the Blackhawks' side, Frolik has two goals, five points and a plus-5 rating. Ben Smith's scored three goals. Chris Campoli's a plus-3 after committing his worst mistake since being acquired at the trade deadline, with the turnover that led to Vancouver's second goal. His teammates would make it a lot less costly.

The Sedins have combined for 12 points through six games (they had 10 in the six games a year ago), but didn't have Bolland in their grill the first three games.

Since Bolland has again treated the Sedin Twins like a scratchy, uncomfortable sweater (a combined minus-13 since his Game Four return, while Bolland has been plus-6), here are some Vancouver-related quotes he left the media with at O'Hare Monday before the team's departure for Game Seven:

On if any thoughts about the Canucks' scenario has crossed his mind: "I don't think I wanna be in those shoes."

If this year's "wingmen" with him (Michael Frolik and Bryan Bickell) form a better line than last year's (Andrew Ladd and Kris Versteeg): "This one."

Because it's the current one? "Yep."

On whether he knew it was Hamhuis retrieving the puck behind Vancouver's net (after being upset wih Hamhuis pushing his head into the glass in Game 5), leading to his big hit, and the Hawks' first goal, by Bickell: "I think I knew from the blue line, in. I thought it felt better than a goal, yep."

On whether he'd ever vacation in Vancouver: "I'm pretty sure if I'm gonna go there on vacation it wouldn't be nice. They probably wouldn't let me in once I got to the border. I think people do recognize me and it's not the nices things they (could) say."

On defending the Sedins: "I don't think I have a formula. It's not like math. I just have to go out there and play. They're just two ordinary players." (This after admitting he heard about the Canucks calling him "nothing special," and "not a game-changer" upon his return to the lineup for Game 4)

On Toews' two goals in the last 18 games: "After last night, 'Tazer' asked me when he was gonna score. I was like, 'I dunno, pretty soon, hopefully.' I guess I'll just keep scoring."

Possible rematch?

If the Blackhawks complete their first-round series comeback from a 3-0 deficit Tuesday night in Vancouver, they'd face San Jose in the second round.

Joe Thornton scored the game-winner (and series-clincher) early in overtime after the Sharks killed off a 5-minute Kings power play that spanned the end of regulation into the start of overtime. After their 4-3 win, the Sharks await either the Blackhawks or Red Wings in round two.

By virtue of the Sharks being the highest remaining seed in the West by virtue of the 8th- (and lowest) seeded Hawks knocking off number-one seed Vancouver, it would set up a rematch of last spring's Western Conference Final a round earlier, highlighted by Hawks Cup-winning goalie Antti Niemi opposing his heir, Crawford.

But first-things-first: the Blackhawks need to defeat the Canucks in Vancouver in Game 7 Tuesday night.

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

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

Blackhawks gear up for Wild in 'extremely important' game

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Blackhawks knew their meeting against the Minnesota Wild two weeks ago was a critical contest. This one is right up there, too.

The Blackhawks are trying to keep pace with the front-running Wild, who are seven points ahead of them entering tonight's game.

"There's certainly always something to play for," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks are 10 points ahead of third-place St. Louis. "We want to keep getting better and we're starting to improve over this part of the season. But the point of importance of today's game and keeping it close is important for us, so we'll approach it that way. We were going into the break a week ago, and I'm sure it's an important game for them but it's an extremely important game for us."

Meanwhile the Wild will be trying to do tonight what the Blackhawks did on Feb. 11: go into their bye on a high note. The Wild haven't had many hiccups lately, going 7-2-1 in their last 10 games. Devan Dubnyk will get the start as the Wild look to keep extending their lead.

"It's one of those games that's a great challenge for your group," Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You're playing a team that's still won three Stanley Cups in the last seven years and they've been in every battle you can imagine. That team gets up for every important game, and I think they'll think this is an important game. It's just about being an athlete. It's one of those things, you love to play in these situations."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Tuesday marks the Wild's 59th game of the season; they had caught up to Chicago during the Blackhawks' bye week, yet will go into their break with a game in hand. Still, the Wild are ready for the respite.

"We're not complaining about it," Charlie Coyle said. "It's a little different, yeah, but in the long run it's going to help us. Just get this rest period, rest the legs, the body, [rest] mentally, come back and get ready for the grind. It's going to be crucial for us and we'll try to take advantage of it."

Matt Dumba (knee) could return to the Wild's lineup tonight but Boudreau wouldn't say for sure.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com and NBC Sports app
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks

Forward lines
Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

Injuries/illnesses: None

Minnesota Wild

Forward lines
Nino Niederreiter-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Jason Zucker-Mikko Koivu-Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise-Erik Haula-Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart-Tyler Graovac-Jordan Schroeder

Defensive Pairs
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Gustav Olofsson-Jonas Brodin
Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba

Goaltender
Devan Dubnyk

Injuries/illnesses: None

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks clash with Wild tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Minnesota Wild tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 6:30 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. Road warriors.

The Blackhawks have won six straight games away from the United Center, and are looking to make it a seventh in Minnesota tonight. They've scored the game's first goal in four of those wins, and in the other two, overcame 1-0 deficits to beat Dallas 5-3 and Edmonton 5-1, the latter of which they scored five unanswered goals.

2. Corey Crawford vs. Devan Dubnyk.

Crawford hasn't quite been the same since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on Dec. 3, but he turned in probably his best outing since then in the Blackhawks' last meeting against Minnesota on Feb. 8 when he stopped 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 overtime win. He essentially stole two points, and prevented the Wild from picking up the extra one. Across from him tonight will be Dubnyk, who leads the league in wins (32), goals against average (1.97) and save percentage (.934).

3. Jonathan Toews on fire.

After a tough offensive drought earlier in the season that lasted longer than expected, the Blackhawks captain has six goals and 10 assists in his last 12 games, and upped his point total to 37, which now ranks fifth on the team. In the last meeting against Minnesota two weeks ago, Toews had a three-point night and scored the game winner in overtime. 

4. Mikael Granlund among league's most underrated players.

File Granlund under the category of players who don't get enough attention. He has 17 goals and 36 assists in 58 games this season, and his 53 points is tied with Jeff Carter and Artemi Panarin for 13th in the NHL's scoring race. The next highest point total on the Wild is Eric Staal with 45, an eight-point gap between him and Granlund. The 24-year-old forward registered his first career hat trick earlier this month, and also had a 12-game point streak just two weeks ago.

5. Ryan Hartman's closing in on 15 goals.

In Saturday's 3-1 loss to Edmonton, Hartman defended his teammate by fighting an Oilers defenseman that was practically twice his size. He called it a "no-brainer" to stick up for Tanner Kero and did well in the scrap, but it led to an Oilers power play and 10-minute misconduct which didn't do the Blackhawks any favors. He responded in a great way Sunday by scoring the game's first goal that helped his team win 5-1 in Buffalo. The next goal he scores will be No. 15, which would give the Blackhawks six 15-plus goal scorers on the year. They had only four a season ago.

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