Hawk Talk: Sly leaders emerge, wake up troops

365646.jpg

Hawk Talk: Sly leaders emerge, wake up troops

Monday, Jan. 17, 2011
9:45 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Theres something to be said for a good, honest chat. Airing grievances, getting things off your chest, venting; whatever you call it, it can lead to good things.

Just ask the Blackhawks, who got the most out of a little player pow-wow they had after a lousy first period against Nashville on Sunday night. They talked, they hashed things out, heck they couldve screamed at each other for all we know.

Bottom line is, whatever was said worked. The Blackhawks came through with a good second period and a better third period, one that came with four goals and a victory over a division opponent. And heading into this five-day break, they needed that.

Yeah, its something for guys to be loud and to speak their mind in this room, Dave Bolland said. Having guys speak and know whats wrong and whats bothering them is good.

Some players talked. Troy Brouwer said that, but wouldnt specify who exactly the talkers were. Those who werent talking were apparently listening; the words ruffle feathers as much as they stoked team morale.

We just got excited about going out there and getting something done, said Jonathan Toews, who not surprisingly was one of the vocal players. We all knew we had to be better after that first period.

Maybe the Blackhawks have had these players-only discussions in others games this season. Im sure they had their talkers during last seasons Stanley Cup run. Maybe its the same guys. Maybe some of the veterans acquired in the offseason piped up. Maybe guys who were hesitant to talk last season have no problem doing it now.

Whatever the scenario, it worked on Sunday. After a myriad of offseason changes and in-season injuries, the Blackhawks are starting to find their team identity and line chemistry. Theyve also found their voices. Theyll need hard work and health to keep them in the Western Conferences top eight.

Theyll also have to keep talking. When youre trying to get the most out of each other and go on another playoff run, silence wont be golden.

More musings

--Nick Leddy was reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs on Monday morning, but with the Blackhawks not playing again until Saturday, it looks like this was just a salary-cap move. The 19-year-old defenseman has earned nothing but praise from coach Joel Quenneville since being recalled on Jan. 7.

--The checking line guys keep adding offense while denying the opposition. Bolland is on a four-game points streak after adding two goals on Sunday night. He now has four goals and two assists in these past four contests. Bryan Bickell added his 12th goal of the season on Sunday night.

--The NHL All-Star game captains are going to be named soon. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said earlier this week that he would select Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos as the respective team captains. But am I the only one wondering if Crosby even plays in this game? Hes been sidelined with concussion since Jan. 6. The All-Star game is less than two weeks away. Even if Crosby is concussion symptom-free and playing again, does he play in Raleigh? Just wondering .

--Brouwer, who had the tying and game-winning goals against Nashville, was the NHLs third star for Sunday night.

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

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.

- Buy tickets to tonight's game

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you’re ready for action

- Channel Finder: Make sure you know where to watch

- NBC Sports App FAQ: All your questions answered

- Latest on the Blackhawks: All of the most recent news and notes

- See what Blackhawks fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Blackhawks Pulse