Hawk Talk: Surviving without their stars

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Hawk Talk: Surviving without their stars

Sunday, Dec. 12, 2010
3:45 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The news out of San Jose on Saturday morning, albeit a bit vague, was still pretty positive: some combination of the injured Blackhawks trio (Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Fernando Pisani) will be taking the ice soon in Chicago. One or more could be out there today. Same goes for Monday.

Good news, indeed, for a team thats been forced again to patchwork a lineup together in the hopes of finding success. But since this latest injury bug began at the end of their circus trip, the Blackhawks have somehow found a way to gather up some much-needed points. Granted, it hasnt been easy. They flirted with disaster against St. Louis and Dallas. Theyve called upreassigned Jeremy Morin enough that the kids frequent flyer miles probably rival mine. Theyve had to turn defensemen into forwards again.

Yet here they are with 35 points, good for fourth place in the Western Conference on a Sunday morning. And during this latest rash of injuries, beginning with Pisanis prior to the Nov. 27 game in Los Angeles, the Blackhawks have found a way to go 4-1-1. Thats without key penalty killer Pisani (upper body) and scoring stars Hossa and Kane.

So how did the Blackhawks get on a roll despite all of that? Theyve certainly banded together and played the team game, but a few individuals have stood out and in one case, sometimes stood on his head. Corey Crawford has been huge during this run, and if the 25-year-old hasnt been given a bunch of thank yous and steak dinners yet, he should be. Even in Saturday nights overtime loss to San Jose, Crawfords work was stellar. Without his big saves, that waived-off Viktor Stalberg goal is an oh-by-the-way mention instead of the potential game-winner. Coach Joel Quenneville said it couldve been Crawfords best game. Its hard to argue otherwise.

The Bryan Bickell-Dave Bolland-Troy Brouwer line has brought checking and some offense. John Scott has ignited the team with a few brawls.

Jonathan Toews has also been a force. He fired five shots on goal and was a threat throughout the night against the Sharks. The captain has been in top form lately and Im guessing the Blackhawks are feeding off that as much as the no-excuses mentality he and the team has no choice but to embrace.

Were at that point where its time to start expecting to play our best hockey, he said prior to the San Jose game. Right now I think were really starting to see some real results. Even though we have some injuries its time to go out and make things happen. We still have the guys who can do it.

The good news is, the reinforcements will soon return. The better news is how well the Blackhawks weathered the storm without them.

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

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.