Hawk Talk: Time for PK to kill, or be killed?

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Hawk Talk: Time for PK to kill, or be killed?

Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011
6:39 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

The Blackhawks 0-for-3 result on the penalty kill in Wednesdays loss to Dallas didnt drop them to the bottom of the NHL, after all.

When we woke up Thursday morning, the unit that ranked fourth in the league a year ago was actually 28th. But there really is nowhere to go but up after a Stars squad that came to town converting 10 percent on its road power play hit the trifecta.

As you would guess Thursday, there were meetings, there were stops and starts on the ice for instruction and direction, and roughly half the practice was devoted to The Kill.

Whether its lanes and shots, clears, pressuring together, stick positioning, it goes hand-in-hand, said head coach Joel Quenneville. When youre victimized on a night like last night, being confident, having composure and working together and wanting to be out there is part of the solution. You get hesitant out there and gun shy. I think youd want to be out there and get it done. I think thats our focus and mindset right now going forward.

Marian Hossa agreed that changing momentum on that unit begins with an attitude adjustment.

Right now theres hesitation in our game on the PK. We could be in the right spots, but that half-second hesitation we just have to stop thinking. Thats why we had a meeting today and we did lots of PK on the ice about being on the same page. Dont think about it, just know your job and go out there and do it.

Hossas played six games since missing ten with a lower body injury and says hes still trying to find the level he played at the first three weeks of the season. After two assists in his return versus Columbus, collecting just one point (a goal Monday night in Los Angeles) doesnt sit well with him, and he knows it doesnt sit well with anyone else.

I need to get there sooner and faster. The team needs offense from everybody and I have to find a way to put the puck in the net. We know our jobs and have to be better at that. Like I said, after injury time is crucial. Im still finding the right timing and hopefully I find it soon so I can be effective and help the team win hockey games.

Patrick Kane (three assists in five games after missing eight) shares Hossas frustration.

You cant just have Sharpie and Tazer going. Youve got to have some of the other guys helping them that are go-to guys. Thats what was so great about our team last year. We had different guys stepping up every night. I think thats something both of us take pride in, scoring goals, making plays and helping out the offense. So when youre not doing that, its certainly not a good feeling, but we know we can get better and I think both of us are headed in the right direction.

Some of the depth guys stepped up last month during Kanes and Hossas absence. In the long run, though, its the Cup returnees who must lead the way back to the postseason.

Weve been here awhile, said All-Star defenseman Duncan Keith. We know what needs to be done. Its just a matter of everyone working together and getting it done. Definitely, the guys thatve been here need to lead the way.

Thats got to be in place for everything to work, said Quenneville. You need everybody to be a part of it, but certain guys, you expect them to be your top players. Thats always gonna be what makes the ship work.

Bad Bookends

No matter what the shots-on-goal totals indicate, the Blackhawks were fortunate to escape the first periods of their games in Anaheim and Los Angeles tied at one, and were even worse Wednesday. If the team is already having trouble finishing games, the last thing it needs are poor starts.

Probably our two toughest starts of the year were our last two games, according to Quenneville. You could argue our first game back last night (from the west coast) was part of it, but not to the extent of how poorly we played the first 20 minutes. Thats a huge hole. We were fortunate in L.A. and even last night, but its a situation where starts are critical to the outcome of games."

Our starts the last couple of games havent been good at all and we know that, agreed Kane. We have to get better, especially in front of our home crowd. Its a good situation for us to come in and get them into it. Second period last night, we tie the game 2-2 and the crowds on fire. Its fun to play in front of a crowd like that and if we get off to the start we want, theyll be there for us the whole game.

Briefly

38-year-old defenseman Jassen Cullimore, who recently cleared waivers, was assigned to Rockford. He played in 36 games, collecting eight assists, eight penalty minutes, and a plus-4 rating.

Its believed that 19-year-old Nick Leddy will be brought up ahead of Fridays game against Ottawa, now that his duties for Team USA at the World Junior Championships are completed. In six games earlier this season with the Hawks, Leddy had a goal a minus-1 rating. Since that time, in 22 games at Rockford, Leddy collected two goals and eight assists.

It could happen, Quenneville smiled when asked if Leddy was on his way back.

Cory Crawford will get a fourth straight start in goal versus the Seantors.

Thursdays practice Line Dance, left-to-right, for those interested:

Stalberg-Toews-Kane

Kopecky-Sharp-Hossa

Bickell-Bolland-Pisani

Brouwer-JohnsonDowell-Skille

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

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco lingered near the end of the Blackhawks' practice on Saturday, watching as fellow Slovak/now-teammate Marian Hossa drew a few things up on the dry-erase board.

Having a few familiar countrymen's faces (Hossa and Richard Panik) in the room helps. But for Jurco, just getting a fresh start is a welcome sight.

Jurco skated on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Hossa, and it looks like he'll make his Blackhawks debut there when the team hosts St. Louis on Sunday night. Jurco spent the last few seasons with the Detroit Red Wings but couldn't find a steady place in the lineup. Now here, he's hoping to change his fortunes.

"I mean, it's been tough couple of years for me in Detroit, so I was talking to [general manager] Ken Holland and we were discussing some options. I wasn't progressing in the last year or so, so I think this is a great time to push my game to another level," Jurco said on Saturday. "Like I said, this is another fresh start for me and I'm very excited for it."

[MORE: Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues]

Jurco joins a Blackhawks team that is surging (winning eight of nine) these last few weeks of the season. He and Hossa played together in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, so there's some familiarity as well as friendship there.

General manager Stan Bowman said Friday night that, based on Jurco's skills and the Blackhawks' style of play, Jurco should fit in well.

"I think he's going to get better here," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's going to get a little bit more comfortable with how we have to play, knowing that you want to go right through the puck and you want to pressure. Offensively I think he's got a chance to recapture some confidence. I think he moves well. I like his size. [It's] just getting a little more comfortable with our game and trusting his own instincts right off the bat."

It was time for a change for Jurco. Whether he blossoms like Panik, who came here from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and is now putting up career numbers as part of the Blackhawks' top line, remains to be seen. It's an opportunity nonetheless, and Jurco is ready to take advantage of it. 

"It was a number of different reasons in Detroit it didn't work out for me. I wasn't playing much, so that's obviously tough. And when you don't play for a few weeks and you play a couple of games, it's very tough," Jurco said. "I'm very happy that I'm here and excited for tomorrow."

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Niklas Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury but he will not play on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Hjalmarsson left with a little over eight minutes remaining in Thursday night's 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. He missed morning skate that day and, prior to the game, was seen wearing a wrap around his back. Whether or not that is the injury, however, is unknown. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will give Hjalmarsson time to regain full health, especially at this point of the season.

"I think he knows his body and he knows when he can fight through certain things. Giving him enough time to get back to where he's basically 100 percent is what we want," Quenneville said. "That's why he left the game last game. We want to make sure that when he comes back – you know, there's certain things you can fight through, and with him he can go through anything. Let's make sure at this time of the year that he recovers from this."

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Quenneville said the Blackhawks will go with the six defensemen they currently have. The last time Hjalmarsson missed a game due to injury was late February/early March of 2012 (six games with an upper-body injury).

"He's a warrior, he gives you everything you want in a big game like tomorrow's. Certainly missed him in the last game," Quenneville said. "We haven't exposed too much not having Hammer out there in important shifts, but it's a good chance for other guys to get critical and important shifts, and hopefully that helps them in their games as well."

Briefly

- Jordin Tootoo also missed practice (illness).

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Blues.