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.

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.

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.