Hawks get Coach Q 600th win; Seabrook 'seems OK'

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Hawks get Coach Q 600th win; Seabrook 'seems OK'

The Blackhawks have had a successful formula working lately: good defense and goaltending and across-the-board scoring contributions. It was working again on Sunday night.

Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist and Joel Quenneville got his 600th career coaching victory in the Blackhawks 4-2 triumph over the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks have now won five games in a row and seven of their last eight.

But it came with a scary moment early. Brent Seabrook was hit from behind by Rene Bourque late in the first period and did not return. Quenneville said Seabrook seemed not bad after the game.

Well find out more tomorrow. I just talked to him. He seemed all right, he seemed OK, said Quenenville, who is hopeful that Seabrook can make the trip to Pittsburgh for Tuesdays game.

Still, another high hit on Seabrook, who has had three head injuries already in his NHL career, was a concern.

When a guys got his back turned and you have more speed than him, it comes down to respect, said Jonathan Toews, who added he saw the hit as it happened but hadnt seen a replay yet. Head shots and head injuries arent going anywhere if we keep making plays like that, and that goes for everyone in the league.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for the Blackhawks, who helped Quenneville become the second-fastest coach to reach 600 NHL victories (in 1,114 games). Toews presented Quenneville with the game puck afterward.

I just told them, what it means is Im getting old, Quenneville joked. Ive been with some good teams and some great organizations. Im fortunate in a lot of ways. Im in a great spot here.

And for the most part, he likes how the Blackhawks are playing right now. The offensive balance was there again, as four different Blackhawks scored. Hossa, Patrick Kane and Steve Mondator scored, as did Niklas Hjalmarsson, who got his first of the season.

I had a couple of good shots today, but sometimes they go in and sometimes they dont, Hjalmarsson said. I had a couple of good shots before, this season that just havent really gone in. So sometimes you have luck on your side.

The Blackhawks also got on top early again, something theyve made a point of doing in recent games. And despite losing Seabrook, the five remaining Blackhawks defensemen were strong through the rest of the game.

I just think it gives everyone that much more confidence in their own job, said Duncan Keith, who logged 28:33 of ice time, five shots on goal, three blocked shots and an assist. Sometimes a little save or a small play can make a huge difference in the game. Its given our team a lot of confidence.

The Blackhawks just keep rolling along. After a ho-hum November theyre now 7-0-1 in December. Theyve got a league-leading 46 points.

I just think were doing all the small things really well, said Hjalmarsson. Were getting pucks deep, forwards back-checked really hard and the (defense) got the puck out of our own zone. Were just real careful out there the way we play, and we play hard.

Briefly

Patrick Sharp had an assist, extending his point streak to a career-long nine games (7 goals, 6 assists). It is also the longest streak in the NHL this season.

Hossas goal and assist gives him a five-game point streak (4 goals, 6 assists).

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya is headed to the Eastern Conference.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract could be worth up to $1.25 million with incentives.

Oduya, who the Blackhawks re-acquired prior to the trade deadline last season from the Dallas Stars, finished with two goals and seven assists in 52 games between the two teams.

It comes to no one's surprise that the Blackhawks didn't re-sign the veteran defenseman.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Nashville Predators, Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are headed in a different direction, and their offseason has been plenty of busy so far. Headline deals included trading Oduya's linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for 24-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

Oduya heads to a Senators team which got ousted in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.