Hawks inch one step closer to a playoff berth

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Hawks inch one step closer to a playoff berth

Friday, April 8, 2011
Posted: 9:06 p.m. Updated: 11:55 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

DETROIT The Blackhawks dressing room was quiet before Friday nights game against the Red Wings. Defenseman Brian Campbell said that could have had two very different meanings.

Either A: Youre not ready or, B: We knew what was at stake and we knew what we needed to do, he said. Im glad it was option No. 2.

Campbell scored the game-winner and the Blackhawks stormed out to a 3-0 first-period lead en route to a 4-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena. The Blackhawks finished the night in eighth place; the Anaheim Ducks, a 2-1 winner over the Los Angeles Kings, remained in seventh.

The Blackhawks also kept their two-point lead over the Dallas Stars, who beat the Avalanche in Colorado, 3-2.

Ben Smith scored his first NHL goal as part of that productive first period that began with Brent Seabrooks goal 27 seconds into the game.

Watch: Quenneville on the team's sense of urgency

It was a huge start and scoring first shift certainly helped, coach Joel Quenneville said. The guys had good energy in the morning skate. It was an important game and you could sense it was a different approach. You could see the urgency was in the guys faces. The first shift exemplified that and we took off from there.

It was the start the Blackhawks needed and they kept up that style of play throughout. They won puck battles and constantly pressured the Wings. They were also aggressive in stymieing Detroits scoring chances, blocking 21 shots.

We were prepared and ready to go, said Corey Crawford, who stopped 26 of 28 for his 33rd victory this season. That was one of our best starts in a while. We came out with a little offense and had them on their heels a little bit. That was great for us to get that.

The Wings, meanwhile, were uncharacteristically off. Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom said the Wings have had the same issue a few times this season.

Too inconsistent, I think thats our biggest problem, he said. Weve showed up and played well in certain games and in other games we havent played as well or with that desperation you have to play with as you get close to the playoffs. Thats the bottom line, that we as a team have to play better whether were facing a team thats desperate or a team thats not in the playoffs.

Marian Hossa added a power-play breakaway in the second period for the Blackhawks, who are now 4-1-0 against the Wings this season.

Watch: Toews says the team is showing how much they want it

Whether you get that lead or not you have to keep going, said Jonathan Toews. Sometimes its dangerous to have a lead like that early in a game. Its easy to think theyre going to throw in the towel but theyre not that type of team. We did a good job of just staying with it and just finished off a solid 60 minutes.

The Blackhawks will need another 60-minute effort on Sunday. The Stars are still on their tail, the Blackhawks are still jockeying for position, as are the Wings.
Watch: Sharp says it's a desperate situation

In other words, they better stick to Plan B.

We need to get on a roll and play a good game Sunday, Campbell said. Dallas is going to take care of business anyway. Thats my feeling on it. So well be ready to go.

Breaking Through

The Chicago Blackhawks rookie, playing in his second consecutive game, had the puck on his stick and only Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard to beat. But calmly and quickly Smith won that one on one.

Smith scored his first NHL goal and was part of a strong line with Kane and Michael Frolik in the Blackhawks 4-2 victory over Detroit on Friday. For Smith, its just about seizing an opportunity, be it in this call-up or on a scoring chance.

Kane made a great play poking that puck to me. Any time you get the puck and get some time in the slot, you just try to get it off fast. I was able to do that, Smith said. The first couple of shifts there we were buzzing a bit, we had a little chemistry there. Hopefully it builds.

Kane had two assists and Frolik had another as part of that line. Coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw with that trio.

That line has been pretty special the couple games theyve been together as far as seeing plays, play recognition and defensively, he said. Kaner made a great poke on (that goal), Smith made a nice finish. They were dangerous all night. Theyre three guys who have good sense offensively and defensively, and in the short amount of time theres already a little chemistry there.
Bolland, Brouwer updates

Dave Bolland, who has been sidelined with a concussion for nearly a month, skated in Chicago on Friday morning. It was a good sign for Bolland, who suffered his concussion when Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina elbowed him in the head on March 9.

Hes doing better, really progressing there. The fact hes on the ice means hes turning the corner, said Quenneville, who was hopeful Bolland could be ready for the postseason. Certainly the fact hes on the ice gives you signs it could happen. Where there wasnt a lot of hope a while ago thats changed. Anything can happen, but we like the fact that hes improving.

Troy Brouwer, whos day to day with a right-shoulder injury suffered against Montreal on Tuesday, may also be close.

I like his progress, Quenneville said. Right now hes just day to day, but hopefully well see him on the ice soon.

Kruger scratched
Marcus Kruger was scratched for the second consecutive game on Friday night. Kruger came here from Sweden and made his Blackhawks debut against the Florida Panthers on March 23.

I really liked the way he played the first couple of games, Quenneville said. Whether its pace, strength, understanding how we have to play or different ice surfaces, hell grasp that as we go along here. Hes still going to be useful and I still like what he does.
Briefly

Tomas Kopecky left after taking a Viktor Stalberg shot to his left ear with 8:26 remaining in regulation. Quenneville said afterward he was fine.

Crawford got a secondary assist on Hossas goal, his first career NHL point.

Watch: Crawford jokes about his assist

Ryan Johnson played in his 700th career NHL game on Friday.

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

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

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Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook out vs. Rangers

Brent Seabrook is out and Jonathan Toews will miss his eighth consecutive game when the Blackhawks host the New York Rangers on Friday night.

Seabrook suffered an upper-body injury in the second period of the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday night. The defenseman fell awkwardly along the boards and was down for a few moments. Coach Joel Quenneville said Seabrook is day-to-day. Quenneville added he’ll decide tomorrow who takes Seabrook’s place in the lineup.

“Seabs has played really well for us on the back end this year and we’ll definitely miss his contributions,” Quenneville said. “We’re looking for someone to step in.”

Toews is feeling better and could skate on Friday. Quenneville would not rule out the possibility of Toews returning Sunday against the Dallas Stars.

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Duncan Keith did not practice on Thursday but he’s expected to play vs. the Rangers. Scott Darling will start.

Quenneville said Corey Crawford, who had an appendectomy on Saturday, is “status quo.”

Meanwhile, Nick Schmaltz, who was assigned to Rockford over the weekend, scored two goals in the IceHogs’ 3-2 loss to the San Antonio Rampage.

“I talked to Norm (Maciver, Blackhawks assistant general manager) about his game, they were extremely happy with how he played,” Quenneville said of Schmaltz. “He scored twice and there could’ve been more.”