Hawks moving by Dallas, on to next 'big game'

415685.jpg

Hawks moving by Dallas, on to next 'big game'

Saturday, March 19, 2011Posted: 4:40 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE Troy Brouwer tried to forget about Thursdays loss as soon as it was over. Not that there were many memorable moments the Blackhawks could take with them.

You just wash it, for me at least. There were no positives you can take out of that game, Brouwer said. You learn from the negatives and then you just forget about it.

What the Blackhawks are very mindful of, however, is the task at hand. Theyre seventh in the Western Conference, and theyll probably be in the same spot Sunday when they face the surging Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena.

And all those phrases that contain big game, critical game or must win are in full effect again.

Its for sure the biggest game to date. And well probably say that 10 more times, said coach Joel Quenneville, whose Blackhawks have 11 games remaining in the regular season. Its definitely a huge game and its going to be very important.

The Blackhawks thought about that all through Saturdays practice, which featured plenty of puck-battle drills and 5-on-5 defensive zone work, two things that were lacking against Dallas on Thursday.

We were doing OK (early Thursday) but not generating any chances. When youre not getting chances youre not scoring goals, Brouwer said. We got away from the game plan, giving away too many odd-man rushes. We played right into what they wanted to do. We just try to shake it off as much as we can and learn a little bit.

The Blackhawks had a solid practice on Saturday but Quenneville said that has to flow over into Sunday.

It was more workmanlike than some days but we have to play that kind of way, he said. We need to be hard to play against. That defensive mind type of mentality in all areas of the ice is what makes us effective.

The Blackhawks were working as one during their eight-game winning streak. They got away from that in Dallas and need to get it back against a Phoenix team that has thrived on playing a team game lately. The Coyotes have won five in a row heading into Sunday, including a 3-1 victory over red-hot Vancouver on Friday.

The best players need to be the best going into the playoffs. Everybody knows that and we just have to respond, Marian Hossa said. We just have to play the team game. Thats the most important thing. That didnt happen in Dallas. We have to be on the same page and be smart and play the team game.

The Blackhawks dont have to look at the standings every day to know the race is going to stay tight. Theyve put Dallas behind them. Their minds have to be focused on the latest big game.

Whatever happened in Dallas happened, its over with and were moving on. Our whole team has to be better, Patrick Sharp said. This is our biggest game of the year, absolutely. We thought Dallas was the biggest game of the year. With 11 games remaining, theyre all going to get bigger and bigger.

Bickell better

Bryan Bickell said he felt 10 times better following Saturdays practice than he did about an hour before the Blackhawks loss to the Stars on Thursday night. Bickell said he didnt feel too bad Thursday morning, when he didnt participate in morning skate. But right before the game he was much worse and couldnt go.

An hour before the game I just couldnt do it, he said. It was definitely (tough). Im not a guy to miss a game like that. It was hard to see it on TV and then being a guy short. It put the team in a tough spot there.

Quenneville said the team is talking about calling someone up for Sundays game against the Coyotes for precautionary reasons.

Injury update

Defenseman Brian Campbell (left foot) will not play Sunday against Phoenix. There was an outside chance that Campbell could join the team here but he remained home nursing that injury. Quenneville is hopeful Campbell will be ready soon.

When we get back, we expect him likely to skate and hopefully this week at home hell be able to play, said Quenneville, who added Campbell has not skated the past few days.

Meanwhile, Dave Bolland (concussion) is showing a little progress, Quenneville said. Bolland has been sidelined since that Tampa Bay game.

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

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

“Obviously [I want to] get back and playing the same way,” Kruger said. “First I want to get healthy and then get back playing my best and do everything I can for the team.”

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Blackhawks updates: Why Joel Quenneville is starting Corey Crawford vs. Canucks

Corey Crawford will start but Marcus Kruger won't play yet when the Blackhawks host the Vancouver Canucks on Sunday night.

Scott Darling is coming off a 30-stop shutout in the Blackhawks' 1-0 victory over Boston on Friday night. Coach Joel Quenneville said there was some consideration given to start Darling in this one, too, but, "at the same time we want Crow playing as much as he can to get back to the great pace he had prior to being away."

"He hasn't been bad. But certainly that's what we're looking for him to get back to," Quenneville said on Crawford. "I like giving Darls some consideration. We'll see but [Darling] certainly enhanced his positioning."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Meanwhile, Marcus Kruger skated with the Blackhawks for the first time since hurting his hand against the Carolina Hurricanes on Dec. 30. He took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice but was not among the line rushes. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is for either Tuesday or Thursday but, "knowing we have that [All-Star] break, we'll see how he feels and what our options are."

Kruger said he felt, "pretty close."

"I tried to take it day by day and prepare to play," Kruger said. "Obviously not tonight, but the next game we will see." 

BLACKHAWKS VS. VANCOUVER CANUCKS
6:30 p.m.
TV: WGN
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks
Forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs
Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender
Corey Crawford

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Marcus Kruger (right arm).

Vancouver Canucks (via Canucks)
Forward lines

Daniel Sedin-Henrik Sedin-Loui Eriksson
Sven Baertschi-Bo Horvat-Alex Burrows
Markus Granlund-Brandon Sutter-Jayson Megna
Brendan Gaunce-Michael Chaput-Jack Skille

Defensive Pairs
Alex Edler-Troy Stecher
Luca Sbisa-Chris Tanev
Alex Biega-Nikita Tryamkin

Goaltender
Ryan Miller

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Anton Rodin (knee), Ben Hutton (hand), Jannik Hansen (knee), Erik Gudbranson (wrist), Philip Larsen (upper body), Derek Dorsett (back).