Hawks outlast Detroit behind Kopecky, Crawford

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Hawks outlast Detroit behind Kopecky, Crawford

Friday, Dec. 17, 2010
Posted 10:04 PM Updated 11:20 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Its become a mantra for the Chicago Blackhawks, so much so that coach Joel Quenneville emphasized it again on Thursday. The Blackhawks, he said, need to be harder to play against.

On Friday, against the best in the West, they were.

Tomas Kopecky scored twice and Corey Crawford stopped 29 of 30 shots as the Chicago Blackhawks defeated the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 on Chris Chelios Heritage Night at the United Center.

On a night when the Blackhawks honored one of the best defensemen to ever play, they played one of their best defensive games of the season. Save a Patrick Eaves goal early in the first, the Blackhawks kept the Wings offense at bay and never let their potent power play see the ice.

It just seemed like tonight was as close to a perfect game as you could get, said Brent Seabrook, who had two assists and was a plus-1 on the night. We feel confident we can play that game all the time and we have to continue to do that. We need to bring what made us successful tonight to every game.

Friday was a good start and the Blackhawks helped their own cause by getting out to a 2-0 lead within the first five minutes. Patrick Sharp scored on the only power play of the night and Bryan Bickell tallied his third goal in as many games.

Tomas Kopeckys goal put the Blackhawks up 3-1 midway through the second, when Brian Campbell hit him with a pretty pass on a delayed penalty call.

I initially wanted to pass it wide but they cheated on it, Campbell said. Kopy did a great job skating through. I saw him late, I got it to him and he did the rest.

Kopecky, a former Red Wing, added an empty netter late in the third. It was Kopeckys first goals since he scored one on Nov. 30 against St. Louis.

Crawford was once again solid in goal. He stopped the initial shots, and the Blackhawks didnt make him see many rebounds.

That was probably our best game in the last few. It was nice to get out to an early lead. That was our best third period in a while, too, Crawford said. Guys were moving the pucks out, especially in the third. They were picking off passes in front of the net.

The Blackhawks were harder to play against on Friday. Thats the kind of game theyve wanted to play all along this season and the one they know they need to play to stay among the Top 8 in the conference.

Its easy to get excited about the rivalry of the game and playing Detroit, you know every shift is critical to the outcome, Quenneville said. The focus was in the right place tonight. I like their mindset of playing with a purpose.

Kane, Hossa update

Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa both lower body are expected to skate Saturday morning. Kane said he is hopeful to play Sunday night against the Los Angeles Kings.

Part of the injury I have is that youre going to feel pain, whether practice or a game, Kane said. For me, its something Im going to have to deal with a little bit. Hopefully it stops sooner rather than later.

Hossa wasnt sounding quite as optimistic for Sunday, but he was encouraged by his Friday skate.

After two days off coming back on the ice I feel much better. Right now, I feel its getting closer, Hossa said. It all depends on how I feel (Saturday) or (Sunday). But I definitely feel better than I did Monday and Tuesday.

Briefly

Fernando Pisani returned on Friday after missing eight games with an upper-body injury. He played just under 18 minutes, recorded an assist and finished plus-1.

Bryan Bickells goal was his fifth in his last six games.

Jack Skille had a team-leading nine shots on goal on Friday.

Viktor Stalberg was out on Friday night. Quenneville said theyd see where he was on Saturday morning.

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).