Kane breaks out of slump as Hawks top Panthers

648038.png

Kane breaks out of slump as Hawks top Panthers

Patrick Kanes scoring drought has been tough on him. The frustration had built and at times, after great chances went by the wayside, hed look skyward and shake his head.

I kind of even forgot how to celebrate, to be honest with you, Kane said.

Maybe Fridays performance will jog his memory.

Kane scored his first goal since early this month, and Jonathan Toews scored his 27th goal of the season as the Blackhawks beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 at the United Center on Friday night.

The game was delayed a half hour due to the inclement weather here in Chicago, but it was another victory for the Blackhawks, who have now won five of their last six games. They enter Saturdays matchup in Nashville with 64 points, the most in the NHL.

And it was also a relief for Kane, who hadnt scored since Jan. 5 in Philadelphia.

Yeah, it was a good feeling, Kane said. I didnt know what I was doing (on my goal celebration), but it was good to put one in.

Coach Joel Quenneville said he had three A-plus chances before that in the same period there. It was just a matter of time. The last couple games hes been trending with more quality looks. Its nice to get that one. I expect him to be more confident in those areas and keep it going.

Duncan Keith scored a power-play goal and Ray Emery got the victory, stopping 18 of 19 shots.

Kane and Toews each added an assist, as that top line was once again stellar. Stalberg said it was good to see his linemate find his scoring touch.

Hes been getting lots of chances, and it seems like hes in those areas right now, Stalberg said. Getting a goal like that probably helps him get more confidence. If we can get him scoring were going to be even more dangerous.

Toews goal came on a mini-breakaway and two great passes from Stalberg and Kane. Keiths goal, his first since Nov. 13 against Edmonton, came just over two minutes later.

The goalie wasnt able to see it because (Andrew Brunette) was doing a great job screening and (Nick Leddy) and (Marian) Hossa moved it around pretty good there, Keith said. I had some time to get a shot off there.

The Blackhawks team confidence is surging. A good winning streak and 64 points will do that for a group. Kanes been trying to get his confidence back. His goal on Friday could do that for him.

It was nice to come up for the team tonight and score a big one, Kane said. Any time you can score after a slump, and a lot of focus on it, its a good feeling.

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco ready for 'fresh start' with Blackhawks

Tomas Jurco lingered near the end of the Blackhawks' practice on Saturday, watching as fellow Slovak/now-teammate Marian Hossa drew a few things up on the dry-erase board.

Having a few familiar countrymen's faces (Hossa and Richard Panik) in the room helps. But for Jurco, just getting a fresh start is a welcome sight.

Jurco skated on the third line with Marcus Kruger and Hossa, and it looks like he'll make his Blackhawks debut there when the team hosts St. Louis on Sunday night. Jurco spent the last few seasons with the Detroit Red Wings but couldn't find a steady place in the lineup. Now here, he's hoping to change his fortunes.

"I mean, it's been tough couple of years for me in Detroit, so I was talking to [general manager] Ken Holland and we were discussing some options. I wasn't progressing in the last year or so, so I think this is a great time to push my game to another level," Jurco said on Saturday. "Like I said, this is another fresh start for me and I'm very excited for it."

[MORE: Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues]

Jurco joins a Blackhawks team that is surging (winning eight of nine) these last few weeks of the season. He and Hossa played together in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, so there's some familiarity as well as friendship there.

General manager Stan Bowman said Friday night that, based on Jurco's skills and the Blackhawks' style of play, Jurco should fit in well.

"I think he's going to get better here," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's going to get a little bit more comfortable with how we have to play, knowing that you want to go right through the puck and you want to pressure. Offensively I think he's got a chance to recapture some confidence. I think he moves well. I like his size. [It's] just getting a little more comfortable with our game and trusting his own instincts right off the bat."

It was time for a change for Jurco. Whether he blossoms like Panik, who came here from the Toronto Maple Leafs last season and is now putting up career numbers as part of the Blackhawks' top line, remains to be seen. It's an opportunity nonetheless, and Jurco is ready to take advantage of it. 

"It was a number of different reasons in Detroit it didn't work out for me. I wasn't playing much, so that's obviously tough. And when you don't play for a few weeks and you play a couple of games, it's very tough," Jurco said. "I'm very happy that I'm here and excited for tomorrow."

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Blackhawks' Niklas Hjalmarsson out Sunday vs. Blues

Niklas Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with an upper-body injury but he will not play on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues, coach Joel Quenneville said.

Hjalmarsson left with a little over eight minutes remaining in Thursday night's 6-3 victory over the Arizona Coyotes. He missed morning skate that day and, prior to the game, was seen wearing a wrap around his back. Whether or not that is the injury, however, is unknown. Quenneville said the Blackhawks will give Hjalmarsson time to regain full health, especially at this point of the season.

"I think he knows his body and he knows when he can fight through certain things. Giving him enough time to get back to where he's basically 100 percent is what we want," Quenneville said. "That's why he left the game last game. We want to make sure that when he comes back – you know, there's certain things you can fight through, and with him he can go through anything. Let's make sure at this time of the year that he recovers from this."

[RELATED: Nick Schmaltz gaining confidence, effectiveness with Blackhawks]

Quenneville said the Blackhawks will go with the six defensemen they currently have. The last time Hjalmarsson missed a game due to injury was late February/early March of 2012 (six games with an upper-body injury).

"He's a warrior, he gives you everything you want in a big game like tomorrow's. Certainly missed him in the last game," Quenneville said. "We haven't exposed too much not having Hammer out there in important shifts, but it's a good chance for other guys to get critical and important shifts, and hopefully that helps them in their games as well."

Briefly

- Jordin Tootoo also missed practice (illness).

- Corey Crawford will start vs. the Blues.