Line changes: Kane back at right wing

592296.png

Line changes: Kane back at right wing

Patrick Kane said earlier this season he felt more comfortable on right wing. On Thursday, he was back there.

Kane was at wing again with Jonathan Toews and Viktor Stalberg as the Chicago Blackhawks prepped for the New York Islanders. It was one of several line changes for the Blackhawks, who also had Marcus Kruger centering the second line with Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa

For Kane, its a change thats not really a change. He feels better there, and it never hurts to reunite with Toews, either.

Weve played together a lot and theres chemistry. Whenever were put together, it raises the excitement, Kane said. Im sure itll take some shifts to get used to it again but Im excited about the opportunity. Whenever you play with Johnny, Sharpie or Hossa, youre going to be excited about it.

Kane proved he could play the center position just fine through the first two months of the season, and his line with Hossa and Daniel Carcillo thrived through October. But as November continued, that lines production quieted. Kane has just three assists over his last six games.

I proved I could play there. But I got on the road and got on a long trip and things didnt click for me, personally, at that position. They thought my game was fine there, I didnt, Kane said. Im excited to be back at the wing, playing the game that I know and developed for a long time. Its not going to come back right away; it may be a couple shifts or periods maybe. But Ill get familiar with it.

Dont be surprised if it doesnt click right away, however. Kane and Toews just have that chemistry together and its likely to come back together again soon. Toews feels it, too.

The good thing about playing with Kaner is sometimes you can just get away from the puck and get away from all the attention on the ice and sneak back door and hide sometimes, Toews said. He can hold onto it, get his head up and back opponents up and buy some time. Its nice to play with a guy like that.

Things were getting stagnant, so coach Joel Quenneville is making changes to try and re-invigorate that offense again. Kane proved he can play center with no problem, and he could go back there again this season. He just does right wing better.

Everybodys had stretches where theyve been at top end of their game and producing at rate theyre accustomed to; theyve all had stretches where it hasnt come. When you move them around a little bit, sometimes it comes out and all of a sudden theyre more confident in scoring area and get back to where we expect them to be, Quenneville said. Both lines should be able to score and produce regularly. We have a lot of options. This is one we havent explored yet. Its one well try.

Briefly

Jonathan Toews was named the NHLs No. 2 star for the month of November. Toews finished November with nine goals and 18 assists. He had a career-high five points in the Blackhawks 6-5 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

Defensemen Brent Seabrook and Steve Montador also took maintenance day on Thursday. Theyre both expected to play Friday night. Corey Crawford will start against the Islanders.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”