LIVE: Blackhawks trail Panthers 3-2 after 2nd

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LIVE: Blackhawks trail Panthers 3-2 after 2nd

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
10:37 a.m.

Associated Press

(AP) -- The Chicago Blackhawks were on the outside of the Western Conference playoff race less than three weeks ago, but an eight-game winning streak has them among the conference's top four.

The Blackhawks look to continue their push Tuesday night when they visit the Florida Panthers and former general manager Dale Tallon.

Chicago (37-23-6) has surged to fourth place in the crowded West, also moving within six points of Central Division-leading Detroit.
READ: Frolik settling in, feeling comfortable with Hawks
Before this streak began, the Blackhawks were tied for 11th place in the conference, four points behind four teams that were tied for the final three playoff spots. They've cut eight points off their deficit in the division.

Jonathan Toews has been a big part of the turnaround. He extended his point streak to nine games in a 5-3 win at Toronto on Saturday, scoring his seventh goal in the last five games. Marian Hossa also scored, giving him six goals in seven games.

They aren't the only ones who have been hot recently. The Blackhawks have scored 16 goals in the last three games, with seven coming in the first period.

"We have an expectation to win and get the two points and I think it's showing in the way we're starting games," defenseman Duncan Keith said.

Keith suffered a finger injury in the latest win after he was hit by a shot early in the third period, but the Blackhawks expect him to play Tuesday.

As Chicago tries to extend its winning streak to nine games for the first time since Dec. 7-28, 2008, it will do so against Tallon's Panthers (26-31-9). Tallon was one of the architects of the Blackhawks' Stanley Cup-winning team, but he was demoted from general manager to senior adviser in 2009.

Florida hired him last May to help turn things around for their struggling franchise. Despite not being with Chicago during last season's playoffs, Tallon still received a championship ring.
READ: Blackhawks lighting up the scoreboard

While one of Tallon's immediate goals was getting Florida into the playoffs for the first time since 2000, it doesn't appear that will happen this season. The Panthers are in 13th place in the East and have lost five straight, including the last two in overtime.

They fell 3-2 to Washington on Sunday after giving up the tying goal with 2:36 remaining in the third period. The Capitals scored 48 seconds into overtime. The defeat came one night after giving up the winning score to Atlanta 25 seconds into the extra session.

"I thought we kind of stayed with (the Capitals) and looked them in the eye and didn't back down," Florida center Marty Reasoner said. "I think we can be proud of that. Obviously, it seems like we're (seeing) too many times where you try to find the positives in losses. With a young group, we're focused on our effort and how we're playing the system. For the most part, we did that and a bounce here or there and both nights we could have come out with wins."

Chicago took three of a possible four points in the two games against Florida last season in Helsinki, Finland. Patrick Kane, who has two goals and six assists his last seven games, recorded four points in that series.

This will be the first game for forward Michael Frolik against the Panthers since they traded him to the Blackhawks in a five-player deal Feb. 9.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Marcus Kruger activated off IR ahead of Blackhawks-Lightning

Marcus Kruger activated off IR ahead of Blackhawks-Lightning

Dennis Rasmussen or Marcus Kruger could play Tuesday night and Corey Crawford will start when the Blackhawks host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Rasmussen did not skate Tuesday morning due to illness but coach Joel Quenneville said the center could still play vs. the Lightning. Quenneville said Kruger is "close" to playing — he was activated off injured reserve on Tuesday afternoon — and his status could depend on how Rasmussen feels.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks, sitting in second place in the Western Conference, are on a three-game winning streak entering Tuesday's game. The Lightning, the Blackhawks' 2015 Stanley Cup opponent, has struggled with injuries (Steven Stamkos has been out since November) and is last in the Eastern Conference. Despite the Lightning's struggles, Quenneville isn't taking the team lightly.

"Obviously they've had some health issues, significant guys missing big stretches of their year, but they still have guys out there that are skilled and it's an extremely dangerous team and a very competitive East side," Quenneville said. "I'm sure they'll be ready for tonight."

Andrei Vasilevskiy will start Tuesday night for the Lightning. Coach Jon Cooper said J.T. Brown and Jason Garrison are game-time decisions.

BLACKHAWKS VS. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com or NBC Sports app
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), Dennis Rasmussen (ill).

Tampa Bay Lightning (projected; some are game-time decisions)

Forward lines

Ondrej Palat-Vladislav Namestnikov-Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn-Tyler Johnson-J.T. Brown
Bryan Boyle-Valtteri Filppula-Jonathan Drouin
Michael Bournival-Cedric Paquette-Gabriel Dumont

Defensive Pairs

Victor Hedman-Anton Stralman
Jason Garrison-Andrej Sustr
Braydon Coburn-Nikita Nesterov

Goaltender

Andrei Vasilvskiy

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Steven Stamkos (knee), Brayden Point (upper body), Ryan Callahan (lower body), Jason Garrison (illness).

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

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