One last 'biggest game of the year' for Hawks

302242.jpg

One last 'biggest game of the year' for Hawks

Saturday, April 9, 2011
Posted: 12:41 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

One game remains, from which one point is needed. For the Chicago Blackhawks, it comes down to that. Get a point out of their final regular-season game against the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday and theyre in the postseason.

A loss and a Dallas Stars win, and its bye-bye Stanley Cup defense. Simple. And its also, obviously, the most critical situation the Blackhawks have faced all season.

Everythings at stake for tomorrows game, Joel Quenneville said after Saturdays practice. I dont know how many times weve said that statement all year, but tomorrow it really is.

If the Blackhawks want to get that one point or two, which would actually be more to their liking theyre going to have to bring the same dominant game they had in their 4-2 victory in Detroit on Friday night. The Blackhawks were stellar; as Brian Campbell said, they recognized the situation at hand.

Rinse and repeat.

Its the biggest game. (Friday) was the biggest before that, and the one before that. Its been that way for a while, Campbell said. Were still in the same situation. Its probably going to be a playoff atmosphere so well be ready to go.

Theyll have to be. The Red Wings, frustrated with their performance in Detroit on Friday, will want to play spoiler to their Central Division rival. It will likely be a tight game, and as long as the Blackhawks get one point out of it, theyll be a happy group.

We need one point and were looking for two. Detroits going to want to come in and burst our bubble, Bryan Bickell said. We could come in (fifth) if other things happen. We want to get a win and not have to worry about Dallas.

Ah yes, Dallas. The Stars are two points behind Chicago and play in Minnesota later on Sunday. The Blackhawks dont want to leave the United Center on Sunday afternoon and have to hope, wish and pray that the Wild help them out.

So its up to them. Its game 82 and the Blackhawks hold their own postseason fate in their hands. Its the playoffs before the playoffs, and if the Blackhawks arent ready, theyll be no one last chance.

Our goal and focus all year was to get in. Weve been targeting it all year and its been a major battle for us, Quenneville said. But weve still put ourselves in a position where we have control, so lets get excited.

Bolland returns

Center Dave Bolland, who has been out with a concussion since March 9, practiced with his teammates on Saturday. Bolland, practicing one month to the date after he was sidelined by Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina, had non-contact status.

Despite practicing, Bolland was not made available to talk on Saturday. His teammates were encouraged by Bollands return.

He looks a lot better than the last time I saw him, for sure, said Bickell, whos been Bollands linemate often this season. Seeing him skating today, it was pretty huge. He looked pretty good for all the time he had off. Hopefully hell have a fast recovery.

Quenneville said Bolland looked all right.

Hes still not cleared for contact but he made real good progress over the last three or four days so well continue to see how hes progressing.

Bolland had made little progress for what seemed like weeks before improving this past week. Campbell said he didnt bother Bolland too much during his recovery.

Im not the type of guy who wants to ask too many questions on how hes feeling because Im sure he gets that 500 times a day, said Campbell, who added that his only concussion was when he was in juniors.

Campbell came back quickly from his concussion, which was dealt with in an interesting way.

My junior coach told me to have a beer and fall asleep and Id be all right. Hes old school, as you can tell, Campbell said. I played a few days later, but concussions werent the talk of everything back then.

Briefly
Patrick Sharp and Tomas Kopecky did not practice on Saturday but Quenneville said both were fine and just resting.

Troy Brouwer (right shoulder) did not practice Saturday. Quenneville said Brouwers condition is status quo. His progress is still day to day and well get a better idea when we see him on the ice. But hes not close to that right now.

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

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.