One last 'biggest game of the year' for Hawks

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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.

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Johnny Oduya feeling better, more up to speed with Blackhawks

Perhaps the best thing about the Johnny Oduya trade back to the Blackhawks, for both parties involved, was that Oduya wasn't needed immediately.

It's not that the Blackhawks didn't want the veteran defenseman, who helped them win Cups in 2013 and 2015, back in the lineup as soon as possible. Oduya was coming off an ankle injury, one he re-aggravated and missed about a month when he was with the Dallas Stars. He needed time to fully heal and with the Blackhawks in good shape in the standings and with solid depth at defense, he could.

Now with the playoffs right around the corner, Oduya is feeling more like himself.

Outside of missing two games that were the second halves of back-to-backs, Oduya has been playing steadily since March 9. Oduya's minutes have ranged from around 16 to 21 in games. He said he's now 100 percent healthy from his injury and he's feeling the difference on the ice.

"It makes a big difference," Oduya said on Thursday, prior to facing the Stars for the first time since his trade back to Chicago. "I mean, obviously sometimes you get more or less lucky, depending on what you get and the style of play and what you do or not. Skating is a part of my game I try to use as much as possible to get in good position and try to take away time from the opposition as much as possible.

"Even with battling and things like that, of course it's nice to feel more confident," Oduya added. "In any situation, you're in you want to feel confident on the ice."

The Blackhawks have seen that confidence in previous postseason runs and are looking to see it again in Oduya. Coach Joel Quenneville considers Oduya, "Mr. Reliability."

"You look back at what he delivered for us, not just the regular season, but he's been solid and reliable in the playoffs. He's assumed some important matchups and important minutes," Quenneville said. "Last year, we didn't have him on the back end and watching him this year, it was the perfect fit him coming back."

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The Blackhawks' defensive group hasn't changed much since Oduya's first stint here. The system probably hasn't been altered much, either. Still, Oduya's not taking anything for granted and is trying to get back on the same page quickly.

"Same as the last time I came into a great hockey team and I really just want to get up to speed and up to date as quickly as possible," Oduya said. "Little things that may have changed. I want to fit in as well as I can. That's the idea anyone has coming in late in the year. The guys here make it pretty easy; the coaching staff is familiar with the way I play and helps speed up things a little more."

The Blackhawks are trying to be their best heading into the postseason. So is Oduya. He needed a little extra time to get back to health and he may still need a little time to get back to speed, but he's just about there. 

"I feel pretty good. Of course it's a lot easier when you have guys around you you've seen before, a coaching staff," Oduya said. "It's a work in progress, anyway. I want to be better, I want to evolve with the team and want us to be better, too. It's a work in progress."

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

Quick Hits from Blackhawks-Stars: Another slow start but better finish

It wasn't pretty, but the Blackhawks found a way to pick up another two points and improved to 6-0-1 over their last seven games, and 18-3-1 over their last 22.

With Minnesota's loss to Philadelphia, the Blackhawks have taken an eight-point lead for first in the Central Division and are only two points away from the Washington Capitals for home-ice advantage throughout the entire Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's take a look at Quick Hits from the 3-2 shootout victory over the Dallas Stars on Thursday night:

What Worked: The finish and shootout. While the Blackhawks scored the game's first goal, it was another slow start by a team that has had a few of those over the last several outings and has preached working on turning in more of a complete effort. They recorded only 14 shots on goal in the first two periods, and it took more than six minutes after Patrick Kane's goal to record their next one.

But they finished on a positive note yet again, and went 2-for-3 in the shootout thanks to Kane and Artemi Panarin, who potted the game winner. Kane said after the game that he tried his move on Scott Darling during morning skate and it worked. So he went with it tonight in an effort to snap a mini shootout drought and he did.

What Didn't Work: Controlling the puck. The Blackhawks seemingly have the puck more than their opponent does almost every game, but it doesn't reflect in the shot department because they often look for the perfect pass or shot and fail to record one at all. They had 50 shot attempts with 26 of them on goal compared to the Stars' 64 attempts with 44 on goal. They know they must get better at that.

Star of the game: Corey Crawford. After allowing four goals on only 10 shots in Tuesday's overtime loss to Vancouver, the Blackhawks netminder bounced back in a huge way. He matched a season-high with 42 saves, and recorded his 30th win of the season.

He Said It: "He played amazing tonight. Reason we won the game. Hats off to him, he's done that a lot this year. For a goalie it's probably tough to show up every night, even the goals he let in last game you can't put all the blame on him, but he was outstanding tonight." — Kane on Crawford's performance

By the Numbers:

167 — Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked one shot in the win, and it was enough to set a new career high in that department, previously established during the 2010-11 campaign (166).

15 — Trevor van Riemsyk assisted on Marian Hossa's goal in the third period, giving him a career-high 15 points on the season in 50 games. He had 14 points in 82 games last year. He also extended his point streak to three games.

6 — With the victory, Crawford has earned at least 30 wins in six of his seven NHL seasons as a full-time starter. The only time he didn't reach that mark was during the lockout-shortened year in 2012-13 when he went 19-5-5.