Post problems leave Blackhawks seeing Stars

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Post problems leave Blackhawks seeing Stars

Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011
Posted 10:09 PM Updated 11:38 PM

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago Blackhawks penalty kill has taken its slings and arrows all season. Its been shaky at best, ineffective at worst. On Wednesday night, it was all too generous once again.

Mike Ribeiro scored two power-play goals and Brenden Morrow had another as the Dallas Stars went 3-for-3 on the advantage to beat the Blackhawks 4-2 at the United Center. The Blackhawks have now lost four of their last five games.

Fernando Pisani and Tomas Kopecky scored second-period goals for the Blackhawks. Then the bizarre moment came.

Viktor Stalberg was awarded a penalty shot about a minute after Kopeckys goal; but his shot inexplicably hit both posts and the crossbar and stayed out of the net.

I dont think Ive ever seen that in my life before, Stalberg said. Theres nothing you can say about it. Three bars in one shot, thats a first for me at least.

The Blackhawks know that fixing their penalty kill, ranked 25th in the NHL entering Wednesday, has to be priority No. 1 the second half of this season. But it took another step back against Dallas.

So why exactly does the penalty kill continue to falter?

If I had all the answers wed probably be better. Were always talking about the same thing but nothings changed, defenseman Duncan Keith said. Its a matter of blocking shots, eliminating their shots from the blue line, boxing out, getting in stick lanes, not letting them make passes cross box. All those things we talk about and they just need to show up in games.

Morrow and Ribeiro were both right in front of the Blackhawks net on the Stars first two goals, Morrow knocking home a Loui Eriksson rebound and Ribeiro then deflecting Brad Richards shot from the point.

We gave them the momentum tonight early on the power play. They were up 2-0 real quick and that cant happen, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. We have to come out of the gates harder, we have to be better on the PK. Thats on us.

The Blackhawks switched lines in the second period and got results immediately. Pisani, back with fellow checkers Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland, flicked one off Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonens glove and in. Just a little over two minutes later, Kopecky got his own rebound to tie it 2-2.

But the Stars got their third power-play goal midway through the third, a Ribeiro shot that deflected off Niklas Hjalmarssons knee, to seal it. Steve Ott added an empty-net goal.

The Blackhawks got off to another rocky start courtesy of their struggling penalty kill.

Its something that keeps coming back into our game, and you cant keep winning games if youre going to go down a goal or two in the first period, it just makes things tougher on you, Jonathan Toews said. I dont know why we keep putting ourselves in that situation.
Stalberg stunned

Viktor Stalberg has been snake-bit on shots lately, from the quick-whistle shot a few weeks ago to the shot at a wide-open net that deflected off Bollands stick against Anaheim on Sunday. But his penalty shot that deflected off both posts and the crossbar on Wednesday night tops all.

A centimeter, a third of an inch or whatever, its going in. I dont know how it did that, to be honest, Stalberg said. When the puck doesnt go in it seems to find ways to stay out. If I keep getting chances, its going to go in sooner or later. I just have to keep shooting and itll happen.

His teammates couldnt believe it didnt go in, either.

Ive never seen something like that before, Patrick Sharp said. He made a good move to draw the shot. You cant be upset about that one if youre Viktor. Its just a bad bounce. Or three bounces, I guess.

All-Star anticipation

Captain Jonathan Toews and coach Joel Quenneville are both looking forward to the NHL All-Star game later this month in Raleigh, N.C. For Quenneville, the new format no East vs. West anymore, and captains select their respective teams players is intriguing.

I dont know how its going to work with picking teams, maybe picking coaches and probably picking how much ice time they want, Quenneville said. Its a great weekend to be around it. Im looking forward to it.

Toews said he loved his first All-Star game back in 2009 in Montreal and is excited about another trip. And possibly being captain there wouldnt be bad, either.

I guess the upside of that is it takes away my chances of being picked last, he said.

Collision

Former Blackhawk Adam Burish falls on top of goalie Corey Crawford on Wednesday night. Later in the game, Burish rushed the net after absorbing a Brent Seabrook hit and caused a big scrum. (AP)Two of the Stars defensemen, Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen collided with each other on the ice moments before the third period began.

Niskanen suffered a broken nose, chipped tooth and a cut on his wrist and Skrastins appeared to suffer a concussion. Neither of them played in the final 20 minutes.

Ive had it explained to me a couple of times, Stars coach Marc Crawford said. "Skrasts really likes to get out and get his legs going in warm-up, especially since he was going to be out there on the penalty kill to start the period.

"And Matt Niskanen was out there and he was going all hell bent for leather, and apparently they collided heads and then a stick slashed Matts hand, so he broke his nose, chipped his teeth and cut his hand. And Skasts doesnt even know hes in Chicago, so we lost both of those guys go into the third.

Briefly

Jake Dowell, Jack Skille and Nick Boynton were healthy scratches on Wednesday night.

Kopecky had a team-high six shots on goal.

The Blackhawks were credited with 39 hits. Seabrook had nine of them.

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

Preview: Corey Crawford ill, Scott Darling in for Blackhawks vs. Blues

Preview: Corey Crawford ill, Scott Darling in for Blackhawks vs. Blues

The Blackhawks were already without Niklas Hjalmarsson on Sunday night. Now they’re without Corey Crawford as well.

Crawford is ill and Scott Darling will start in his place when the Blackhawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. Crawford was expected to start but did not skate this morning – goaltending coach Jimmy Waite took the other net. Coach Joel Quenneville does not believe Crawford has the mumps – “I haven’t heard the word mumps around here,” he said. The Vancouver Canucks are currently working through an outbreak of the mumps and several teams battled it a few seasons ago.

As for the backup, Quenneville was hoping Lars Johansson could be up in an emergency situation, as long as logistics work out. The Rockford IceHogs are scheduled to play at the Ontario (Calif.) Reign later today.

Marian Hossa did not skate this morning but he is expected to play tonight. As Quenneville said on Saturday, Hjalmarsson is day-to-day with the upper-body injury he sustained on Thursday against the Arizona Coyotes but is out tonight.

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Blues was in their Winter Classic game on Jan. 2. A month later coach Ken Hitchcock was fired and, now under Mike Yeo, the Blues have gone 7-3-0 since then. That includes two losses heading into their bye week, however, which they come out of tonight.

“I think usually teams seem to respond pretty well with coaching changes. Whenever you get something new, something to renew the group, whether it’s systems or different energy in the locker room, teams seem to respond at least in the beginning,” Jonathan Toews said. “We can expect this team to be really hard to play against and obviously pretty eager to, maybe, be better overall than they have been all year, knowing what they’re capable of as a team. We know whether we’re playing St. Louis or Minnesota, teams that are close to us in the points race, the points are always huge.”

BLACKHAWKS VS. ST. LOUIS BLUES

6:30 p.m.

TV: NBCSN

Live stream: NBC Sports app

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Chicago Blackhawks

Forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Tomas Jurco-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins

 

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Michal Rozsival

 

Goaltender

Scott Darling

 

INJURIES/ILLNESS: Corey Crawford (ill).

 

St. Louis Blues (via NHL.com)

Forward lines

Alex Steen-Paul Stastny-Vladimir Tarasenko

Jaden Schwartz-Patrik Berglund-David Perron

Dmitrij Jaskin-Jori Lehtera-Magnus Paajarvi

Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves

 

Defensive Pairs

Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson-Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko

 

Goaltender

Jake Allen

 

INJURIES/ILLNESS: None.

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."