Power play woes trickling down to other areas?

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Power play woes trickling down to other areas?

COLUMBUS, Ohio The Blackhawks power play has been a source of angst, frustration, basically everything but goals, through the first part of this season.

Through their first 10 games the Blackhawks were able to get points and victories despite that power play. They were doing more than enough scoring at even strength, and even adding a few on 4 on 4 and on the penalty kill. Now those wells have dried up, too, exposing the Blackhawks anemic power play (5 for 57, a league-worst 30th) even more.

It looks as if the power play woes have had a trickle-down effect, the struggles there seeping into other parts of the Blackhawks game. After scoring plenty early, the Blackhawks have just two goals in their last two games. And its a frustrating trend they want to reverse on Thursday night when they play the Columbus Blue Jackets.

We have to stop worrying about everything. We just have to go out and play, get pucks to the net and get ugly goals, defenseman Brent Seabrook said. When your power pay is struggling, you cant look to make the extra pass to have the back-door tap-in. You just have to get pucks and bodies to the net, bang away and score. Thats the best way to get off this slump and get that rolling.

And a few switches dont hurt, either. The Blackhawks trotted out two revamped power-play units on Wednesday. One featured Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Seabrook and Marian Hossa. The other had Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy, Marcus Kruger, Steve Montador and Andrew Brunette.

The Blackhawks were weathering the power-play issues beautifully to start this season. But the teams last few games havent been dazzling in many aspects. Even in Florida, where they collected three of four points, the Blackhawks frittered away two two-goal leads. And their losses to Vancouver and St. Louis were bad ones, where the Blackhawks compete level and puck passing were both questionable.

So is the lack of power-play confidence spreading elsewhere?

I think that can happen, coach Joel Quenneville said. When your scorers arent scoring all of a sudden, they may not be as patient or comfortable with the puck. Youve seen our puck-possession game, our passing -- or lack of it -- wasnt very good. We dont want to make excuses but we want to be confident out there. And lets make sure were making direct passes and we want the puck and were putting it on each others stick.

The power play will start clicking eventually. And as the confidence returns for that, the trickle-up effect should kick in, too.

We need some repairing on our power play. We need an ugly goal to get some confidence. Sometimes that can erode our team game, Quenneville said. There has to be more urgency across the board in our team game. Everything else will work itself out but we want to make sure were comfortable on the power play.

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."