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.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

Which Blackhawks will be participating in 2017 IIHF World Championships?

The Blackhawks' season ended much sooner than expected after being swept in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs by the Nashville Predators.

But for some players, their hockey season may not be finished yet.

The IIHF World Championships begin May 5, and an early postseason exit gives several Blackhawks an opportunity to play in the tournament.

With the National Hockey League saying it will not participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics, players may be more inclined to join given the uncertainty of when they'll be able to represent their countries again — if ever, for some.

Here's an update on which Blackhawks players could be participating:

— Patrick Kane said Saturday he's taking the weekend to mull over Team USA's offer, and will make a final decision in the next "day or two."

— Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews each declined their invites from Team Canada, electing to use a lengthy offseason to recharge and focus on training for the 2017-18 NHL season.

— Corey Crawford and Nick Schmaltz said they have not been contacted by their respective countries, but both said they would consider going if they are.

— Artemi Panarin has reportedly already accepted Team Russia's offer to play.

— Niklas Hjalmarsson said he's "thinking about" Team Sweden's offer after the NHL's decision not to attend the 2018 Winter Olympics. "Who knows when I'll ever get a chance to play for my country again, so that might be factor," he said.

— Marcus Kruger said he's talking with Team Sweden officials, and has expressed interest in going.

— Marian Hossa said he informed Team Slovakia that he will not be playing: "Let the young guys play."

— Richard Panik will not be participating either, saying he doesn't want to risk injury as he seeks a new contract.