Predators beat down Crawford, Hawks

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Predators beat down Crawford, Hawks

The Chicago Blackhawks had been rolling lately. But logic dictates that, in an 82-game season, they were due for a bad one.

They got it on Saturday night. And they suffered the latter part of it without their captain.

Jonathan Toews left in the second period with an upper-body injury and Corey Crawford was pulled in the second period of the Blackhawks sluggish 5-2 loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday. It was the Blackhawks first regulation loss since Jan. 6 (against Colorado). And in the extremely tight Western Conference, the Blackhawks, with 64 points, are in fifth place.

The Blackhawks main concern is Toews, who coach Joel Quenneville said is day-to-day with that upper-body injury. Quenneville said theyll know more in the next day or two how Toews is. The Blackhawks captain was slashed on the left wrist by Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson on Friday night. Toews played the rest of that game; but on Saturday he played his final shift with just over seven minutes remaining in the second period.

Marian Hossa scored two breakaway goals his 19th and 20th goals this season -- and extending his latest point streak to eight straight games. Its the second time this season hes had a scoring streak that long.

The Blackhawks were coming off a 3-1 victory over Florida at home on Friday night. Coupled with rough travel into Nashville they didnt get here until about 3 a.m. Saturday that probably didnt help matters against a relentless Predators team. But the Blackhawks werent using that as an excuse.

No, thats nothing, Quenneville said. In back-to-back settings weve been pretty good as a group. Weve been later than that.

Hossa said, probably you could tell (the lack of energy), but that shouldnt be an excuse at all. (The Predators) were hungrier. We have to learn from this one and we have them in a couple of days.

The one Blackhawk who didnt play on Friday was Crawford, but he wouldnt make it through the night. Crawford allowed four goals on 17 shots, from the bizarre a red-line shot from Kevin Klein that bounced oddly to the Sergei Kostitsyn breakaway that prompted his departure with 3:57 remaining in the second period.

Its just frustrating, said Crawford. I never like to get pulled. I dont know. I hate giving up a goal from the blue line.

Klein, regarding his goal, said the ice was getting a little rough out there. (David) Legwand gave me a pass and I decided to put a little English on it. I got a lucky bounce, which is always nice.

Quenneville didnt heap a ton of blame onto Crawford, but said that goal was a tough one to take.

You lose momentum off that type of goal, Quenneville said. We didnt have a lot of juice in the tank tonight as far as puck support. They beat us to a lot of loose pucks and certainly that was a turning point.

As games go, it certainly wasnt the Blackhawks best but it was their first rough one in nearly two weeks. They Blackhawks will get another shot at the Predators on Tuesday. Whether Toews will be a part of that game is uncertain.

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

Why placing Marian Hossa on long-term injured reserve wouldn't help Blackhawks' cap issues

When the news came down that Marian Hossa would miss the 2017-18 season, most first thoughts were about his health. But it was only natural to look at the business implications, and the possibility of Hossa going on long-term injured reserve (LTIR).

That would solve the Blackhawks’ cap issues, right? That would give them more money to spend, right? Well, not exactly. See, the LTIR can be a bit complicated. It can also be tricky to explain. And right now, even Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman is trying to figure out how this all develops for the team.

“I think there’s a little bit of a misconception on the LTI provision in the salary cap, and understandably so. It’s very complicated. It’s not as simple or as easy as people think it to be,” Bowman said on Thursday, the day before the Blackhawks hosted the 2017 NHL Draft. “I don’t want to get into too many details because it’s hard to explain it all, but there’s a couple different ways it can work.

"You can use offseason LTI and in-season LTI and there’s drawbacks to both, and there’s limitations the way that the league handles those things. It’s not as simple as people might think that we just have this ability to suddenly replace Marian with another player. It’s way more involved than that.”

Here are two basics about the cap: a team can be 10 percent over it during the summer, and a team must be at or below it the day the regular season begins. If the Blackhawks place Hossa on LTIR, it wouldn’t take effect until the second day of the regular season. So on Day 1 of the season, the Blackhawks would still be carrying Hossa’s $5.275 cap hit.

Once the LTIR would take effect, though, the Blackhawks would have wiggle room. If they spent to the $75 million cap, they could utilize Hossa’s entire $5.275 million cap hit on other players.

It’s not about the Blackhawks finding a guy this summer that makes an equal cap it.

“If you did that you would be essentially starting the year with an inability to make any transactions," Bowman said. "And that’s why, it’s a harder discussion to have because you’ve got to give you examples of if this happens. But it just doesn’t work that way. I wish it were that simple, but it’s not. It’s a much more complicated provision than people think. It’s not some easy cap solution where we just go sign a player for the same amount and off we go. It’s much more problematic than that.”

The NHL will be looking at the situation, although there doesn’t seem to be anything that would keep the Blackhawks from putting Hossa on LTIR. Bowman wasn’t concerned about it.

Still, the Blackhawks will still be doing their share of offseason math.

“I know how it works. What’s going to happen is a different question," Bowman said. "You don’t make those decisions overnight, but I think that understandably there’s probably a lot of confusion, because it’s not your job to run the salary cap for a team. So, I can get why you don’t know all the little details, and it is a very intricate provision in the CBA. So, we understand it. We’ve used LTI before, so it’s not like it’s something we’ve never been faced with. It’s just a factor that we’ll get through.”