Pressing Blackhawks searching for answers

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Pressing Blackhawks searching for answers

SAN JOSE The Blackhawks had their version of a tutorial before they departed Colorado on Wednesday, a class session, so to speak, regarding their recent woes.

We were in an educational facility (the University of Denver), we had the perfect theater for a nice session, and we did (have one), longer than we generally do, coach Joel Quenneville said. We talked about details, positioning, more so on the defensive side of things. Thats an emphasis weve gone through, and probably let it slide when we werent preventing goals.

Talking, scheming, practicing, the Blackhawks are doing everything they can to shore things up. But it ultimately comes down to the game, and thats where the Blackhawks have to start bringing it, beginning Friday night against the San Jose Sharks.

The Blackhawks are struggling to find answers, their team defense and the right line combinations yep, they were altered again on Thursday during this six-game winless streak. And theyre feeling the weight of the skid. Defenseman Brent Seabrook said it hurts when you lose this many in a row. It sucks coming to the rink.

I think theres all of that: disappointment, frustration. Everyones concerned with whats going on, Patrick Sharp said. We talked about it the past couple of days, and were going to be a better team for it. Now is not the time to go against each other and point fingers. The only way we can win and get better is by playing as a team.

But when a group is lacking confidence, as the Blackhawks are right now, thats easier said than done. Just like a slumping player who talks of squeezing the stick, the Blackhawks are pressing. And they know thats not going to help right now.

Its tough not to think about it, especially when youre on a skid like this, Patrick Kane said. If we can put everything behind us and worry about one game at a time, then going from there I think its going to help us out and well probably get out of this funk sooner rather than later.

The Blackhawks need results sooner rather than later. This road trip goes from tough to brutal, with the Sharks, Coyotes, Predators and Rangers still ahead. Theyre talking, scheming and practicing. Now it needs to come through in their playing.

Im sure there is (panic). Were doing a lot of different things to work at it. Its challenging to get ourselves out of it, Kane said. Im sure everyone has their two cents to put in. But its the coaches and our job to get out of it.

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

When the Blackhawks traded to get Brandon Saad back, they also acquired Anton Forsberg, who they believe is ready to be their latest backup goaltender. On Monday they signed him to a two-year deal.

The Blackhawks inked two players on Monday, Forsberg, whose contract runs through the 2018-19 season, and Tomas Jurco, who agreed to a one-year contract extension.

Forsberg joins the Blackhawks having very little NHL experience – he’s played 10 career games at this level, going 1-8-0. But the Blackhawks’ previous two backup goaltenders, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, hadn’t made an NHL appearance before joining the Blackhawks. Forsberg led the Cleveland Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL-affiliate team, to a Calder Cup title in 2016; during that run he went 9-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

On Friday, when the Blackhawks acquired Saad and Forsberg from Columbus for Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte, general manager Stan Bowman said the team is, “optimistic about Anton’s potential.”

“We like his profile as a goalie,” he said. “He’s a big guy, takes up a lot of net, has that mobility and makes good positional saves as well as athletic saves. A year ago, led his team to the [Calder] Cup championships, so he knows what it’s like to put a team on his back. It was the AHL but he’s had a lot of success there. He’s earned the right to be an NHL goalie.”

Jurco, acquired by the Blackhawks from Detroit in February, played 13 games with them down the regular-season stretch. Bowman said shortly after the trade that Jurco would get a chance here.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” he said. “I think a lot of ways, sometimes guys need different opportunities. It doesn’t work out in every place. A fresh start will be great for Tomas.”

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”