Toews, Sharp and Keith considering their options

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Toews, Sharp and Keith considering their options

Talks between the NHL and NHLPA have once again stalled, as the league languishes in a lockout. And while some Blackhawks keep an eye on their European options, they're not quite ready to go just yet.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith are considering their options at the moment. But all have said they're not leaving this side of the pond for a bit. Toews said he'll see how things shake out over the next few weeks before deciding.
Sharp, who was eyeing Switzerland as a potential destination -- but not the same team on which Patrick Kane currently plays -- said via text he was "waiting to see what happens" before committing. Duncan Keith said today that "I'll go to Europe eventually," but will wait to make a decision. He said he didn't have any specific countries in mind at the moment.
Wednesday marked Day 60 of the lockout. And after meeting for hours of talks last week, the league and players' association have no new negotiating sessions scheduled as of now. In light of the stagnant communications, several NHL players signed with overseas teams today including Paul Stastny and Jason Chimera. At this rate, the number heading across the pond will likely increase in the coming days.

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

Blackhawks want to finish strong while staying fresh for postseason

Every team has goals it wants to hit at various parts of the season. At the start you want to be strong so you can save yourself a mad scramble to get into the postseason. In the middle, you want to just keep pace, get through that drudgery known as games 40-60.

But what about the end? If you're a playoff-bound team it's about reaching balance: you want to play your best hockey but also want to get your rest and conserve energy for the "next season."

The Blackhawks are in this mode right now. The postseason berth has been wrapped up. They've hit the 100-point mark and still maintain a six-point lead in the conference/division. So with nine games left the Blackhawks will try to get that overall play they had through most of February while being mindful of rest.

"We have [nine] to go and want to make sure we're fresh. At the same time, we want to be competitive," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're looking to play games and in games, if we have a chance to back off a little bit, that'll be dictated by the score, the time of the game."

Entering their last two games trailing by two, the Blackhawks haven't had the chance to back off. They've had to do the opposite. Quenneville has said the team's four-line rotation, which was great in February, hasn't been there the past few games. Part of that could be due to injury. Artem Anisimov has missed the last three-plus games with a left-leg injury and is still expected to miss another 2-3 weeks. The Blackhawks have found ways to win despite that, but want to get back to more consistent hockey.

"Obviously we still want to try to win our division you want to be playing well," Brian Campbell said. "The last [few] games have been OK, spurts and stuff, so we want to ramp it up. There are some guys who can probably back off if they need or want to, there are those situations. It's a good situation to have. But this team's been around, they know how to prepare and get ready for it."

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So does Quenneville. We've reached that time of the season when the Blackhawks won't practice much, if at all. They're playing every other day and their morning skates are their versions of practice. As for in games, the Blackhawks know how to keep their energy up there, too.

"I think just playing good hockey and taking short shifts is key. You're not extending shifts to a minute and a half, two minutes," Ryan Hartman said. "You're conserving some long-term energy."

The Blackhawks are nearing the regular-season finish line but another race awaits them. They want to be ready for the postseason but they don't want to get too relaxed down the stretch.

"It's still the regular season. Nobody's taking the foot off the gas pedal. We're still trying to win hockey games and you want to come into the playoffs with a winning atmosphere and winning attitude," Hartman said. "Take every game one at a time and don't try to play conservative. Play good and winning hockey."

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks lose in OT; Bulls blow lead in Toronto

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks lose in OT; Bulls blow lead in Toronto

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