Blackhawks will try to avoid end-of-bye-week pitfalls

Blackhawks will try to avoid end-of-bye-week pitfalls

Coach Joel Quenneville is cognizant of how the bye week has effected some teams that have already taken it. He and the Blackhawks got a glimpse of that last Saturday when they soundly beat the Edmonton Oilers, who had just come off theirs.

As Quenneville said, “I think teams are having a little bit of a hiccup coming out of it.”

So how do you avoid that hiccup?

“Don’t know that,” Quenneville said. “I think we’ve been pretty good being fresh coming out of days off but we’ve never had this kind of break.”

The Blackhawks can take a lesson from last weekend’s visit to Edmonton heading into Saturday night, when they host the Oilers. Not only do you need that jump off to start, you need to sustain it. The Oilers got the early 1-0 advantage but the Blackhawks took over after that.

“It’s always tough to try and find your legs right away,” Ryan Hartman said. “The key is to worry about that first period, put yourself in good position to finish off strong and it’s always nice when you start at home after a break have the fans behind you. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Duncan Keith said it’s not just about the physical preparation out of the break, either.

“[The Oilers] will be ready, and it comes down to being a little more mentally prepared than normal. You try to find a way to get yourself into it right away,” Keith said. “We just have to make sure we’re taking short shifts and keeping as high a pace as we can.”

Brian Campbell said the start isn’t important solely for this game but also for the Blackhawks’ latest series of games. The Blackhawks have three games in four nights and are still chasing the Minnesota Wild, who they face on Tuesday. The Wild caught up to the Blackhawks in games this past week but also now have a seven-point lead over them.

“Obviously you don’t want to look too far ahead but Minnesota is one of those games to the end there. That’s another huge game for us so we have to keep finding ways to put points in the bank here,” Campbell said. “Last game against Edmonton, they came off their break, I don’t know if they were at their best but it’s going to be reversed. We want to try and catch Minnesota.”

The Blackhawks enjoyed the break but were glad to be back to practice on Friday. They’re used to stretch-run hockey but they’re not used to hitting it coming off a break like this. They went into the bye with a flourish. They’d like to come out of it the same way.

“Our guys are pretty good about coming ready to play and I certainly liked how we went into the break, knowing that was a question mark, how we’re going to be and that you’re going to be out for a little bit. And I thought we played extremely well in Edmonton there,” Quenneville said. “But they weren’t their best when they came out of it. Hopefully we got a little bit of a lesson from that, knowing that they’re going to be much better tomorrow.”

Quick Hits: Blackhawks’ second line erupts in win over Jets

Quick Hits: Blackhawks’ second line erupts in win over Jets

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Finding offense against the Winnipeg Jets: for the Blackhawks this season, it hasn't been easy.

And even on Friday night, it ultimately wasn't about what the Blackhawks produced in their 5-2 victory over the Jets. It was about what they gave up, and between Corey Crawford's work and that of the defense, that wasn't much.

But this trip isn't over just yet. So before we wrap it up in Edmonton, let's look at the Quick Hits from Friday's game:

What Worked: The Blackhawks' second line. It wasn't that long ago that Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane and Artem Anisimov were so quiet offensively that some wondered if it was time to split them up. Coach Joel Quenneville wasn't hearing of it; the potential of what they could do together was too strong. Good thinking. The line was tremendous on Friday night, with Kane and Anisimov each having a goal and an assist and Panarin recording a goal and two assists.  

What Didn't Work: The Jets attempt at a comeback. Winnipeg had its chances, including two power plays in the final eight minutes of regulation. But unlike their last meeting in Chicago, the Jets weren't going to get the best of the Blackhawks in this one. The Blackhawks defended well, and Duncan Keith's goal, which made it 3-1 at the time, was a dagger to the Jets.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Star of the game: Brent Seabrook. Sure, it'd be easy to go with Kane (see his latest milestone number below). But Seabrook also deserves credit for a strong game. Look at his block late in the second period: if that goal gets through it's a 2-2 game and who knows how things carry over into the third period. Seabrook played just under 20 minutes against the Jets, recording three shots on goal and six blocked shots, tied for team best with Niklas Hjalmarsson. Corey Crawford was grateful. "Yeah, he was awesome out there. He had like 12 saves," Crawford said.

He Said It: "When we began this trip after the break, it was an important stretch for us knowing we could make or break our year. We captured some momentum here going into the last part of it. It's been a real positive trip for us, and tonight may have been the best." – Coach Joel Quenneville

By the Numbers: 

269 – Career goals for Patrick Kane, who is now sixth all-time on the Blackhawks list in that category. That's also the most goals for an American-born player in Blackhawks history. 

185 – Multi-point games for Kane (goal, assist), tying Joe Thornton for sixth most in the league since Kane's rookie season. (Stat courtesy of TSN StatsCentre). 

1 for 16 – Blackhawks power play vs. the Jets through these first two tonight and the previous four games.

5 – Goals for the Blackhawks on Friday night. They had five goals in their previous four games combined against the Jets this season.

Kid line bringing energy, points for Blackhawks

Kid line bringing energy, points for Blackhawks

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – Ryan Hartman recognized the second opportunity he and fellow rookies Tanner Kero and Vinnie Hinostroza had entering Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Wild.

Coach Joel Quenneville had put the three together last week, when the Blackhawks started the Ice Show trip in California. That first showing against San Jose didn’t fare well, so that was it for that experiment until Wednesday.

“I know when the line was first made we were pretty excited about it, but it would just be nice to have some redemption,” Hartman said following Wednesday’s morning skate. “We’re looking to do some good things tonight.”

That line did do some good things, including giving the Blackhawks an early lead in their 4-3 overtime victory over the Wild. Considering that, you’d expect the Kid Line to get another opportunity when the Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night. The “kids” have brought good energy and solid play wherever they’ve been in the lineup this season, but together they looked their best.

One of the qualities of a good line is familiarity, and there’s plenty of it with Hartman, Kero and Hinostroza. They’re good friends on and off the ice. They played together at times with the Rockford IceHogs last season. So they’re not spending time figuring out each other’s tendencies; it’s all known from previous experience.

“It’s really fun. You don’t have to think,” said Hinostroza, who returned to the lineup and had the primary assist on Hartman’s first-period goal. “We’re all pretty young and learning together. It’s fun that we were a line and had some success.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Each player has added some offense this season. Hartman at the forefront of that; his goal against the Wild was his 13th of the season and his third in as many games. Anything that line continues to add is appreciated but, as long as it’s solid and responsible, it also helps the Blackhawks’ four-line rotation.

Hartman, Kero and Hinostroza’s first collaboration didn’t work out so well. The good thing about the Blackhawks, however, is there’s always a chance a line gets a second look. That second look worked out pretty well.

“We had a chance together a couple of games ago but it probably wasn’t our best night. Tonight we were creating more,” Kero said. “We were going hard on the forecheck, creating those turnovers and trying to be good in our end. We were making a few more plays and getting a few more chances.”

BRIEFLY

- Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith did not practice on Thursday. Quenneville said both are fine and will play vs. the Jets

- Corey Crawford will start vs. Winnipeg.