Blackhawks tinker with lines vs. Avalanche

Blackhawks tinker with lines vs. Avalanche

Corey Crawford will get the start and the Blackhawks' lines will have a very different look when they face the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday night at the Pepsi Center.

Not surprisingly, the Blackhawks' second line of Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane remain the same. Those three are still doing the bulk of the scoring. The top line is now Ryan Hartman and Richard Panik with Jonathan Toews while Marian Hossa goes to the third line with Vinnie Hinostroza and Tanner Kero.

As with any line changes, it's clear the Blackhawks, who are riding a two-game losing streak, aren't happy with how things have been going. 

"You gotta get the message and I think everyone can compete harder, at least a little harder than we have the last few games," Toews said. "Sometimes you go through spurts when you're not playing with the most energy or firing on all cylinders. You just have to find ways to play smart and still create but still limit the chances you give up against."

Hossa said everyone else needs to help the second line.

"[There's] one line consistent on the offensive side. The other lines have a good stretches and then we have dry stretches. We're trying to find where it's no longer just one line consistent on production," Hossa said. "It's going good for a little bit but then we have a dry stretch and I don't know way, exactly. But we have to find [a solution] before the playoffs start."

Marcus Kruger did not make the trip with the Blackhawks. Coach Joel Quenneville expected Kruger to skate in Chicago on Tuesday. Quenneville added that he's going back to 12 forwards and six defensemen in tonight's game. The defensive scratch was unknown.

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Meanwhile, the Avalanche have had an awful season and now trade rumors abound for a team that could part with several players. Colorado general manager Joe Sakic told the Denver Post there were only three untouchables in the organization. Gabriel Landeskog ($5.57 million cap hit through 2020-21) and Matt Duchene ($6 million hit through 2018-19) would be coveted at the trade deadline by teams that can afford them.

This is the third meeting between these two teams. The Blackhawks beat the Avs 4-0 on Nov. 3 before the Avalanche took the Dec. 23 game 2-1. The Avalanche have been especially bad at home, going 5-15-1 at the Pepsi Center this season.

Broadcast information

Time: 7 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks forward lines

Ryan Hartman-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Vinnie Hinostroza-Tanner Kero-Marian Hossa
Andrew Desjardins-Dennis Rasmussen-Nick Schmaltz

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Brian Campbell-Brent Seabrook
Michal Rozsival-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Marcus Kruger (right arm)

Avalanche forward lines

Mikko Rantanen-Nathan Mackinnon-Gabriel Bourque
Gabriel Landeskog-Matt Duchene-Matthew Nieto
Blake Comeau-Carl Soderberg-Jarome Iginla
Andreas Martinsen-John Mitchell-Mikhail Gregorenko

Defensive pairs

Fedor Tyutin-Tyson Barrie
Francois Beauchemin-NikitaZadorov
Patrick Wiercioch-Cody Goloubef

Goaltender

Semyon Varlamov

Injuries

Erik Johnson (broken leg)

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

Patrick Kane was summing up the Blackhawks' weekend, one that didn't go well in terms of points.

"Good way to kind of judge ourselves, where we're at," he said Sunday night. "Might be a little bit of a wake-up call to see how good we really are."

Well, in a way, it is. You can't really compare Friday's loss to Washington and Sunday's loss to Minnesota on performance; the Blackhawks didn't show up for the first game and were much better in the second. Nevertheless, it was the same result in each. The Blackhawks' lengthy hold on first place in the Western Conference ended, with the Wild taking over following Sunday's 3-2 victory.

It's not a sound-the-alarm situation, but the Blackhawks are certainly cognizant of the missed opportunity last weekend and that they came up short against the league's best.

Artem Anisimov agreed with Kane's assessment.

"We just need to play better. All four lines need to play better in all areas of the ice. Just be better in the little things," Anisimov said. "Back check, put stick in the right position, box the guy out, short shifts. All little things need to be better."

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Many of the little things that were absent against the Capitals were back against the Wild. But coach Joel Quenneville wasn't happy with mistakes made on goals allowed, especially the first two. And while Kane and the second line were a consistent scoring threat against the Wild, the other three lines weren't. It's a problem that's plagued the Blackhawks a good deal this season, even when they were stringing together victories.

There is no reason to think that, because of this weekend's results, the Blackhawks are going to falter against strong teams. They've done well against others already this season. They beat Montreal earlier this season, when the Canadiens were healthy and steamrolling everyone. They beat the New York Rangers when the Rangers and former Blackhawks backup goaltender Antti Raanta were on their respective hot streaks.

Still, Kane's analysis is correct: This should get the Blackhawks' attention. The Wild have beaten the Blackhawks in eight consecutive regular-season games now and will face them three more times this season. They have two more meetings with the Edmonton Oilers, who beat them soundly in November.

The Blackhawks' long reign atop the Western Conference standings is over. They’re currently second in the Central Division, with an eight-point cushion over the St. Louis Blues. The Blackhawks have done fairly well this season. But this weekend was a reminder that they can be better.

"The game (on Friday) was kind of like a shock to the system thinking maybe you're one of the top teams in the league, or being able to compete with one of the top teams, and we obviously got thoroughly outplayed. We came back (Sunday night). It was pretty even in chances. We might've even had more so, just kind of didn't pull it out," Kane said. "But (when) you've played two of the better teams in the league and lose, there's got to be room for improvement, right?"

Blackhawks focus on 'little things' after lopsided loss to Capitals

Blackhawks focus on 'little things' after lopsided loss to Capitals

Blackhawks players and coach Joel Quenneville sounded mixed following a 6-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday night.

Some told the media that they could learn from that loss. Quenneville said the Blackhawks should just forget it. They all agreed on one thing: it was one horrible game on their end and they've got to clean things up fast.

On Saturday the Blackhawks got back to work trying to improve upon what failed against the Capitals, which according to Quenneville was quite the laundry list of items:

"I just think little things, whether it was getting or keeping the puck — we didn't have it at all — going into the puck area, going through the puck area, little details. We've probably given up more rush chances than we have in a long, long time," Quenneville said. "Whether it was the competitiveness from the outset, be it the faceoff circle, across the board, but that start to the game put us in a tough spot."

The loss to the Capitals marked the fifth time this season the Blackhawks have lost a game by three or more goals. Last year they lost 13 games by three or more, compared to 12 during the 2014-15 Stanley Cup season. You take that number for what it is: some games are close until the third period (Jan. 2 vs. the St. Louis Blues, a 4-1 loss) and others are like Friday's effort, or lack thereof.

So, do the Blackhawks forget about that mess or learn from it?

"I think maybe a little of both," Andrew Desjardins said. "You gotta learn from some of the stuff in aspects of one-on-one battles, being in good angles. For-sure plays still have to be for sure, where last night they weren't. As far as that goes, you have to learn from those [things]; you have to see it to learn and to understand it's not good enough. At the same time, you have to use it as a drive to be better for the next game and be a little pissed off about it."

[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

Vinnie Hinostroza's nullified goal (due to goaltender interference) took the wind out of the Blackhawks' sails at that point; they would've trailed 3-1 instead of 3-0. But players said there's only so much pointing they can do toward that no-goal.

"We had the momentum for a second there and it got taken away. But we should've responded better than that. It was still 3-0; still could've come back from that," Hinostroza said. "I don't think we responded, at all, how we should have."

The Blackhawks should have a sufficient level of anger on Sunday night when they host the red-hot Minnesota Wild who, thanks to their 5-4 victory over the Dallas Stars on Saturday night, jumped into first place in the Western Conference. The Blackhawks and Wild each have 59 points but the Wild have four games in hand. This one won't be easy, either. The Wild, who swept the regular-season series against the Blackhawks last year, are 16-1-1 in their last 17 games. That included a 12-game winning streak, which the equally hot Columbus Blue Jackets snapped on New Year's Eve.

Will the Blackhawks have the sufficient response? In most cases when the Blackhawks have had a horrible game one night, they've usually come back with a strong one the next. The Wild, much like the Capitals, are surging and there will be little margin for error.

The Blackhawks had an awful one in D.C. in a season that hasn't had many of them. They happen. But whether they lost sleep over it, forgot about it or learn from it, they definitely can't repeat it.

"You don't want to dwell on it, let one bad game turn into two bad games because you're thinking of everything that went wrong the last game," Trevor van Riemsdyk said. "[The Wild have] got a lot of speed, just like the Caps, a lot of skill. It'll take a great effort. When you get beat like that you want a chance to redeem yourself. Tomorrow's a good chance for that."