Artem Anisimov set to return for Blackhawks in Game 1 vs. Predators

Artem Anisimov set to return for Blackhawks in Game 1 vs. Predators

It was frustrating for Artem Anisimov to miss the final month of the regular season. The second-line center was at the top of his game when he suffered an injury to his left leg in Montreal on March 14.

Still, there are silver linings to everything; in Anisimov’s case, it’s being ready for the postseason, which it appears he will be.

“I was happy about this news and I started getting ready for the playoffs. The staff did a tremendous job with conditioning for me and I’m ready to play,” Anisimov said on Tuesday. “Get ready for the first game, and here I am.”

Anisimov will be back, as will Niklas Hjalmarsson, when the Blackhawks begin their first-round series against the Nashville Predators on Thursday. Anisimov has been skating for about a week now, and he doesn’t foresee any limitations with his game – “I’m going to continue to go to the net and play hard every shift and do all my stuff,” he said.

Coach Joel Quenneville doesn’t foresee any issues, either.

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“He looked good, handled everything well. He said he felt good conditioning-wise and health-wise, so all good,” Quenneville said of Anisimov’s practice on Tuesday, his first since sustaining his injury.

“Arty does a lot of things for you. Special teams, both units. Faceoffs, that line, big minutes, matchups and predictability defensively, and offensively getting to the net. So he knows his role and does it very well,” Quenneville continued. “He really adds something to our lineup because he's so useful in ways, and that's an important spot for us. It's good to (see him) back.”

The line did well in Anisimov’s absence, with Tanner Kero centering Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin for a majority of those games. But the chemistry between the two wings and Anisimov has always been strong, and it should be rekindled quickly.

“It was good to see him back on the ice,” Kane said. “We know he hasn’t played in a while, so I think for us just keep it simple and for him, he does a lot of simple things on the ice anyways. So, it’ll be good to get him going back to the front of the net, and hopefully we’ll be shooting pucks there and get some bounces. But it’s great to have him back. Obviously we missed him, and it’ll be huge going down the stretch here to have him in the lineup.”

There will probably be a little rust, regardless of how good Anisimov feels. Game action hard to replicate in a practice and conditioning work, let alone playoff game action. But Anisimov feels great, and whatever rust there will be, he expects to shed it relatively fast.

“It’s a little bit of pressure. I think after the first shift it’s going to go away,” Anisimov said. “It’s going to be the feeling of the game again and it’ll come back after the first shift.”

Briefly:

  • Niklas Hjalmarsson also returned to practice on Tuesday. He and his wife welcomed their second child a few days ago.
     
  • Michal Rozsival, who was injured when Anaheim forward Nick Ritchie punched him in last Thursday’s game against the Ducks, underwent surgery to repair facial fractures on Tuesday. Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement, “surgery went well and he is expected to make a full recovery.”
  • Andrew Desjardins is still day-to-day with a lower-body injury sustained against the Ducks.

Several Blackhawks veterans will sit out vs. Ducks

Several Blackhawks veterans will sit out vs. Ducks

ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Blackhawks have two more regular-season games, with no significant attachment to either. So on Thursday, with the season nearly done, the Blackhawks will rest a few more veterans.

Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook are expected to take the night off when the Blackhawks face the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday. Niklas Hjalmarsson will also be out; he's still back in Chicago attending to family matters. The moves give veterans the chance to rest up for the postseason and younger players to show what they can do.

"I mean, if you can skip a game towards the playoffs it's a luxury," Hossa said. "Some guys can get the rest. We have a lot of extra guys, so coaches can make decisions in the first round. They can show the potential, too. So it's a luxury we have right now."

There could be more veterans back in the lineup on Saturday, when the Blackhawks finish the regular season against the Los Angeles Kings.

Gustav Forsling, who the Blackhawks recalled on Wednesday, will draw into the lineup. Forsling had a good start to this season but didn't progress as the Blackhawks hoped he would, prompting a trip to Rockford.

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"His best stretch was at camp. It looked like he was going to be one of those guys that could play in all situations, meaningful minutes. Down there, he's played more, and we're probably looking for progression when he does play tonight," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He has an upside to his game, just the way he moves and anticipates and offensively sees and makes plays is a great asset to have. We're looking for that progression. That's the area that, down there we probably didn't see it like we were hoping, but we still think he has all the intangibles to capture."

Meanwhile, Artem Anisimov continues to skate back in Chicago. Quenneville said Anisimov is progressing well but the second-line center will not join the Blackhawks on this final regular-season trip.

Broadcast information

Time: 9 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live Stream: CSNChicago.com
Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Tomas Jurco-Nick Schmaltz-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Tanner Kero-Patrick Kane
Ryan Hartman-Marcus Kruger-Andrew Desjardins
John Hayden-Dennis Rasmussen-Jordin Tootoo

Defensive pairs 

Johnny Oduya-Gustav Forsling
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Rozsival-Michal Kempny

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

Artem Anisimov (left leg)

Ducks forward lines

Nick Ritchie-Ryan Getzlaf-Patrick Eaves
Andrew Cogliano-Ryan Kesler-Jakob Silfverberg
Rickard Rakell-Antoine Vermette-Corey Perry
Chris Wagner-Nate Thompson-Logan Shaw

Defensive pairs

Shea Theodore-Brandon Montour
Korbinian Holzer-Josh Manson
Jaycob Megna-Kevin Bieksa

Goaltender

John Gibson

Injuries

Cam Fowler (lower body)

After locking up West, health all that matters for Blackhawks

After locking up West, health all that matters for Blackhawks

The Blackhawks took care of what they needed to in the regular season.

They clinched the division title for the 16th time in franchise history, they locked up home-ice advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs, and they've put themselves in a great position to compete for their fourth Stanley Cup in eight years.

The path might be a favorable one as well, with contenders like Minnesota and San Jose dwindling down the stretch and Los Angeles missing out.

After falling to the Boston Bruins 3-2 on Sunday in their regular-season home finale, the Blackhawks have just three games remaining. And the only importance of those three games will be staying healthy. 

There were a few hold-your-breath moments over the weekend already.

In Friday's game against Columbus, Niklas Hjalmarsson blocked a heavy slap shot off the inside of his foot and took longer than usual to shake it off — albeit only one shift.

On Sunday, Patrick Kane left the ice during pregame warmups after taking a puck to the lip. He was stitched up and able to play, but it provided enough of a (minor) scare to make Chicago gasp, "Uh-oh." It was a freak accident, but it served as a reminder that weird things can happen — look no further than Sharks forward Logan Couture, who's missed the last four games after a puck to the face knocked out multiple teeth.

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Now, the Presidents' Trophy is still on the table (barely), but the Blackhawks would need to win out just to have a chance and they won't empty the tank trying to gun for the No. 1 overall seed.

They set a franchise record this year for most road wins in a season, so potentially opening Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final away from the United Center wouldn't be the worst thing. That's what you call a good problem to have — if you can even call it that — knowing you're one of two teams left standing. Every team would take that. And after all, the Blackhawks opened on the road in 2015 against the Lightning and won two of three in Tampa Bay. 

While staying healthy is key, Joel Quenneville cautioned that not playing at full speed can be a recipe for disaster.

"Well you've still got to play hard in games like that because if you take your foot off the gas all of a sudden funny things can happen," he said after Friday's game referring to Hjalmarsson's shot block. "But that’s part of the game."

Artem Anisimov, who's been out since March 14 with a leg injury, plans to start skating Monday and is expected to be ready for Game 1 of the first round. That would mean a healthy and full lineup going into the Stanley Cup playoffs, assuming the Blackhawks escape the final three games without injury.

Quenneville said Sunday "we'll see" on how he'll handle resting guys during the road trip, but one thing you can expect is more evenly-distributed ice time to keep everybody fresh and also involved.

"That’s the motivation right now, playing the right way defensively, trying to get four lines going and try to get some balance in ice time," he said. "Keep everybody fresh, focused on what we need to do to be the best we can starting the following week. We want to make sure our habits and the simple things we're doing right."