Blackhawks prep for energetic Oilers

Blackhawks prep for energetic Oilers

A week ago, the Blackhawks rolled an Edmonton Oilers team that was lackluster coming off their bye week. Now the Blackhawks will try to avoid the same fate.

Corey Crawford will start and Michal Kempny returns to the lineup when the Blackhawks host the Oiler Saturday night at the United Center. The Blackhawks are coming off their six-day bye following their Ice Show trip, during which they went on a five-game winning streak.

The Oilers, meanwhile, have gotten their legs back under them. After falling to the Blackhawks, they rattled off a 5-2 victory over the Arizona Coyotes and a 6-3 triumph over the Philadelphia Flyers. The Blackhawks don’t want to come off the bye week the way the Oilers did last Saturday.

“We had a really good game against Edmonton away. We have to play the same way here tonight, get to the same pace,” Dennis Rasmussen said. “But it’s really important to have short shifts in the beginning, being off a couple of days.”

Most teams haven’t been successful coming off the bye week. Here’s the breakdown of how teams have done thus far (keep in mind, even if a team had the five-day break, they could practice after 4 p.m. local time on the fifth day):

TEAM DAYS OFF RESULT
Arizona Coyotes 5 W
Calgary Flames 5 L
Carolina Hurricanes 5 OTL
Colorado Avalanche 5 L
Edmonton Oilers 5 L
Florida Panthers 5 L
Los Angeles Kings 6 L
New Jersey Devils 5 L
New York Islanders 5 OTL
New York Rangers 5 L
Ottawa Senators 5 L
Philadelphia Flyers 5 L
Pittsburgh Penguins 7 W
Toronto Maple Leafs 5 W

The Blackhawks made three changes to the lineup out of last Saturday’s game, including Crawford getting back in net. Kempny is back in (Gustav Forsling remains in Rockford) and Andrew Desjardins draws back into the lineup (Vinnie Hinostroza also stayed in Rockford).

Regardless of lineup, the Blackhawks want to come out strong and stay that way.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Concerns are when we’re playing a team in that situation, where it’s like the start of the season, coming off breaks, we’re always emphasizing shooting the puck, getting traffic at the net. Being ready to play with the mental and simple approach is what we’re trying to do and making sure that there’s a purpose behind how we’re ready to start,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Especially against a quick team like this, we want to make sure we’re going to be aware of their rush game and their transition game. That’s why we want to be simple and ready.”

Broadcast information

Time: 6 p.m.

TV: WGN, NHL Network

Radio: WGN 720 AM

Blackhawks forward lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik

Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane

Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa

Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Andrew Desjardins

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson

Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook

Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries

None

Oilers forward lines (via team website)

Patrick Maroon-Connor McDavid-Jordan Eberle

Milan Lucic-Leon Draisaitl-Anton Slepyshev

Drake Caggiula-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins-Zack Kassian

Matt Hendricks-Mark Letestu-Iiro Pakarinen

Defensive pairs

Andrej Sekera-Matt Benning

Oscar Klefbom-Adam Larsson

Brandon Davidson-Eric Gryba

Goaltender

Cam Talbot

Injuries 

Jujhar Khaira (wrist), Darnell Nurse (ankle), Tyler Pitlick (knee), Kris Russel (undisclosed)

Tanner Kero, Nick Schmaltz recalled by Blackhawks as bye week concludes

Tanner Kero, Nick Schmaltz recalled by Blackhawks as bye week concludes

With their bye week coming to an end, the Blackhawks recalled Tanner Kero and Nick Schmaltz from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League. Gustav Forsling and Vinnie Hinostroza remain in Rockford.

The Blackhawks opened up $477,360 in cap space by assigning those four players to the AHL during their five days off, and as of Thursday have a projected $4.19 million to spend at the trade deadline, according to CapFriendly.com.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Schmaltz, who's been playing well on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik, has four goals and six assists in 38 games this season. 

Kero has four goals and four assists in 22 games, and has done a solid job contributing in all areas on the bottom six.

The Blackhawks will return to practice on Friday before hosting the Edmonton Oilers at the United Center on Saturday at 6 p.m.

Blackhawks mailbag: On trades, TvR and travel destinations

Blackhawks mailbag: On trades, TvR and travel destinations

And now, the end is near…

The Blackhawks’ bye week is just about done. While I sit and wonder how the heck it went this quickly, another “end” doth approacheth: the trade deadline.

We’re less than two weeks away from the March 1 deadline, and not surprisingly, there are some questions about that.

https://twitter.com/alarson2201/status/831947870324588549

When Stan Bowman talked to us prior to the Blackhawks’ game in San Jose on Jan. 31, he said he’d be perfectly fine going ahead with this team the way it was. Asked specifically about acquiring a left wing for the top line, he said, “I’m not expecting a big addition like that.”

He said the same thing to Elliotte Friedman in Friedman’s recent 30 Thoughts column. Bowman likes how the Blackhawks’ younger players are progressing and has confidence in them. Since we talked to Bowman, the Blackhawks have gone 5-1. Their four-line rotation is coming together. They played better defense as they went. Corey Crawford is returning to form. Does he stand pat? Tweak? Splash? I’m saying no to a big-splash move. That costs you a lot and the Blackhawks want to hang on to draft picks (they’re hosting the 2017 NHL Draft and it’s no secret they want it to be their showcase). I still won’t be surprised if there’s a tweak, just a little something to bolster the forward depth. Anything more than that is too costly and runs the risk of disrupting chemistry, which I believe is as good as it’s been in several seasons.

Now onto the rest of the mailbag:

This is a question better answered in the offseason, but I’ll give it a shot. Darling is one more player who has said he wants to stay with the Blackhawks. Unlike the others, he grew up around here. BUT, let’s remember something else: if Darling keeps having a great season, he may want to get a shot at a No. 1 job elsewhere. It would be understandable, and I’m sure the Blackhawks will try and do something that works for both parties. Again, we’re a few months away from anything happening there so let’s revisit later.

UPDATED ANSWER. This is the beauty of the internet: you can refresh parts of the mailbag easily. On Thursday evening the Blackhawks recalled Nick Schmaltz and Tanner Kero from the Rockford IceHogs. No surprise on Schmaltz. As I said in my original answer prior to the moves, Schmaltz is finding his game and that top line with he, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik was playing well before the bye week. Also as previously said, not a shock that Gustav Forsling stays in Rockford, too. Blackhawks have seven defensemen now and the previous attempts at rotating eight just weren’t working. According to CapFriendly, the Blackhawks currently have $3.226 million in cap space and will have nearly $4.2 million in cap space at the trade deadline.

I once thought that myself. Now I’m not so sure. Maybe they’d like a Marcus Kruger, who brings a lot of two-way ability to the table. Let’s also remember that Ryan Hartman is now exposed to the expansion draft. A young kid having a surprising rookie season, can mix it up if necessary (although he’s moving away from that) and is good at getting under opponents’ skin. That could be tempting for Vegas.

I’ll be curious to see what he does with the pairings, mainly with Michal Kempny. I’m going to assume Kempny will play more down the stretch. Maybe Michal Rozsival gets in now and then coming off his injury, but you’ve got to move forward with Kempny. As far as pairings, unless there are issues down the stretch I don’t see him changing much. As much as coach Joel Quenneville does change things up when things aren’t going well, he stays put when they are.

Lot of good ones. I’m a sucker for a great view, which is why I miss Rexall Place and still love Bell Centre and yes, the Scotiabank Saddledome (sorry, Laz). I’m also a huge fan of Madison Square Garden since it’s renovation. Not too high up, not too far back. The worst view is Prudential Arena. I joke that you’re so far up in the arena that you’re above the tree line. Seriously, there’s going to come a day when I see clouds below me in that arena.

I’m convinced he already knows English and is just avoiding us. Remember earlier this season when Panarin came out of the penalty box to score the overtime winner against the St. Louis Blues? I was talking to Patrick Kane about Panarin following that game and Panarin referred to himself as a “ninja” before leaving the room. I’m just waiting for the day I find out he speaks better English than I do.

Pokka is part of a deep pool of defensemen. He’s in Rockford right now because other guys are ahead of him, and that’s all there is to it. The Blackhawks don’t have to do anything with him other than let him keep playing with the IceHogs.

I would absolutely love to attend one of the Slams, although not sure I’d want to cover it. I’d want to be part of that excitement as a spectator. So much of my enthusiasm over sports has been killed out of me because of this job, that I’d like to rekindle some of it.

I haven’t gone to many out there but one I still love is Imagery Winery in Sonoma. Their labels are works from local artists and their wines are outstanding. Big fan.

First, it’s all about the food. It’s always all about the food. The sports in most of the stops is awesome, as are the people. Especially in Canada. Those people freeze their tails off for nine months out of the year and yet are the friendliest people on the planet. But I’m digressing. Montreal and Vancouver will always be two of the favorites for all of those categories you list. I love sushi, and Vancouver with sushi restaurants is like a U.S. city with Starbucks: there’s one on every corner. The differences are the sushi places aren’t overpriced and the product is good.

I’ve been to France twice, Italy once and haven’t been to Spain yet. And likely going to France again. So there it is.

It’s wine and hockey, man. Whatever your preference!