Blackhawks push for playoff spot

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Blackhawks push for playoff spot

NASHVILLE, Tenn. Jonathan Toews skated back in Chicago today, and coach Joel Quenneville believes the Blackhawks captain has been cleared for contact. And as long as all keeps going well, the Blackhawks hope Toews can be back in the lineup by the end of the regular season.

Meanwhile the Blackhawks have four games left, beginning with tonights matchup against the Nashville Predators. There are a few scenarios that give the Blackhawks a playoff berth tonight; the simplest is if they get at least a point against the Predators. The team would love to at least get that taken care of tonight.

Its going to be nice, for sure, when we do clinch a spot, Patrick Kane said. Itll be nice when that happens, and even nicer tonight knowing we have some of our best players hopefully coming back in the net few games; and we can keep getting better as a team and not worry about clinching a spot.

Theyve been able to win without Toews and, most recently, without a suspended Duncan Keith Keith is eligible to return on April 5 at Minnesota. But against Nashville, it hasnt mattered who has or hasnt been in the lineup: the Blackhawks have just struggled against them. Their last victory vs. the Predators came in their first matchup this season, and their worst loss against them was a 6-1 drubbing last week. The Blackhawks would love to get the taste of that game out of their mouths.

We definitely want to beat these guys, especially in their building, said Corey Crawford, who will start tonight. We need to try to play that solid game weve played the last couple of weeks.

Nashvilles starting goaltender tonight is not known. Pekka Rinne was in net on Friday when the Predators beat the Red Wings 4-1.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

Five Things from Blackhawks-Rangers: Duels and denied goals

There are a lot of similarities between the Blackhawks and the New York Rangers. Both have a nice record to start this season and both are getting through recent injuries as best they can.

And thanks to their goaltending, they had a pretty fun little battle on Friday night.

Antti Raanta edged Scott Darling as the Rangers took a 1-0 overtime victory over the Blackhawks on Friday. It was surprising that Raanta got the start, only because he had started for the Rangers on Thursday against Winnipeg. But he’s been hot, he’s good at the United Center in his career and obviously it was the right decision.

The Blackhawks are back at it on Sunday against another team going through its injury issues, the Dallas Stars. Before then, however, let’s look at the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ overtime loss to the Rangers.

1. A familiar goalie duel. Two seasons ago Scott Darling and Antti Raanta were fighting for the Blackhawks’ backup goaltending spot. So it seemed fitting that they face each other on Friday night. They didn’t disappoint. Each goaltender had his share of stellar stops, many coming in the second period as each team looked for an edge. Raanta got the victory, running his record at the United Center to 15-0-3. The two had a quick, good-natured talk at the end of the game. “It was all friendly,” Darling said. “We were just saying, ‘good job’ and we’re happy for one another.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

2. Kane alright. Patrick Kane got the concussion protocol call in the second period a few moments after he was hit into the glass by Nick Holden. After Kane was called for high-sticking he was sent to the locker room, returning as the Blackhawks went on their first power play of the night at 17:28 of the second period.

3. The Rangers’ successful challenge. Just when you thought the Blackhawks were taking a 1-0 lead the third period (Marian Hossa), the Rangers challenged for offside. They won, nullifying Hossa’s attempt at his 15th goal of the season. Hossa was disappointed, and is frustrated at how some of the rule changes are taking away goals when the league is trying to increase scoring. Coach Joel Quenneville, when asked if he’d like the rule changed if he could, laughed. “Right now? Sure.”

4. A better all-around game. We may be harping on the Blackhawks’ injury situation but when you’re missing three key guys (Jonathan Toews, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford) it’s going to alter your game. But the Blackhawks played a strong all-around game against the Rangers and had some good scoring chances. All things considered, and against a very good Rangers team, Quenneville liked what he saw. “We know they’re a dangerous team off the rush, a lot of guys can make plays, a ton of speed. You have to respect that in ways and they check well in their own end,” Quenneville said. “I thought we did some good things. I think on the rush game we did a good job of taking away that danger.”

5. When will the Blackhawks return to health? Yeah, we’re looking ahead a little bit on this one, and we may have a clearer picture by Saturday morning. If Toews and Seabrook are skating and come out of the session well, there’s a chance they could play on Sunday. The Blackhawks have done alright despite the injuries. But you have to wonder when they start feeling a bit depleted.