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Posted On Monday, 06.02.2014 / 1:47 AM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks set up to contend for foreseeable future

CHICAGO -- None of the Chicago Blackhawks were all that interested in talking about next season or beyond late Sunday night, with the sting of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Los Angeles Kings in Game 7 of the Western Conference Final still fresh, but their future appears bright.

Despite their bid to repeat as Stanley Cup champions coming to an end at United Center, the Blackhawks organization is set up to conceivably make long runs in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for years to come.

Chicago already has 19 players on the roster signed to contracts for next season, with elite Finnish center prospect Teuvo Teravainen on the horizon as a potential answer to a long-unfilled gap at second-line center. Their only unrestricted free agents are veteran forward Michal Handzus, depth forward Peter Regin and veteran defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who split time this season as the sixth defenseman with Michal Rozsival and a couple others. Restricted free agents include forwards Jeremy Morin, who might finally earn a regular spot in the lineup, versatile forward Ben Smith and backup goalie Antti Raanta.


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Posted On Sunday, 06.01.2014 / 8:12 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Versteeg back in Blackhawks lineup for Game 7

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg is back in the lineup for Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.

He replaces defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who was used as a forward in Game 6 with Versteeg scratched.

The Blackhawks have clawed back from a 3-1 series deficit to force the deciding game Sunday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). In Game 6 at Staples Center, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville scratched Versteeg, who struggled in Game 5, and played Brookbank up front.

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Posted On Sunday, 06.01.2014 / 2:19 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Kings' Williams looks to build on Game 7 track record

CHICAGO – Justin Williams began squirming uncomfortably in his seat behind the microphone before the question was even asked.

Everybody in the room Saturday afternoon knew it was coming, so when the Los Angeles Kings forward was asked about his profound success in Game 7 situations, he just shook his head. Seated next to Williams was Kings center Anze Kopitar, who whispered under his breath, "Bet you didn't see that one coming," before Williams began to answer.

Heading into the seventh Game 7 of his career Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center in the finale of the Western Conference Final (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), Williams has never lost in a seventh game. He's also tied for second all-time in NHL history in Game 7 goals (six) and points (12). Only Glenn Anderson's seven goals and Doug Gilmour's 13 points are better, yet Williams doesn't exactly enjoy the spotlight.

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Posted On Saturday, 05.31.2014 / 10:02 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks' comeback fueled by defense corps

CHICAGO -- Were it not for the play of their defense corps, the Chicago Blackhawks' reign as Stanley Cup champion might well be over.

Chicago has won back-to-back games to tie the best-of-7 Western Conference Final at 3-3 and force Game 7 on Sunday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Blackhawks' defense has played a big role in the comeback.

Duncan Keith scored the game-tying goal in the third period of Game 6, Brent Seabrook recorded his fifth multi-point game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs with two assists in that game, and Johnny Oduya scored a goal and assisted on another in Chicago's 5-4 double-overtime victory in Game 5. Niklas Hjalmarsson has become a shutdown, shot-blocking defender, Nick Leddy is one of the fastest skaters in the NHL and there's a solid veteran presence provided next to him by either Michael Rozsival or Sheldon Brookbank.


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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 7:13 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks say Shaw, Kruger good to go for Game 6

CHICAGO -- Forward Andrew Shaw's right leg hit the boards awkwardly late in the third period of Game 5 in the Western Conference Final, but he is expected to be in the lineup for the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday in Game 6 at Staples Center.

Shaw was trying to take Los Angeles Kings defenseman Jake Muzzin into the boards in the offensive zone, but his right skate smacked into the kickboard at the bottom of the half wall and his right knee appeared to buckle slightly. After gingerly skating back to the bench following his hit on Muzzin, Shaw stayed in the game and finished the Blackhawks' 5-4 victory in double overtime.

Shaw missed seven games after an upper-body injury sustained in Game 1 of the second round against the Minnesota Wild.


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Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 2:23 AM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Defense shake-up boosts Blackhawks to Game 5 win

CHICAGO -- A lot of words are written each season about Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville changing the make-up of his forward lines, but he's not against shaking up his defense pairs either.

Last season, facing a 3-1 deficit against the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals, he fiddled with his top two pairs before Game 5 at United Center. He reunited longtime partners Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as the top pair, and they stayed together through Chicago's run to the 2013 Stanley Cup championship.

Quenneville was at it again Wednesday. Down 3-1 in the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, he split up Keith and Seabrook prior to Game 5 of the best-of-7 series.

Once again, the shake-up seemed to work; the Blackhawks won 5-4 in double overtime to stave off elimination.


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Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 2:28 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks juggle lines, reunite Hossa, Toews

CHICAGO -- Once again, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is juggling his forward lines to see if he can spark something against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.

The Kings lead 3-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 5 on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

During the morning skate Quenneville had right wing Marian Hossa back up with center Jonathan Toews and left wing Bryan Bickell on the top line, and right wing Patrick Kane with left wing Brandon Saad and center Andrew Shaw on the second line.

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 2:16 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Faceoffs remain cause of concern for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to climb back into this Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, they have to start winning more faceoffs.

The Kings lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 heading into Game 5 on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) and their advantage at the faceoff dots has helped them stifle the vaunted puck-possession game of the defending Stanley Cup champions, particularly on special teams.

"They've beat us in almost every game this series other than Game 1, [when] it was 50-50," said Blackhawks forward Ben Smith, who's won eight of 15 draws (53.3 percent) for one of Chicago's better percentages. "So definitely [our] centers have to work harder, the wingers have to help them out and find ways to get pucks because we want puck possession. That'll give us a little bit of an edge [in Game 5] if we can do that."

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Posted On Tuesday, 05.27.2014 / 7:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks' Seabrook: 'I've got to be better'

CHICAGO -- Brent Seabrook didn't hide from the spotlight Tuesday afternoon at O'Hare International Airport, following the Chicago Blackhawks' return from an ugly trip to Los Angeles for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference Final.

A 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday dropped the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks into a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series. Seabrook, a defenseman who was on the ice for the Kings' two power-play goals in the first period, owned up to his share of responsibility.

After leading the NHL in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in penalty killing prior to this series, the Blackhawks have killed five of 10 Kings power plays heading into Game 5 on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

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Posted On Wednesday, 05.21.2014 / 1:41 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks forward Shaw out for Game 2

CHICAGO -- Rather than rush Andrew Shaw back from a lower-body injury, the Chicago Blackhawks are taking the conservative approach with the scrappy 22-year old forward.

Shaw will miss his seventh straight game of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Blackhawks play the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), but could play in Game 3 on Saturday at Staples Center.

Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 1-0.

"If it was a Game 7, I think we'd be looking at it a lot differently," Shaw said. "But it's Game 2 and the series just started, so with those three extra days of rest it's going to be huge for me."

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Quote of the Day

The groove of being behind a bench is going to be interesting at first, but thank God we have a few exhibition games to get rid of those cobwebs. Overall the excitement of it all and the freshness and coming back refreshed, all those things are going to be assets. If [the players] come ready to give their best effort in practice and games, good things are going to happen. I'm always looking for results. It's not always on the scoreboard. It's winning and building something.

— Bryan Trottier on making his return to coaching as an assistant with the Sabres