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Posted On Saturday, 10.12.2013 / 2:23 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks want to fix PK woes against Sabres

CHICAGO – It was the backbone of their memorable 2013 championship run, but the Chicago Blackhawks have struggled to kill penalties in the first four games of their Stanley Cup title defense.

The penalty-killing effort looked a little better in a 3-2 win against the New York Islanders on Friday night at United Center, not allowing a goal against a pair of man-advantages, but there is still quote a lot of room to improve.

"We had a zero night tonight … that's progress," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll take baby steps and progress from there."

After finishing third in the NHL for both the regular season and the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs (87.2 percent success rate, followed by 90.8 percent in the postseason), Chicago now ranks last in the League (54.6 percent).

The Blackhawks have allowed five power-play goals in 11 times shorthanded thus far, including three on six chances in a 6-5 win against the Washington Capitals on opening night followed by two goals allowed on three combined chances in the next two games – a shootout loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning and a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss on Wednesday to the rival St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.

Heading into a game Saturday night at United Center against the Buffalo Sabres (8 p.m., NHLN), they're hoping to build off a Friday night effort against a team that's only score two power-play goals in 18 chances (11.1 percent).

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Posted On Friday, 10.11.2013 / 1:43 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks tinkering with forward lines

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville is pleased overall with the play of his forwards, but the Chicago Blackhawks coach appears set to shake up his bottom six group going into a game Saturday night at United Center against the New York Islanders.

Fourth-line center Marcus Kruger skated at left wing on the third line in the team's morning skate, with Brandon Saad, who started the season on the left side of that unit, flipping over to the right side. Rookie Joakim Nordstrom took line rushes in Kruger's usual spot centering the fourth line, with Ben Smith, who had been getting looks at right wing on the third line, manning Nordstrom's right side.

"We're just trying some things," Quenneville said. "Whether we're looking for a little bit more from different lines or we're trying to say who might be better with one another, I think we're just trying some things. It's not that we don't like the way things are going. We're just trying to maybe have a different look and maybe it will be improved."

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Posted On Saturday, 10.05.2013 / 2:49 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Blackhawks' Quenneville to tinker with lineup

CHICAGO -- It's only the second game of the season, but Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is quickly dipping into his team's depth prior to playing the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at United Center.

Defenseman Michael Kostka will draw into the starting lineup for the first time with Chicago, likely playing with Nick Leddy on the third pairing, while 25-year-old forward Ben Smith will make his first start of the season playing right wing on the third line.

It's an opportunity for both to make a good impression on Quenneville, who isn't afraid to stray from the regular lineup and give his entire roster a chance to play.

"The hope is to show what you can do when you get those opportunities [to play] and to make those decisions tough for whoever has to make them," said Smith, who has played 20 regular season games and eight playoff games for the Blackhawks. "I was grateful to start here [in Chicago] and I plan on making the most of these opportunities and trying to get this career going."

The 5-foot-11 Smith is replacing 6-foot-6, 221-pound winger Jimmy Hayes and has scored four goals and no assist in his NHL career. He hass also battled some injury issues and has ridden the so-called "Rockford Shuttle" quite a bit between Chicago and the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

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Posted On Tuesday, 10.01.2013 / 1:38 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - 2013-2014 At the Rink Blog

Nordstrom hopes to carve own role with Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Michael Frolik's replacement on the Chicago Blackhawks would like it to be known that he's no "Fro," even if his skill set is pretty similar to the former penalty-killing wing on the fourth line.

Instead, 21-year-old rookie forward Joakim Nordstrom hopes to make his own impact in Chicago, while starting out playing right wing on the fourth line and likely getting the penalty-killing minutes that Frolik absorbed on the way to the 2013 Stanley Cup.

"I would be happy to be that guy, but I don't want to replace him," Nordstrom said of Frolik, who was traded to the Winnipeg Jets in the offseason. "I want to be the player that I am, but for sure I think that we have the same qualities as players. Killing penalties is one of my biggest strengths. That's what I want to bring to the team and everything else too."


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Posted On Friday, 09.13.2013 / 4:47 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Blackhawks' Kane dazzles in viral video

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The advertising spot Patrick Kane did to promote the Bauer Vapor APX2 hockey stick was released Friday and became an instant hit online.

The video, which shows Kane stickhandling his way through three circular mazes of pucks at United Center, spread quickly. People shared it on social media sites in droves and almost all the comments were about the Chicago Blackhawks star right-winger's incredibly high skill level.

Kane never touches a single puck with either his stick or skates, despite more pucks being put into the maze as the video progresses.

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Posted On Friday, 09.13.2013 / 2:35 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Blackhawks hold out Toews for precautionary reasons

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Chicago Blackhawks went through their first day of scrimmaging at training camp on Friday at Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena without captain Jonathan Toews.

After he went through a practice session with his assigned group in the morning, the decision to pull him from the scrimmage was made in order to rest an undisclosed lower-body injury.

"He practiced this morning and [being] precautionary, we kept him off for the game," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It's not serious, but we decided we'd give him a little [time], see how he is [Saturday] and maybe give him a couple days off the ice."

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Posted On Wednesday, 09.11.2013 / 8:23 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Training Camp 2013 blog

Bickell, Handzus OK for Blackhawks camp

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Injuries stemming from the Chicago Blackhawks' victory in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final appear mostly healed, and the team appears to be healthy for the official start of camp Thursday at the University of Notre Dame Compton Family Ice Arena.

Blackhawks vice president and general manager Stan Bowman said Wednesday he expects forwards Bryan Bickell and Michal Handzus, who each needed surgical procedures this summer, to participate.

"We had our medicals today and to my knowledge everything is fine," Bowman said. "I talked to the doctor this morning and the players are on their way up here now, but I spoke to both of them and they all look ready to go. I think health-wise we're in a very good situation leading into camp. There's always some little things that pop up here and there, but no surprises."

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Posted On Saturday, 06.22.2013 / 2:15 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Stanley Cup Final series blog

Success rate down, but Blackhawks happy with PK

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have allowed more power-play goals to the Boston Bruins through the four games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Final than they did against the three other teams they eliminated coming into this series.

Chicago's success rate prior to facing the Bruins was 94.8 percent (55 of 58), tops in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but it is 71.4 percent (10 of 14) in the Cup Final heading into Game 5 Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).

Is there something to it, or is that 23 percent drop more of an aberration than it might seem?

The Blackhawks said they feel it's more of the latter than the former.

"I think our penalty kill's been pretty good," Chicago center Dave Bolland said Saturday after the morning skate. "They've had four goals, but you're going to have breakdowns. It's going to happen. I think we've still stayed strong. We've still stuck to our game plan. We haven't gotten away [from] it. We've had some goals against, but I think those are going to come. You have to go over those and see what happened, but I think overall our PK has been pretty good."

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Posted On Thursday, 06.20.2013 / 8:04 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Stanley Cup Final series blog

Blackhawks likely to use Leddy more in Game 5

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Nick Leddy appears to be going through one of those turbulent dips in the ongoing maturation process of a talented young player.

The 22-year old played 2:37 over four shifts in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, which the Blackhawks won 6-5 in overtime against the Boston Bruins to even the best-of-7 series 2-2 heading into Saturday’s Game 5 at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Leddy took one shift in the first period, two in the first nine minutes of the second, and one early in the OT that lasted 12 seconds.

After the game, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Leddy was fine from a health perspective. Quenneville was again asked Thursday about the decision to sit Leddy so long.

"In the course of a game, I think every game is different," Quenneville said. "We went into the game, I think we were waiting to see how things played out, certain matchups you're looking for in the course of a game. And we're on the road, sometimes you can't get it, and sometimes the score reflects it, and sometimes you get deeper in the game and you're going to wait and see -- but I think that was probably the case last night with the lead. Later in the game we didn't go to him too much, but we'll definitely visit with him as we go along here before the next game."

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Posted On Thursday, 06.20.2013 / 6:49 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Stanley Cup Final series blog

Blackhawks confident in Crawford for Game 5

CHICAGO -- The answer, in case anybody's wondering, is that Ray Emery will not start in goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

Barring an unforeseen injury to Corey Crawford in practice Friday or during Saturday's morning skate, Emery will remain on the bench for the next chapter of what's already been a memorable Final.

Crawford, who allowed five goals in Chicago's 6-5 overtime win Wednesday that evened the best-of-7 series 2-2, will instead get a shot at redemption, something he's done a couple of times already this season following tough games.

Joel Quenneville was asked Thursday if he'd even consider starting Emery, who went 17-1-0 in the regular season, and the Blackhawks coach squashed the notion quickly.

"No, not at all," Quenneville said. "No, we're very comfortable with Corey. Corey has been rock solid all year for us, and when he's got the [start], he's been outstanding, and he's the biggest reason why we're here [right now]."

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