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Posted On Thursday, 04.24.2014 / 5:15 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

'Q blender' keeps Blackhawks forwards on their toes

CHICAGO -- Joel Quenneville's penchant for mixing and matching forwards is well known by fans, players and opposing coaches.

In fact, whether he knows it or not, there is a commonly used nickname for the Chicago Blackhawks coach's line juggling that fans often use. They refer to it as the "Q line blender," and it's often operating, proverbially, on high speed.

This Western Conference First Round series, tied 2-2 between the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues, is no exception. The "Q blender" is working hard as the best-of-7 shifts back to Scottrade Center for Game 5 on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, FS-MW, CSN-CH).

After starting out placing Patrick Kane at right wing on the third line, Quenneville has since reunited him with captain Jonathan Toews' top line (in Game 3) then split them up again in the third period of Game 4 on Wednesday, a 4-3 Chicago victory that ended with Kane's goal in overtime.

"I think it's a feel thing," Quenneville said Thursday of his itchy trigger finger. "You go into the game and you have a couple of ideas if you don't like the way it looks. Sometimes certain guys are going better than other guys and maybe you give the certain guy a little bit more quality [time], maybe you take away a little here and there. You see how it works."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.23.2014 / 3:25 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Keith logging major minutes for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith didn't participate in the morning skate Wednesday at United Center.

Keith was hit hard by St. Louis Blues forward Steve Ott near the boards in the defensive zone with 5:35 left in the third period of Game 3, but Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said his top defenseman is fine to play in a big Game 4 of a Western Conference First Round series on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-MW, CSN-CH).

Keith's ice time is up from the regular season for the second straight year, much how it was during the Blackhawks' run to the 2013 Stanley Cup, but if there's anybody who can absorb that much it's him.

"Well, he's a superhuman," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said after the skate. "He has, obviously, physical abilities that a lot of guys don't have. He has that intensity and he can still match that with playing a lot of minutes. His lung capacity and ability to process oxygen is unbelievable. So being the skilled, competitive player that he is, and being able to have that physical edge too, I think that's why he's the top [defenseman] in the game."

Posted On Tuesday, 04.22.2014 / 5:29 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Blackhawks' Brookbank solid filling in for Seabrook

CHICAGO -- Defenseman Sheldon Brookbank filled in admirably for the Chicago Blackhawks on Monday in a 2-0 victory at United Center in Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues.

The victory pulled the defending Stanley Cup champions within 2-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 4 Wednesday in Chicago (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS, FS-MW, CSN-CH), in which Brookbank will again take the place of suspended defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Playing alongside Duncan Keith on the top pairing, Brookbank played 14:32 and assisted on a goal by Jonathan Toews 4:10 into the game that wound up being enough to win. Brookbank blocked two shots in a solid performance.

"I'm not saying it's easy, but [Keith] makes it pretty easy on you," Brookbank said Tuesday. "He gets back there quick and makes a lot of good plays, and he closes on guys fast. So it makes my job easier."

Posted On Monday, 04.21.2014 / 3:01 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

High emotions for St. Louis, Chicago in Game 3

CHICAGO -- Emotions were running high as the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks prepared for Game 3 of their Western Conference First Round series on Monday night at United Center.

During the morning skates on Monday, each team was still talking about a controversial hit on David Backes, the St. Louis Blues captain, by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook during Game 2 on Saturday. The hit, with 4:51 remaining in the third period of Game 2, left Backes dazed and he needed help to leave the ice. He did not return to the game, which St. Louis won in overtime.

Backes will not play in Game 3 on Monday night (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-MW, CSN-CH). St. Louis leads the best-of-7 series, 2-0.

Seabrook was suspended three games by the Department of Player Safety.

Sunday, the Blues accused Blackhawk players of verbally taunting a clearly injured Backes. Monday morning, members of the Blackhawks spent time answering those charges.

Duncan Keith, who was on the ice when Backes was hit, would not confirm nor deny that he was among the players speaking to Backes. A microphone on the game coverage picks up some chirping, including the phrase "Wakey, wakey, Backes." The speaker is never identified, but several members of the blues attributed it to Keith, Seabrook's defense partner.

Posted On Monday, 04.21.2014 / 2:02 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Brookbank to fill Seabrook's spot for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Sheldon Brookbank will draw the assignment of filling in for suspended Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Brookbank will get his first taste of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs paired with Duncan Keith on the top defense unit for the Blackhawks, who face the St. Louis Blues on Monday at United Center in a Western Conference First Round series (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-MW, CSN-CH).

Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champion, trails St. Louis 2-0 in the best-of-7 series and now faces an uphill climb without one of its top defenders. Brookbank (6-foot-1, 202 pounds) can replace some of the 6-3, 221-pound Seabrook's size and grit, but he knows filling all that's missing won't happen without help.

"No one's really going to replace [Seabrook]," Brookbank said. "He's one of the top [defensemen] in the League. As a group we're going to have to pick up the slack and just play a steady game out there."

Posted On Sunday, 04.20.2014 / 4:21 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Blackhawks troubled by blown leads vs. Blues

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks coughed up 3-2 leads against the St. Louis Blues late in regulation of each of the first two games of their Western Conference First Round series at Scottrade Center in St. Louis.

The Blues scored in overtime each game to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Chicago is a combined 1:51 away from heading into Game 3 at United Center on Monday (8:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, CBC, RDSI, FS-MW, CSN-CH) as the team with the 2-0 series edge. The Blackhawks were 6.4 seconds from closing out Game 2 on Saturday, but Vladimir Tarasenko tied it 3-3 on a power play caused by defenseman Brent Seabrook's major penalty for an illegal hit.

"Six seconds away," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday at United Center. "I thought we killed that penalty … I was going to say 'perfect.' It was six seconds away from perfect."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.16.2014 / 4:16 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Tale of two seasons for Blackhawks' special teams

CHICAGO -- Last year, the Chicago Blackhawks proved just how valuable a great penalty-killing effort can be through the regular season and Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Despite having a power play that ranked 19th in the regular season (16.7 percent) and 13th out of 16 playoff teams (11.4 percent), the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup for the second time in four seasons.

A year later, Chicago's season on special teams was a tale of two halves heading into Game 1 of their series against the rival St. Louis Blues on Thursday at Scottrade Center in the Western Conference First Round (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2, CSN-CH, FS-MW).

Posted On Monday, 04.14.2014 / 4:44 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blues-Blackhawks series blog

Blackhawks' Toews, Kane say they're set for Game 1

CHICAGO -- They were only three words, but seemed to hold more importance when spoken Monday by Jonathan Toews, the captain of the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

How does he feel, physically, after sitting out the final six games of the regular season with an upper-body injury?

"Good," Toews said, pausing. "Really good."

Toews and forward Patrick Kane, who missed the final 12 games with a lower-body injury, said they're ready to take the next step in the process of getting back into game shape. They'll participate in full practices Tuesday and Wednesday, and get a morning skate Thursday at Scottrade Center prior to the start of a series against the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Posted On Friday, 04.11.2014 / 1:04 PM

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

Red Wings won't rest on laurels as playoffs approach

DETROIT -- Now that a 23rd straight appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs is assured, the Detroit Red Wings can afford to rest some legs in the final two games of the regular season.

They're just not planning to exercise that option. Heading into a game against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, RDS), the Red Wings are planning to stick with the same lineup they've used of late.

The lone exception will be on the bench. Rookie goalie Petr Mrazek will back up starter Jimmy Howard in the absence of Jonas Gustavsson, who hurt his shoulder in the playoff-clinching 4-3 shootout loss Wednesday at the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We want to keep winning," Red Wings veteran forward Johan Franzen said after the morning skate. "We want to win these last two games and maybe climb up a spot. So, that's our focus right now."

Posted On Wednesday, 04.09.2014 / 2:37 PM

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

Blackhawks' Kane feeling better, adjusting to brace

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are trying to make the best of not having their two top forwards, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Each is out for the rest of the regular season, Toews with an upper-body injury and Kane with a lower-body injury. But they are expected to be fully healed and available for the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs in a week.

Kane skated on his own for four days prior to joining the Blackhawks' morning skate Wednesday ahead of their game against the Montreal Canadiens (7:30 p.m. ET, TSN, RDS). Toews could get back on the ice Thursday for individual work.

"I think we're looking at it in a positive way, that I think this rest is going to be good for these guys," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're getting these guys some rest. We want to make them fresh and get them excited, knowing they've been off. They love playing and I think it creates an appetite as well. I think the amount of hockey and the big stages they've been [on] over the course of one season, I think this is only going to be viewed as a positive from our standpoint."

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Quote of the Day

It seems like I'm kind of making it a little difficult on myself here the last two games.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after tying the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with an assist on Duncan Keith's goal with 26.6 seconds left against the Anaheim Ducks Friday
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