Posted On Monday, 12.29.2014 / 2:06 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Predators at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks get caught peeking ahead to the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, they might get a rude awakening in their final game before taking it outside against the Washington Capitals.

The Blackhawks play the Nashville Predators at United Center on Monday in a game pitting the top two teams in the Central Division. Nashville, which has played two less games, trails Chicago by two points in the standings. A win would move the Predators into the top spot in their final regular-season game against the Blackhawks.

"I don't think we're thinking about sending a message," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after Chicago's morning skate. "We're thinking about wanting to win the game. We know the importance of these two-point, four-point swings could be the difference at the end of the year from being in first place. That's the motivation. That's the thought process."

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 2:02 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Jets at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Brad Richards will miss a second straight game for the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, but it's mainly to capitalize on the upcoming break in the schedule.

Richards, who participated in Chicago's morning skate prior to the game against the Winnipeg Jets at United Center, missed his first game Sunday with an undisclosed upper-body injury. The Blackhawks put forward Kris Versteeg at Richards' spot centering the second line, bumped forward Patrick Sharp to left wing of that unit and cruised to a 4-0 home victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The reconfigured line helped generate the Blackhawks' first two goals against Toronto, including Versteeg's goal with less than a second left in the first period. They will line up that way again Tuesday, which gives Richards more time to recover with the Christmas break starting Wednesday.

"With three days off, rushing into a game tonight, why not just get a few more days and come back after the break and know I'm ready to go?'" said Richards who has 18 points (six goals) in 33 games. "That's kind of the plan. Maybe if we didn't have the three-day break it would be different, but why not take advantage of it?"

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Posted On Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 6:08 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Forward Brad Richards will not play for the Chicago Blackhawks because of an undisclosed upper-body injury.

Chicago, which hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs at United Center, will be without the veteran center for the first time this season. The 34-year old Richards had worked his way into the role of centering the second line, with talented forwards Kris Versteeg and Patrick Kane on the wings.

It's unclear how Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will configure his line combinations without Richards, who has 18 points (six goals) in 33 games. Andrew Shaw, who centers the third line, has experience centering Kane's line and could draw the initial look. Forward Ben Smith, who usually plays on the fourth line, has also logged time there last season, as has fourth-line center Marcus Kruger.

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Posted On Tuesday, 12.16.2014 / 2:16 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Wild at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Teams that face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs often develop rivalries that carryover to future seasons, and that appears to be the case with the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild.

Tensions have increased the past two seasons for a couple of reasons. Mainly it's because the Blackhawks have knocked the Wild out of the playoffs the past two seasons. It's also because the Wild, who will play the Blackhawks for the first time this season Tuesday at United Center, were moved into the Central Division last year.

The number of times these teams face each other has grown, and so has the rivalry aspect.

"I mean, it has to," Minnesota defenseman Marco Scandella said after the Wild's optional morning skate. "Two years getting eliminated by the [Blackhawks] is not easy. We felt like we had a good chance of winning that series. Tonight's a different game. It's not the playoffs, but definitely the rivalry is still there."

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Posted On Sunday, 12.14.2014 / 2:56 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Flames at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Calgary Flames have lost a season-high four straight games as they prepare to play the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday at United Center.

They are 1-4-0 in their past five games and have dropped the first three games on their current four-game road trip. A team that surprised many with a strong start is now faced with arguably its biggest challenge to date.

"This is as big of a test as you can get," veteran center Matt Stajan said Sunday. "When you're rolling along and winning games, it's easy. You get the bounces and things are going right. Right now, we're fighting it a bit. We're working hard. We're in every game. We've just got to get that timely goal like we were getting a month ago."

During the losing streak, the Flames have been outscored 14-7 despite outshooting each opponent, including a 45-19 advantage in a 4-3 loss Thursday at the Buffalo Sabres. That was similar to the game Calgary won against the Blackhawks on Oct. 15 in Chicago, when the Flames won 2-1 in overtime and were outshot 50-18.

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Posted On Friday, 12.05.2014 / 2:20 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the rink: Canadiens at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Klas Dahlbeck will have to wait another day, but the Swedish rookie defenseman will make his NHL debut soon for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Chicago hosts the Montreal Canadiens on Friday at United Center and then will play Saturday at the Nashville Predators.

The game against Nashville might be the first NHL game for Dahlbeck, 23, who is the third rookie defenseman to join the Blackhawks through the first 25 games. A long-term injury to rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk, combined with the preseason trade of steady defenseman Nick Leddy, has left a void on Chicago's third defense pairing.

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 2:28 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Blues at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have another injury hurdle to clear with the announcement Wednesday that starting goaltender Corey Crawford will be sidelined for up to three weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

Crawford, who didn't practice Tuesday, met with reporters after the Blackhawks' morning skate at United Center while wearing a walking boot on his left leg. He said the injury occurred as he was leaving a concert, but declined to reveal much more.

"I was at a concert the other day and was on the way out, and I missed a step," he said. "I didn't think it was that bad. I got up the next day and it was worse than I thought, so I'm pretty embarrassed about it and frustrated."

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Posted On Sunday, 11.16.2014 / 5:47 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Stars at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- It's going to be a special night for Brad Richards on Saturday at United Center.

The Chicago Blackhawks veteran center will skate in his 1,000th NHL game and will do it against one of his former teams. The Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars, whom Richards spent parts of four seasons (2007-11) with.

"It's not the normal day," Richards said Sunday. "[There are] a lot of thoughts and memories with all the talk about it. It's amazing the amount of reflecting you do. A lot of people who've helped me are here in town, so to see them [Saturday] for dinner and to have them here [Sunday], it's pretty special and it's hard to believe, really. It flies by so quick; it's hard to believe."

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Posted On Tuesday, 11.11.2014 / 2:48 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Lightning at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning say the game they'll play Tuesday at United Center will be a good early-season barometer.

The Blackhawks haven't strung more than two wins together in their first 15 games, but still garner a lot of respect from the Lightning, who've won six straight and sit atop the NHL standings with 23 points.

"To me, they're the benchmark," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after the morning skate. "There's a couple teams that I believe are elite and they're one of them."

Cooper brought up the first of two games the Lightning and Blackhawks played last season, when his team won 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 5, 2013 at United Center. Other than escaping with two points, it wasn't a particularly fond memory for Cooper or the Lightning.

Goalie Ben Bishop made 37 saves and was the main reason for the win in a game the Lightning were outshot 39-16.

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Posted On Sunday, 11.09.2014 / 5:39 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - 2014-2015 At the Rink blog

At the Rink: Sharks at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- If there's one thing that upsets Joel Quenneville most, it's when his Chicago Blackhawks fail to capitalize in games that should end with points.

In the past, the Blackhawks coach refers to those games as "leaving meat on the table."

Heading into a game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at United Center, Quenneville's team has left behind far too many scraps.

Chicago has lost three straight games at home, the first two by 1-0 scores, and coughed up a 2-0 lead Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, who scored all three goals in the last 4:57 of the second period.

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Quote of the Day

Now we have an 'X' next to our name, which is nice. Now we have to keep trying to climb and catch these guys.

— Lightning goalie Ben Bishop on clinching a Stanley Cup Playoff berth and trailing the Canadiens by one point for the division lead
AMP No Bull Moment of the Week