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Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 1:37 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Sharks-Blackhawks

Joel Quenneville didn't reveal who would start Sunday night's game against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center (7 p.m. ET), but it wouldn't be a surprise to see Corey Crawford in net after Saturday's strong performance.

Chicago did not hold a morning skate on Sunday, but the answer to starting goalie should be relayed by Quenneville on Sunday afternoon when he meets with the media prior to the game.

Here is a look at how the lineups for the Sharks and Blackhawks might look like:

SHARKS
Patrick Marleau - Joe Thornton - Joe Pavelski
Ryane Clowe - Logan Couture - Benn Ferriero
Jamie McGinn - Michal Handzus - Torrey Mitchell
Brad Winchester - Andrew Desjardins - Andrew Murray

Jason Demers - Brent Burns
Dan Boyle - Marc-Edouard Vlasic
Douglas Murray - Justin Braun

Antti Niemi
Thomas Greiss

Desjardins took a hit to the head in Saturday night's game against Columbus and might be held out depending on how he feels upon another examination Saturday in Chicago. If he cannot play, look for Tommy Wingels or Frazer McLaren to draw into the starting lineup.


BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - MichaelFrolik
Jimmy Hayes - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
John Scott - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
Posted On Sunday, 01.15.2012 / 1:36 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Hawks' Crawford rounding into form

CHICAGO -- If it weren't for Corey Crawford, Saturday's 3-2 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena might've been a lot worse for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Crawford allowed two early goals in the first period, but the Hawks were badly outplayed in those 20 minutes -- outshot 21-4 -- and Crawford was forced to make a number of big stops to thwart good Detroit scoring chances.

Crawford also came up huge in the third period to keep his team down by just one goal on a breakaway by Red Wings forward Drew Miller -- turning his attempt away and paving the way for the Hawks to force overtime (and earn a big standings point) in the final minute of regulation.

Despite allowing the eventual game-winner in overtime on Todd Bertuzzi's snap shot off a rebound in the slot that just fluttered past him, Crawford was at his best in that game and has turned around his season after a slump that had him sitting out for six straight games in December.

After earning the starting job in his first full NHL season a year ago, Crawford is again showing why the Hawks allowed former goalie Antti Niemi -- who backstopped them to the 2010 Stanley Cup title -- to leave via free agency prior to last season.

"He's had a great start to his career," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said last week. "Had a great start last year … all big games for us down the stretch. You like his consistency. You like his size. Technically, his position is strong in each and every situation and he's got some quickness to his game."

He's also got some pretty thick skin. Instead of pouting while veteran backup Ray Emery took over the starting duties for that stint last month, Crawford just quietly worked with Hawks goaltending coach Stephane Waite on getting back into top form.

The work paid off. In nine appearances since the extended time off, Crawford has a 2.44 goals-against average and .921 save percentage -- allowing more than three goals just two times, with both of those four-goal games.

"He's a pro and wants to get better," Quenneville said. "He learns. He's got a nice relationship with Steph. The two of them work well together. Nice start to his career and we expect a lot out of him."
Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Quenneville saw 'good things' in Carcillo's short stint

CHICAGO -- Daniel Carcillo's season is over, but despite it being cut short by a knee injury his coach felt like he gave the Chicago Blackhawks what they were looking for when they signed him to a one-year contract last summer.

"I thought he had a good year for us," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Saturday morning at Joe Louis Arena. "I thought he did a lot of good things. I thought he gave us a presence and fulfilled a need and a niche for us. He provided some toughness, some emotion."

Carcillo, who earned a seven-game suspension for his hit on Edmonton's Tom Gilbert on Jan. 2, finished his season after just 28 games by scoring 2 goals and adding 9 assists with a plus-10 rating and 82 penalty minutes.

Carcillo came to Chicago with a reputation for toeing the line between acceptable and punishable conduct on and off the ice -- and even started the season with a two-game suspension for an incident between periods of a playoff game last spring.

Carcillo also got slapped with a two-game suspension in late October for a hit on the Carolina Hurricanes' Joni Pitkanen, which wasn't penalized in the game but was deemed an illegal hit after a review by the League.

Carcillo injured his left knee when he hit Gilbert, who was also hurt on the play. Gilbert's body slammed off the end boards and bounced back toward Carcillo's leg.

Carcillo immediately went down and grabbed his knee. He needed help getting off the ice and couldn't put weight on the leg. The Hawks weighed their options on what to do about the knee before announcing on Friday that he needed surgery to repair it and would be out at least six months.

Carcillo came into the season vowing to turn over a new leaf in regard to the questionable tactics and even adapted his game enough to play up on the first two lines with stars like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp.

His role on those lines was to help open up the ice for the fast, skilled forwards and provide some protection against teams trying to take liberties with the Hawks’ top players. He played the role well, with maybe his most memorable moment on Dec. 3 in St. Louis – when he came to the defense of Kane and Toews during a post-whistle scrum.

"We liked how he played," Quenneville said. "He complemented some nice players and did what he had to do."

Quenneville thinks the gritty veteran forward also learned a lesson this season.

"I think he knows his leash is extremely short and (about) being smart about situations," Quenneville said. "But he had a couple (hits) right there on that line and I think he's got to know when to push."

As for getting a season-ending injury after delivering a hit, Quenneville said it was both odd to see and highly disappointing for Carcillo.

"It was a strange hit, no question about it," Quenneville said. "You can only imagine (how upset he is)."
Posted On Saturday, 01.14.2012 / 12:04 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Projected lineups for Blackhawks, Red Wings

DETROIT -- Chicago Blackhawks rookie Marcus Kruger (concussion) will get back into the lineup for Saturday afternoon's game against the Detroit Red Wings (12:20 p.m., NBC). Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he won’t likely start him off in the same role he held before getting hurt on Dec. 26 -- when he was centering the second line between Sharp and Hossa.

"He's ready to play," Quenneville said. "We're very happy the way he played with us. We'll see how he's progressing and maybe he'll work his way up (the lineup)."

Corey Crawford will start in goal for the Hawks, while Jimmy Howard will start for Detroit -- which trails Chicago by two points in the Central Division, but could leap to the top spot with a win because of a better points percentage with one less game played.

Here's how the lineups might look like for the Blackhawks and Red Wings:

BLACKHAWKS
Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Jimmy Hayes - Dave Bolland - Marian Hossa
Andrew Shaw - Marcus Kruger - Michael Frolik
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

RED WINGS

Johan Franzen - Pavel Datsyuk - Danny Cleary or Todd Bertuzzi
Valtteri Filppula - Henrik Zetterberg - Jiri Hudler
Drew Miller - Darren Helm - Jan Mursak
Cory Emmerton - Justin Abdelkader - Tomas Holmstrom

Nicklas Lidstrom - Ian White
Niklas Kronwall - Brad Stuart
Jakub Kindl - Jonathan Ericsson

Jimmy Howard
Ty Conklin

Bertuzzi is a game-time decision (back/groin). If he plays, Mursak likely will sit and Cleary will go back to RW on the third line.
Posted On Thursday, 01.12.2012 / 2:48 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Setoguchi back in lineup after one-game benching

CHICAGO -- After being a healthy scratch against his former team on Tuesday, Minnesota Wild forward Devin Setoguchi will go right back into his spot at left wing of the top line on Thursday night against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Wild coach Mike Yeo decided to sit Setoguchi against the San Jose Sharks in Minnesota's previous game for what's been reported as the former Shark missing a team meeting. That meant he had to watch his new team beat his old team in street clothes at Xcel Energy Center, rather than contributing on the ice.

Setoguchi has 8 goals and 6 assists in 30 games, but also has a minus-7 rating after being dealt to Minnesota by San Jose last summer. He scored 22, 20 and 31 goals in his previous three seasons for the Sharks, but thus far isn't playing up to that kind of production for the Wild.

Yeo, however, expects Setoguchi to give an inspired effort against the Hawks on Thursday night.

"I think he's going to play hard tonight," Yeo said after Minnesota's morning skate at the United Center. "I always like accountability and I always like, even more than that, if you mess up then you come right back and respond. That's what we've done as a team many times this year and he's been a part of that, and I would expect him to do the same tonight."

The Wild are also counting on another solid performance from goalie Josh Harding, who will get the start with Niklas Backstrom still too sick to play. Matt Hackett will be Harding's backup, as the Wild try to duplicate the effort they gave against the Sharks without Setoguchi on the left side of captain Mikko Koivu.

Despite struggling to score goals this season, the Wild managed to beat San Jose starter Antti Niemi four times in regulation and twice in the shootout.

"Last game was a game that we have to try and go out and build off of," Yeo said. "We scored four goals against a team last game that doesn't give up a lot of goals. That doesn't mean we're just going to go out and do that at will now, but if we put in what we did last game we'll give ourselves a good chance."

That doesn't necessarily mean setting up the perfect pass for great scoring chances, either. It means swarming the net, being physical and trying to get the puck past Chicago goalie Ray Emery any way possible.

"We have to keep that type of mentality," Yeo said. "We don't score a ton of pretty goals, but that doesn't mean we can't score goals. We just have to do it the hard way."

Here's what the lineups for Minnesota and Chicago might look like on Thursday night:

WILD
Devin Setoguchi - Mikko Koivu - Dany Heatley
Cal Clutterbuck - Matt Cullen - Casey Wellman
Darrell Powe - Kyle Brodziak - Nick Johnson
David McIntyre - Warren Peters - Brad Staubitz

Nick Schultz - Jared Spurgeon
Marek Zidlicky - Justin Falk
Clayton Stoner - Greg Zanon

Josh Harding
Matt Hackett

BLACKHAWKS

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Jimmy Hayes - Dave Bolland - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Jamal Mayers - Ben Smith
Andrew Brunette - Andrew Shaw - Michael Frolik

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Niklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'Donnell - Steve Montador

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:55 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Carcillo may need surgery; Kruger improving

CHICAGO -- Following his team's optional practice on Wednesday, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said that Daniel Carcillo might undergo surgery to repair what appeared to be a lower-body injury that happened on Jan. 2 against the Edmonton Oilers.

Carcillo was hurt delivering a hit to Oilers defenseman Tom Gilbert behind the Edmonton goal, which was penalized and resulted in a seven-game suspension for the gritty Blackhawks forward -- of which he’s already served four games.

Asked on Wednesday to update Carcillo's health status, Quenneville said: “No update. With Danny there’s a chance he might need surgery.”

Quenneville was then asked whether the surgery might end Carcillo's season if he has it.

"Well, we'll see," Quenneville said. "Whether it's at the discussion stages or where we're at (with it), but it's still out there."

The suspension is Carcillo's third served this season, including a two-game carryover for an incident with an official during last season's playoffs when he was a Philadelphia Flyer plus a second two-game penalty for an illegal hit from behind against Carolina's Joni Pitkanen.

Carcillo also suffered an upper-body injury believed to be related to concussion symptoms in a game on Dec. 14 against the Minnesota Wild that kept him out for six games.

In other Blackhawks-related injury news, rookie center Marcus Kruger continues to make progress in his recovery from what's believed to be a concussion. Kruger, who had been centering the second line between Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa before he got hurt, has missed seven straight games.

Sharp has since been injured (upper body/wrist), but Quenneville said Kruger is getting close to returning to play in games. He's been skating on his own and in team-related drills for almost a week.

"I don't think we're looking at (Thursday against the Wild), but maybe more toward the weekend," Quenneville said.

Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:51 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Frolik hopes for offensive spark from shift to center

CHICAGO - The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It's the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this season for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik's role will change - at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely play center on the second line to start Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m. ET) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik's line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

"I played here last year a few games at center and it's just a different mind-set a little bit," said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. "It's more responsibility down low and for sure it's a good opportunity. We'll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it's going to be good."

Moving to the middle is going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn't have to worry about while playing wing.

"It's more work, but I don't mind it," Frolik said. "You're kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You're in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don't really mind it."

Of course, what's not to mind when playing with Hossa - Chicago's leading scorer with 44 points?

Frolik and Hossa are also Slovakian countrymen, so they should also connect verbally on the ice.

"He's one of the best in the League and it's a great opportunity to play with him," Frolik said. "We can talk to each other, too -- same language. It's kind of good. It's great to play with him for sure."
Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:50 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Switch to center could jumpstart Chicago's Frolik

CHICAGO – The speed is still there and Michael Frolik often uses it defensively while backchecking and putting a halt to opposing attacks.

It’s the other end of the rink that has given Frolik some trouble, both this year for the Chicago Blackhawks and in his four-year career as a whole. Frolik has scored five goals and added six assists while playing in 40 games this season, but he has yet to turn that impressive speed and skill combination into a full-on explosion of offense.

Now that star forward Patrick Sharp will miss three to four weeks with an undisclosed upper-body injury, Frolik’s role will change – at least initially. After playing the wing for most of this season, Frolik will likely center the second line to start Tuesday night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (8:30 p.m.) at the United Center.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville had rookie Ben Smith on the left wing of Frolik’s line and star Marian Hossa on the right side.

“I played here last year a few games at center and it’s just a different mind-set a little bit,” said Frolik, who was acquired last year in a trade that sent former Hawks speedster Jack Skille to the Florida Panthers. “It’s more responsibility down low and for sure it’s a good opportunity. We’ll see how it goes tonight. Hopefully it’s going to be good.”

It’s going to be a little tougher than playing the wing, too. Frolik will have some faceoff and defensive coverage duties to handle that he didn’t have to worry about while playing wing.

“It’s more work, but I don’t mind it,” Frolik said. “You’re kind of more (involved in) the game and you get the puck more. You’re in the middle, so you get more pucks. I don’t really mind it.”

Of course, what’s not to mind when playing with Hossa – Chicago’s leading scorer with 44 points?

“He’s one of the best in the League and it’s a great opportunity to play with him,” Frolik said. “We can talk to each other, too – same language. It’s kind of good. It’s great to play with him for sure.”
Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 5:44 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Chicago's Smith hopes low-key approach helps him stick

CHICAGO – Add another rookie face to the locker room of the Chicago Blackhawks, only the latest one is already familiar with the Windy City.

Forward Ben Smith was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Monday afternoon to take the roster spot of star forward Patrick Sharp – who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury that happened Sunday against the Detroit Red Wings.

Smith was impressive in a call-up at the end of last season and even wound up scoring the game-winning goal in overtime of Game 6 of a memorable first-round playoff loss to the Vancouver Canucks. He was thought to have an inside track on a roster spot to start this season in Chicago, but was injured in a pre-season game and sent back to Rockford to start out.

He was then recalled earlier this season and scored one goal in seven games before being sent back to Rockford once again to work more on his offensive game. Thanks to the Sharp injury, he’s back and hoping to make a good impression yet again.

“You always learn a little bit every time you’re up here, and for me maybe (I was) feeling a bit too much of the pressure (during the first call-up) and not taking it day by day, as I’ve done in the past,” Smith said. “You learn every time you’re here. I can learn from that experience, as I can learn from the experience last year. I’m just hoping for a good day.”

His approach to the game and practices, however, wasn’t the biggest issue that prompted Smith to be sent back to the minors this year. It was his patience with the puck, which Hawks coach Joel Quenneville and Chicago’s management wanted him to hone more.

“He’s always got a good attitude,” Quenneville said. “That’s what you’ve got to love about Benny. He’s a driven kid who wants to play up here and we saw what he’s capable of last year. He had a real good start to camp and a tough ending. Last time up here it looked like he was catching up to himself. We envisioned him to be here this year and I love watching him practice. He was flying out there (during Tuesday’s skate), so he’s excited about getting back here.”

He’s also breathing a little easier this time and keeping his focus more narrowly focused on playing his own style.

“Just try not to feel so much of the pressure and enjoy being here,” Smith said of his approach this time around. “I’m having fun every day and working hard – just doing what I do. That’s something I will try and do this time around.”
Posted On Tuesday, 01.10.2012 / 4:56 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - At the Rink blog

Richards empathizes with fired coach Arniel

CHICAGO -- A year ago, Todd Richards went through what recently-fired Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel is going through now.

He was fired as head coach of the Minnesota Wild and said it took quite a while to get past it personally. In fact, Richards compared it to going through a divorce.

"It's really hard," he said. "When you put so much into it and really, when you get to this stage at this level, you're putting everything into it -- from getting there and changing the locker room to setting up your office to setting up your routines and how you want things to work. So, you are putting everything into it. When you get let go, what's really being said is 'We're going to move forward and we believe in moving forward and you aren't the guy.' That's a tough pill to swallow."

Richards, one of Arniel's assistant coaches before being named the new Blue Jackets head coach on Monday, said he did have a chance to talk with Arniel and share his own experience being let go from Minnesota. That didn't make it any easier on either of them.

"That's why the last 24 hours have been really tough," Richards said. "Hopefully I was able to help him out a little bit just from what I went through. It takes time, too. It's not just one of those things that happens and within two weeks or a month you're over it. It doesn't happen that way. It's a divorce and it takes time to build other things up. Really what helps is when you get into another relationship, that you're able to start letting go of the previous relationship."

As for being a head coach again, Richards said it's apples and oranges compared to being an assistant.

"No comparison," he said after running the Columbus morning skate on Tuesday at the United Center. "Assistant coach to head coach … you're always going as a head coach. You've got responsibilities with (media), got responsibilities with players, with staff, assistant coaches, practice, lineups, power plays … you're always going and working. The previous year, when I got let go from Minnesota, it's pretty amazing how quickly I shut the mind off. Now it's trying to get that motor started up again."
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