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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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).
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."
CHICAGO -- Brent Seabrook is one of the core group players with long-term contracts for the Chicago Blackhawks, but he often gets overshadowed by bigger names on the roster.
If you look at the Blackhawks' stats during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Seabrook's name is near the top in scoring. In fact, the first-pair defenseman is tied with captain Jonathan Toews for second with 11 points (two goals, nine assists).
Chicago leads the Los Angeles Kings 1-0 in the best-of-7 Western Conference Final, and Seabrook again played well Sunday at United Center. He led the Blackhawks with five hits, blocked four shots and put two shots on goal, finishing with a plus-1 rating in 23:33 of ice time.
Hjalmarsson was cleared to speak again Monday and met with reporters at United Center for the first time since the injury occurred. After being struck by the puck Hjalmarsson dropped to the ice and grabbed his throat. He was down for a few minutes before slowly skating to the bench to get his breath back. He didn't miss a shift and has played all five games since it happened, including Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday.
"It was pretty scary once it happened," said Hjalmarsson, who has worn a Kevlar neck protector the past five games. "It was tough to breathe there for a couple minutes. I was just glad that I recovered quickly. And once I figured out that I'm able to breathe, it was a big relief. I guess I was pretty lucky and I'm just glad to be able to talk again and can't wait to get rid of that neck guard that I'm still wearing."
Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 1-0 after a 3-1 victory in the opener at United Center. Hjalmarsson did what he does best to help the team, logging 18:55 of ice time, blocking four shots and helping the Blackhawks kill off both Kings power plays.
Shaw has missed the past six games with a lower-body injury sustained in Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round against the Minnesota Wild.
"We'll put him in practice [Tuesday] with the full group and make an assessment on him," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's made some real good progress the last few days and he felt pretty good [Monday]."
The good news for the Blackhawks is that Shaw, a scrappy, versatile second-year forward, is close to skating again and might be able to return in the pending Western Conference Final against either the Anaheim Ducks or Los Angeles Kings.
Game 1 is scheduled for Sunday.
"[He] certainly adds an ingredient you appreciate as a coach and a teammate," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "[He] has that relentless competitiveness, some skill offensively and he's hard to play against. Nice set of hands, can take faceoffs, play center, wing. You look forward to getting him back. We expect to have him back on the ice this weekend and we'll get a better determination of when he'll play."
Though he's showing progress with a lower-body injury that occurred in Game 1 of a Western Conference Second Round series against the Minnesota Wild, Shaw will miss Game 6 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center (9 p.m. ET; CNBC, TSN, RDS2).
It will be the third straight trip to St. Paul he won't make, after sitting out Game 3 and Game 4 this past week. Chicago leads the best-of-7 series 3-2 after grinding out a 2-1 victory Sunday in Game 5 at United Center.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks don't always show a killer instinct early in a Stanley Cup Playoffs series, but the defending Stanley Cup champions sure know how to capitalize when given a chance to clinch.
Since 2009 the Blackhawks are 11-2 in series close-out games in their favor with a chance to up that mark Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild.
They're also looking to go 14-0 since 2009 in Game 5 and Game 6 of series that were tied 2-2, after winning 2-1 in Game 5 against the Wild on Sunday at United Center. Chicago now leads a best-of-7 series 3-2 against Minnesota in the Western Conference Second Round, with a chance to close it out in Game 6 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center (9 p.m., CNBC, TSN, RDS2).
"I don't know [why]," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said, when asked to give a reason for the domination of series-clinching contests. "It's something I wasn't really aware of, but we have a lot of characters in the room [who] are good in important games, [who] step up and play their best hockey in games like that. A lot of good leaders and other guys have been around [and] have experience. I think that's key in situations like this."
CHICAGO --Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is searching for more balanced scoring throughout his forward lines again, which could only mean one thing for practice Thursday at United Center.
The "Q line blender" was back at work.
Quenneville shuffled all four of his lines from how they were comprised during a 4-0 loss Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center against the Minnesota Wild in Game 3 of a Western Conference Second Round series.
The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Friday in Minnesota (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS), but they'll probably have a new look for the Wild.
"We're looking for balance and maybe all lines, a little more threat to score on all the lines," Quenneville said. "That's what we're looking for a little bit. Offense, defensive reliability, [while] at the same time having maybe more offense spread out throughout our lineup."
The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Friday at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Shaw, who has a lower-body injury, was injured in the opening game of the series on a hit by Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner.
The Blackhawks initially hoped Shaw would be ready to play Game 3 on Tuesday in Minnesota, a 4-1 Wild victory, but he didn't make the trip. They returned to Chicago following the game and there was hope Shaw might make the return trip for Game 4 on Friday. Instead, Shaw didn't practice Thursday at United Center and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Shaw will not travel with the team.
"Every guy's different and, you know, I think he's a very competitive guy and probably he would've done anything he could to play," Quenneville said. "I think we've got to tame him a little bit in that regard, so I think that was maybe what we were talking about at the time."
CHICAGO -- The availability of Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw remains uncertain for Game 4 of their Western Conference Second Round series Friday at Xcel Energy Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Chicago leads the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. Minnesota won 4-0 in Game 3 on Tuesday in St. Paul, the second straight game Chicago played without Shaw.
A hit from Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner knocked Shaw out of Game 1 in the first period with a lower-body injury and his prognosis is unknown. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville first told reporters prior to Game 2 at United Center that he was hopeful Shaw would play in Game 3.
Quenneville then said Shaw might make the return trip to the Twin Cities for Game 4, but now that possibility seems up in the air.
"We'll see," Quenneville said Wednesday. "That's to be determined."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are being outshot by nearly five shots a game, but they are outscoring teams by more than a goal per game and have won six straight in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Opponents have outshot the defending Stanley Cup champions by a 266-230 margin in Chicago's eight postseason games, but the Blackhawks hold a 29-17 edge in goals.
They're scoring 3.6 goals per game and allowing only 2.1 to get past goalie Corey Crawford. Asked Monday if trailing in shots by such a wide margin was a concern, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville shook his head.
Shaw, who missed Game 2 of the best-of-7 series Sunday with a lower-body injury that occurred in Game 1, did not make the trip. The Blackhawks will fly home following Game 3 and there is a chance that Shaw will make the return trip to play in Game 4 on Friday in St. Paul, Minnesota.
"We still think he's going on the next part of this trip and could play Friday," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said Monday during a press conference at O'Hare Airport.
After he played the most of any player on either team in the first period of Chicago's 4-1 victory Sunday against the Minnesota Wild, Leddy ended up with a total of 13:48 ice time in 15 shifts; he played 46 seconds in the third period.
After Minnesota forward Cody McCormick scored at 2:00 of the third to cut the Blackhawks' lead to 2-1, Leddy didn't play another shift. The 23-year-old defenseman couldn't stop a cross-ice pass that led to the goal, but that play might've been a "last straw" situation after he struggled with turnovers for much of the game.
Forward Brandon Bollig, who played all seven prior games of this postseason, was a late scratch after pregame warm-up. Veteran forward Kris Versteeg, who missed Game 1 while sick, will play along with rookie forward Joakim Nordstrom.
Shaw has a lower-body injury that knocked him out of Game 1 midway through the first period after he absorbed a big hit by Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner along the boards in the offensive zone.
"He's a competitive guy," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We love his style and we like what he brings to our team. He's a hard-working type of guy and [gives a] relentless type of an effort game in and game out. So we'll fill his shoes today and expect him back."
CHICAGO -- By this point, the Chicago Blackhawks are old pros at overcoming the odds to win series in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Entering the Western Conference Second Round against the Minnesota Wild, which started Friday at United Center with a 5-2 Chicago win, the Blackhawks overcame deficits in three of their previous four series to win, dating to the 2013 playoffs.
They came back from a 3-1 deficit to beat the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Semifinals. They came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat the Boston Bruins in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. This year, they climbed out of a 2-0 hole to beat the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference First Round.
CHICAGO --Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw is questionable to play against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday because of a lower-body injury he sustained Friday in the opener of their Western Conference Second Round series.
Shaw, who's been playing right wing on the third line, was hit hard in Game 1 by Wild defenseman Clayton Stoner along the boards in the offensive zone at 10:34 of the first period. He finished the shift before hobbling to the bench and heading to the training room.
He did not return to that game, a 5-2 Chicago win, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Saturday that Shaw is questionable for Game 2 on Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TSN, RDS), but he labeled it a short-term issue.
For the second Stanley Cup Playoff game in a row, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville scratched Versteeg following the pregame warmups, opting to play rookie forward Joakim Nordstrom instead.
Versteeg, not Nordstrom, took line rushes at right wing on the fourth line in warmups. Nordstrom was kept off the score sheet in Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues when Quenneville did the same thing.
"You just have to get ready for the next one," Versteeg said Wednesday following a practice. "Obviously, you always want to play, but you have to understand what the coach feels and what's best for the team. It's something you want to fight through and come back and be a factor in helping the team."
Chicago didn't allow a power-play goal against Minnesota in 12 man-advantages during a five-game Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Wild players who experienced that drought haven't forgotten heading into their Western Conference Second Round series against the Blackhawks that starts with Game 1 Friday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
"I thought we got a couple [power-play goals] in the regular season [against Chicago this year] but that's the regular season, it doesn't really matter," Minnesota left wing Zach Parise said. "It did frustrate us last year. I don't think we got one on them the whole series. To me, that's an area that we have to be a lot better at this year."
Bryzgalov relieved Darcy Kuemper with 8:13 left in regulation in a 5-4 Game 7 overtime win against the Colorado Avalanche in the Western Conference First Round. Kuemper remains day-to-day with an upper-body injury and did not make the trip to Chicago for the start of the best-of-7 series.
"He's going to go get checked out and he's getting worked on, and that's why we have him at day-to-day," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after the morning skate Friday.
Toews was the lone Blackhawks player missing at the skate, but coach Joel Quenneville said it's nothing serious. The Blackhawks host the Minnesota Wild on Friday in Game 1 of a Western Conference Second Round series (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks like to use their rush game to create scoring chances. On Sunday against the St. Louis Blues, they get back an important piece of their lineup.
After missing three games while suspended for an illegal hit in Game 2 of the Western Conference First Round series, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will return for Game 6 at United Center (3 p.m. ET, CBC, NBC, RDS). Seabrook is one of the best passing defenders on the Blackhawks, particularly on exits from the defensive zone with direct, accurate stretch passes.
He's also got a big shot from the point and isn't afraid to join the rush from time to time. Seabrook scored a goal and had an assist in each of the first two games against the Blues.
CHICAGO -- Forward Ben Smith started this season seeking an everyday role for the Chicago Blackhawks. He wound up with a couple of important ones for the NHL's defending champions in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blackhawks have a potential series-clinching game Sunday, and Smith's versatility has come in handy for coach Joel Quennveille.
With Chicago leading 3-2, Game 6 of the Western Conference First Round series against the St. Louis Blues is Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
CHICAGO -- It's not really surprising anymore to see Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews named as a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which is awarded annually to the NHL's best defensive forward.
That recognition year after year is a major accomplishment in the mind of the 25-year old, who was named a finalist Thursday after winning last season. It's the third time in the past four seasons Toews has been a finalist.
"You look at the other two guys, to be in company with those two players is a huge honor, two centermen that were [big] parts of their Stanley Cup-winning teams in the last couple of years," Toews said. "I guess to be compared to those players is what I'm going for as a hockey player. It's a huge accomplishment for me."
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."
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."
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."
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.
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."
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."
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).
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.
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.
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."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks will host the rival St. Louis Blues on Sunday at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC,TSN2) and they're sticking with the same lineup that's won the past two games.
Only four games remain in the regular season for Chicago (44-19-15), which trails the Colorado Avalanche by three points for second place in the Central Division with only four games left.
Each of the past two games was played without top forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, who are sidelined with injuries until the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The lineup designed to be simpler in structure, yet the Blackhawks haven't lacked too much offensively. They beat the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shootout Thursday at United Center on 26 shots and followed it up a day later with a 4-3 victory at the Columbus Blue Jackets on 38 shots.
The defending Stanley Cup champions trail the second-place Colorado Avalanche by three points.
The Wild (89 points) are trying to further secure the first Western Conference wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Blackhawks are hoping to slice into the Avalanche lead for home-ice advantage in the first round. Chicago has lost three straight games, all played on the road without Kane (lower body), and now will play without he and Toews (upper body).
The Blackhawks have played one other regular-season game without Kane and Toews, and that was for rest purposes in the final game of the 2012-13 season at the St. Louis Blues.
"Obviously we missed [Kane] on that trip there, but now without [Toews] and him at the same time, offensively … I think that's why we're looking to play a tight, simple game," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said after the morning skate. "I don't think you have quite the skill across the board and those guys usually enhance their linemates and their lines. It's a situation where we have to make sure we play the right way. We've got to play hard, we've got to play simple and look to play tight."
Right wing Daniel Alfredsson has a lower-body injury and will not play against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. NBCSN, RDS, TSN2). Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said Alfredsson was day-to-day.
Alfredsson did not participate in the morning skate Wednesday after not practicing Tuesday, when he told reporters he planned to play against Boston. Alfredsson didn't speak with reporters after the skate Wednesday.
Detroit will play without center Pavel Datsyuk, who is back to skating after an injury to his left knee but isn't ready from a conditioning standpoint to return to live action. Datsyuk rested for a couple weeks in March to let the pain in his knee subside and only recently got back on the ice for practices.
"Feel much better," Datsyuk said after the Red Wings skate. "Happy to skate with the team."
Abdelkader, who was injured during a 4-1 loss March 16 at the Chicago Blackhawks, has missed seven games. Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said he'll watch pregame warm-ups before he settles on a starting lineup.
Ansar Khan, of MLive.com, and Chuck Pleiness, of the Macomb (Mich.) Daily, each reported Sunday morning that Detroit general manager Ken Holland said Abdelkader would play against the Lightning. Holland also told them center Darren Helm, who had a hat trick against Toronto, was fine after being run into the boards in the third period of that game.
DETROIT -- One by one, the Detroit Red Wings are making their way from the training room back to the ice.
The tables inside the trainer's office still are crowded, but things finally are starting to thin out in there as the Red Wings look to extend their string of Stanley Cup Playoffs appearances to 23 straight seasons.
"He probably thinks he's dragging those old guys around," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the morning skate. "I can put [Gustav] Nyquist back there in a heartbeat, but Nyquist on that [second] line is flying. [Jurco] has a skill set, he makes good plays with the puck [and] can really skate. That line needs more tempo. We're trying to have more balance. We need to generate on more than just one line."
Bickell joined the Blackhawks for the morning skate Tuesday at United Center, prior to playing the Dallas Stars, and hopes to return to the lineup later this week. He'll make the upcoming three-game road trip and be reassessed at some point during it.
"I'm excited for that," Bickell said. "I wish I was playing now, but [the] reason I'm not playing is to get better. There are a long couple of months coming up [in the Stanley Cup Playoffs], and I need to be 100 percent to help out this team."
The 21-year old Saad, in his second full season, missed three games with an undisclosed upper-body injury. His versatility and skill have become valuable assets to coach Joel Quenneville, who's played him on both wings and on each of the top three lines.
Saad has scored 19 goals and has 25 assists in 68 games.
Forsberg was called up to help with a shortage of forwards going into the game Sunday against the Chicago Blackhawks, who've won two straight games and hope to chase down the St. Louis Blues for the top spot in the Central Division.
The Blackhawks, who won't have Kane for the rest of the regular season because of a lower-body injury, also won't suit up 19-year old rookie forward Teuvo Teravainen, who arrived in Chicago on Thursday from Finland.
"It is what it is," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after the morning skate. "Everybody has issues, healthwise, over the course of a season, and I don't know if there's any good time that you've got to deal with it, but we've been fortunate as far as that's gone throughout most of the season. Right now we're dealing with a little bit of it, nothing of the serious end. Missing [Kane] really gives you a lot of different things that you can try right now, and hopefully some guys absorb and take advantage of that situation."
Instead, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks (38-15-14) are searching for the smelling salt and their snarl after losing two straight games and falling to third in the Central Division.
"I wish they had won 10 in a row so they would be taking us lightly," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock told reporters in Detroit on Saturday. "They've dropped a couple in a row here and that's part of the business. Real good teams have some lulls in the season and then they usually get rolling again, and without question I'm sure they will."
"Hopefully it's one of those two games," Hossa said. "You're never happy when something like this happens but it's part of our sport. You want to be back right away but it takes some time. Hopefully the time will come in those two games, Philly or Detroit, and I'll be back."
DETROIT --David Legwand has been inside the Detroit Red Wings locker room at Joe Louis Arena before, but never with his nameplate over one of the stalls.
That changed Thursday morning. Legwand, originally from suburban Detroit, rekindled some of his childhood dreams by pulling on a Red Wings uniform for the first time.
After spending his entire 15-year NHL career in the Music City for the Nashville Predators, the 33-year old Legwand took part in his first morning skate in the Motor City as a Red Wing.
"I think every kid growing up here is a Red Wings fan, as they should be," Legwand said. "The tradition, the history, the players that have been here from the past, they’ve meant a lot to the city and to the team."
Saad's two-way style is even starting to resemble Hossa's, so it's not too surprising he'll get the first look to fill the Blackhawks' vacant spot at right wing on the top line Tuesday night at United Center in a big game against the Colorado Avalanche.
After playing all of last season on the left side of that line, Saad has shifted around the lineup this season. He's played on both wings, on the second and third lines, and even dabbled a bit at center in training camp. That experience could now pay off in a pinch for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who expect to be without Hossa for 2-3 weeks.
"It's huge to have depth on a team," Saad said following Chicago's morning skate. "Injuries are going to happen, so I think with the team we have and the depth we have, it's why we had success before. To be able to fill those roles or take [people's] places as best you can, it's a huge help to the team."
Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman provided an answer Saturday night at Soldier Field before his team faced the Pittsburgh Penguins in the final game of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series.
Rather than making a move in response to the Blues acquiring goalie Ryan Miller and center Steve Ott from the Buffalo Sabres on Friday, Bowman said the defending Stanley Cup champions plan to stand pat heading into the NHL Trade Deadline on Wednesday afternoon (3 p.m. ET).
"I think you can't be reactionary that way," Bowman, who's been at the helm for Chicago's Stanley Cup titles in 2010 and 2013. "Those guys haven't even played a game yet in St. Louis. You kind of have to see how it all shakes out, but we're more focused on what we can do. We have to play good hockey."
"We might have seven defensemen [playing]," Blackhawks coach Joel Quennevillle told reporters two hours before puck drop against the Winnipeg Jets.
Keith missed Chicago's last game while sick and Chicago lost 2-1 against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center and also missed practice Saturday. Getting him back should help the Blackhawks' puck possession, but Quenneville's news that one of the forwards will likely sit in favor of a defensemen raised a few eyebrows.
DETROIT -- They're still dealing with a glut of injuries, but the Detroit Red Wings are slowly starting to get some players back into their lineup.
The latest is top-pair defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who will play Wednesday night against the rival Chicago Blackhawks at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). Ericsson, who's missed two 10-game stints for separate injuries, said he's "good to go," now that a broken rib that sidelined him since late December is healed enough to play.
"It's been [feeling] good, I just knew it was going to take some time," Ericsson said. "I know it was something that wasn't going to get better overnight, so I've been patient about it, I've been trying to stay positive and all that. ... I think the healing process has been faster maybe than they thought, so that's good."
The 25-year old Kane, who leads the Chicago Blackhawks in scoring, was hot on the heels of the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain in the NHL points race a couple weeks ago. He's since fallen off Crosby's lead pace of 68 points by 12 points.
"He produces every night," Kane said of Crosby (25 goals and 43 assists). "He's fun to watch. Even on nights where he maybe doesn't have his best game, he still comes out of there with two assists or a goal and an assist. Then there's games where it seems like he's determined, and he's the best player in the world and just dominates the game. You're like, 'Wow, this guy is amazing.' I think he's the best the player in the League for sure."
Heading into the Blackhawks' game Sunday against the Boston Bruins at United Center (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NHLN-CA), Kane (23 goals and 33 assists) ranks fourth in scoring. He's still having a magnificent season, on pace for what would be a career-high 92 points, but Kane has gone nine straight games without scoring a goal. He has one goal and five assists in the past 10 games.
After both missed Chicago's practice on Thursday, they joined teammates on the ice Friday for the Blackhawks' morning skate. Seabrook missed practice Thursday with an illness and Hossa was held out for a "maintenance day," according to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville.
The Ducks (36-8-5), who have won eight straight games and 18 of their last 19, made a couple moves Friday. They sent defenseman Luca Sbisa and goalie John Gibson to Norfolk of the American Hockey League, with Sbisa's trip a two-game conditioning assignment following a torn tendon in his right hand that's sidelined him for 24 games.
CHICAGO -- The Colorado Avalanche are going through a tough stretch with injuries and the picture didn't get much better Tuesday at United Center.
Center Paul Stastny did not participate in the morning skate because of an undisclosed leg injury that forced him to leave Colorado's previous game Friday at the Minnesota Wild and will not face the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Stastny, who has 13 goals and 21 assists in 43 games, also sat out practice Monday.
"He's day-to-day and he's not ready to play [Tuesday]," Colorado coach Patrick Roy said. "We're going to play seven [defensemen] because Paul's not ready. We're going to have 20 guys, so everybody's going to have their share of ice time, I guess."
Eakins said after his team's morning skate Sunday that Devan Dubnyk will get the nod after picking up a 4-3 win in overtime against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night at Rexall Place.
The Blackhawks (29-8-10) and Oilers (15-27-5) will conclude their season series with Chicago looking for a sweep after winning by scores of 5-4 and 5-1 in the first two games.
"We're going to go back with Devan," Eakins said. "As I've said before, your plans with goalies ... I shake my head at myself. Why even do it? It always changes. We are going to go back with Devan. We thought he played well and thought the team played well in front of him."
CHICAGO -- A season after making himself a big factor in the Chicago Blackhawks winning the 2013 Stanley Cup and earning a sizable new contract, Bryan Bickell is now searching for that magic.
Instead of causing havoc for opposing goalies and defensemen, the 6-foot-4, 233-pound forward is spending more time sitting on the bench of late, coming to a head this past Sunday when he watched the third period and overtime of a 3-2 shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks.
"Well, it's not good," Bickell said of logging just 5:20 and nine shifts. "You want to be out there to help your team win, especially last game in a close game, to have that goal or a hit to change momentum. But I've learned from the experience and I've got to bounce back from it."
He'll get a chance Wednesday night at United Center against the New York Rangers (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2). Prior to the season, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville hoped Bickell might approach the 30-goal plateau, but those expectations quickly tempered after a slow start. Bickell, who has six goals and eight points in 31 games, shifted from his top-line spot to his more familiar role at left wing on the third line.
CHICAGO --Patrick Sharp tried not to think about the 2014 Sochi Olympics much, but even he couldn't help it as Canada's scheduled roster revealing neared Tuesday morning.
The 32-year old Sharp, from Thunder Bay, Ontario, started mulling his chances to make the Canadian roster last week, after recording his second hat trick in a seven-day span. It was on his mind ever since, even as he stepped into the shower Tuesday morning before heading to practice.
That's when the phone rang.
"I just got out of the shower and had a voice mail," Sharp said. "I had my phone with me the whole time. I was surprised I didn't have it in the shower with me. I got a call from Doug Armstrong, the GM of St. Louis, and I called him back as soon as I could and he didn't answer. I listed to the voice mail a couple more times and confirmed that I was going. He called me right back and we had a good talk. It was a special moment."
After winning the Stanley Cup twice in the past four seasons, they've accomplished that goal. Other teams are now striving to be young, fast and high-powered at both ends of the rink, just like them.
The San Jose Sharks are one of those teams. San Jose (26-10-8) is in town to face the Blackhawks on Sunday night at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN) and coach Todd McLellan isn't coy about who sets the NHL's standard bar for excellence.
"They have to be the bar," McLellan said of the Blackhawks. "You don't win two out of [four] and not be the bar. So, whether they like it or not, and I'm sure they do like it, they are the bar. That comes with success. That comes with expectations. Teams will try and emulate their plan, the way they've built, the way they carry themselves and the way they execute on the ice, because it's been proven to be successful."
The Sharks in particular are one of those teams that appear to be emulating what makes Chicago tick. They even have two members of the Blackhawks roster that won the Stanley Cup in 2010: goalie Antti Niemi and forward Adam Burish.
Corey Crawford, who has missed nine straight games with a lower-body injury that's reportedly a groin issue, said he felt "great" after participating in the Blackhawks' morning skate Monday at United Center.
"I feel great," said Crawford, who skated in a team workout for the first time since leaving the lineup Dec. 8 at home against the Florida Panthers. "After the Christmas break everything's gone well. I haven't felt the injury at all on the ice, so I'm ready to go."
CHICAGO -- Among all the record breakdowns, the only one that's close to marginal for the Chicago Blackhawks is against Central Division teams.
Chicago is 8-6-1 against teams in its division with a back-to-back set this weekend against the two closest teams to the Blackhawks in the Central, the third-place Colorado Avalanche and second-place St. Louis Blues.
The Blackhawks (26-7-6) will host the Avalanche (23-10-3) on Friday at United Center and then make the trip to play the Blues on Saturday at Scottrade Center.
"It's nice being at the top of the League in the standings, but you know these division games are [against] teams you face a lot," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said. "It'd be nice to get a little better record than that and improve. I guess we have some games ahead of us that we can do that in the next two."
CHICAGO -- The New Jersey Devils will head into the Christmas break by playing the defending Stanley Cup champions Monday at United Center.
"I could think of better places to end," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said, laughing. "But you've got to come here at some point. Our guys are excited for the challenge."
The NHL-leading Blackhawks (25-7-6) are looking forward to it after falling 3-2 in a shootout against theVancouver Canucks on Friday. They'd like to get back on a winning track before getting three days off for the holiday.
Chicago hasn't faced New Jersey since the 2011-12 season and hasn't beaten the Devils at United Center since a 5-1 victory Dec. 31, 2009. The Blackhawks haven't beaten the Devils regardless of location since April 2, 2010 at Prudential Center.
CHICAGO -- Each side has undergone changes but enough familiarity remains between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks for their Stanley Cup Playoffs-fueled rivalry to continue.
The Canucks (20-11-6) make their first visit to United Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN) to face the Blackhawks (25-7-5), who won the first game between the teams this season 2-1 on Nov. 23 at Rogers Arena.
"I don't think it's changed, especially when we went in there [in November] and it was a heck of a game there," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said following Chicago's morning skate. "Last time we were in there and last year's games were very competitive. I still think that every game it brings back memories quickly."
Weiss, who will see a specialist in Philadelphia on Friday about his injured groin, has two goals and four points in 26 games for Detroit since signing a contract this past summer for a reported five years and $24.5 million.
"I don't care what sport you are, when you look at an athlete you look at what they've accomplished over a period of time," Holland said after Detroit's morning skate Thursday at Joe Louis Arena. "Every athlete probably has one year that's way better than the norm and one year worse than the norm, but there's a lot of statistics that are somewhat similar. When you look at the book on Weiss, it says 48 points five of the last seven years."
DETROIT -- The Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Red Wings haven't faced each other since Detroit pulled off an upset in a seven-game Western Conference Quarterfinals series last spring.
They'll share the same ice surface again Tuesday night at Joe Louis Arena, but the circumstances are quite a bit different.
Anaheim has 51 points and leads the Pacific Division, while the injury-plagued Red Wings are currently fourth in the Atlantic Division after moving to the Eastern Conference.
"The feeling's still in your stomach that you lost in a Game 7 after the season that we had," Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf said following Anaheim's morning skate Tuesday. "I don't know if there's ever any real personal feelings other than we got beat and these are the guys that beat us. We just want to get back on the horse and make sure [we] can compete with these teams."
Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference will face each other Sunday night at United Center for the first time since Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane scored 11:40 into the second overtime of Game 5, in the same arena, to end their 2013 Western Conference Final series.
Each team is finding ways to win without their top goalie, but the results Saturday were split. The Kings, who are still without goalie Jonathan Quick (groin), beat the Ottawa Senators 5-2 at Canadian Tire Centre before the Blackhawks, playing without Corey Crawford (lower body), lost 7-3 to theToronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre to end a three-game winning streak.
Los Angeles also extended its streak of not allowing a first-period goal to 18 straight games and has a record of 13-1-4 in that span.
The Blackhawks could probably use a proven veteran like Emery during the next couple weeks, despite Antti Raanta making an impressive start to his NHL career with a 4-0-1 record, 2.14 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
Instead, Emery will be in net for the Philadelphia Flyers (13-14-3) on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
"Ray's been good for us this year and we use him, but it's good to get him in this game tonight," Flyers coach Craig Berube said following his team's morning skate. "He had a great year last year with [Chicago] and won a Cup, so he's looking forward to it."
The 28-year old Kostka missed the Blackhawks' past 23 games with a fractured foot and had one assist in two games with Rockford of the American Hockey League during a conditioning stint.
Prior to getting injured, Kostka had one goal -- the first of his NHL career -- in the two games he played for the Blackhawks. He made his NHL debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs last season, playing 35 games and finishing with eight assists and 27 penalty minutes.
CHICAGO -- There was some good news on the injury front for the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday morning.
Andrew Shaw and Bryan Bickell both participated in the team's optional morning skate prior to facing the Florida Panthers on Sunday night. Shaw will play against the Panthers, but Bickell still has a ways to go in his recovery from a lower-body injury.
"First time on the ice there today [for Bickell]," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was good to see him out there but we'll get a better indication, I guess, [when he's] out there with everybody."
CHICAGO -- It's a matchup of top teams Friday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), but the Anaheim Ducks and Chicago Blackhawks are winless in their past two games.
The Ducks (18-7-5) have dropped a pair of games in shootouts, and the Blackhawks (20-6-4) have lost two straight in regulation for the first time this season, including a stinging 4-3 defeat Thursday against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center.
Minnesota charged back with two late goals in the third period to beat Chicago, after coughing up a one-goal lead early in the final period. The Blackhaws are in the middle of a stretch when they're playing nine games in 15 days, after returning from a seven-game, 14-day road trip.
"We're probably at the high-point of the season in basically the volume of games," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They're just rolling one to the next. We want to make sure we keep the right focus going into the game ... here we are tonight playing that is rested and they're big and they played us well last year and they're a dangerous team. That's a challenge."
CHICAGO -- Five days after the Chicago Blackhawks won a memorable 11-round shootout against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, the Central Division opponents will meet again Tuesday night at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2).
The Blackhawks (20-4-4) will host the Stars (12-9-4) in their first game since going a franchise-best 6-1-0 during their annual November "Circus Trip," when their arena hosts the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
Just like last season, when the Blackhawks ran through the Western Conference with little trouble in the 48-game regular season, they aren't clowning around. Chicago has won six in a row, is 15-3-2 in the past 20 games, and leads the NHL with 44 points through 28 games.
"I thought we had a real good trip, [with] every game played the right way," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we stabilized a situation that was getting a little bit out of hand with goals against, and I thought we were rock solid in all zones defensively and we had a lot of offense because of that. I love that consistency with the four lines and how we're playing."
Now, the 29-year old defenseman is anything but irrelevant in his role on the right side of Detroit's top defense pairing with Swedish countryman Niklas Kronwall. The Red Wings confirmed it Wednesday morning by announcing a six-year contract extension for Ericsson worth a reported $25.5 million.
Ericsson, who's missed 10 games with a shoulder injury, has one goal and four assists with a plus-3 rating in 15 games heading into a "Wednesday Night Rivalry" game against the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m., NBCSN).
"When I got drafted this was a longshot for me," Ericsson said following Detroit's morning skate. "Just being able to maybe one day to play for the Red Wings, that's one thing. But to be able to play here for, I don't know how many years it's going to be now, it's an amazing feeling. Being a part of this top-ranked organization for my whole career is great."
CHICAGO -- The way their weekend started Saturday night in the "Music City," the Chicago Blackhawks hope to sing a different tune after playing the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at United Center.
Not only did the Nashville Predators defeat them 7-2 at Bridgestone Arena, the Blackhawks also played without Marian Hossa, a late scratch because of a lower-body injury, and lost goalie Nikolai Khabibulin to an undisclosed injury in the first period.
Corey Crawford, who was supposed to get a day off, finished the game and allowed five of the seven goals. He'll go again Sunday against the Sharks, who have one of the most potent offenses in the League.
The 40-year old took warm-up prior to the game against the Washington Capitals at Joe Louis Arena but was scratched as a precautionary measure. His absence left the Red Wings with 17 skaters.
"I had no idea what was going on there. I came up after warm-up and evidently he had some groin tightness and so [trainer Piet Van Zant] scratched him," coach Mike Babcock said after a 4-3 shootout loss. "Obviously, you'd like to have enough players but it worked out good, our rotation was fine. That wasn't an issue. That had nothing to do with the game."
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound defenseman will make his return to Detroit's top defense pairing Friday night at Joe Louis Arena against the high-powered Washington Capitals, who are led by superstar Alex Ovechkin (14 goals, seven assists).
After missing 10 games with a shoulder subluxation, Ericsson is ready to get back on the ice with defense partner Niklas Kronwall.
"We'll keep him under 30 minutes and obviously he's a real good defender for us and can pass the puck [and has] huge size," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said following Detroit's optional morning skate. "It gives us one more high-end guy to get the puck going and be a better team. The forwards need the puck and he can do that plus play against real good players."
Top center Martin Hanzal (illness) and second-line right wing Radim Vrbata (lower body) will return to the lineup after going through a full morning skate.
Hanzal missed one game, a 3-2 overtime win Tuesday against the St. Louis Blues, while Vrbata missed the past two games. Defenseman Derek Morris, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury, went through the skate but will not play.
"It gives us a little more depth at the forward position," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "They're two guys who we put in our top-six forwards, so you take two of them out together, that's a big hole. [Hanzal] touches so many parts of the game for us at center ice and Vrbata's been, for the last couple years, our leading goal scorer. They're both valuable players who can hopefully jump back in and contribute."
The decision means that struggling 40-year old veteran Nikolai Khabibulin will have to keep waiting for a chance to turn his season around.
"[Khabibulin] definitely got some consideration," Quenneville said during a press conference two hours before puck drop. "I know the last couple of weeks it's been a light schedule, only going like four games a week, so we expect to get him in here real soon."
After being recalled from the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League on Saturday, rookie goaltender Reto Berra will make his first NHL start Sunday night against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center.
"He wants to play and I’ll never try to hold back a thoroughbred," Flames coach Bob Hartley told reporters after his team's skate Sunday. "I know of Reto because of my Swiss connections. This guy was probably the biggest free agent in the Swiss League, and he didn't even sign any contracts over there, [do] any deals. His mindset was to play in the NHL. He came here for a reason and that's why he's in [this] game."
Spezza (seven goals, four assists) and Ryan (six goals, three assists) are Ottawa's top-two scorers, while Zibanejad has a goal and an assist in three games since being recalled from Binghamton of the American Hockey League.
"We played together earlier in the year and I was banged up a little bit," Spezza said. "So we'll get another opportunity to play together and hopefully we'll make the most of it. If we're going to play together, we have to help guide the team offensively. When we're split up, it's a little bit more by committee. We have to try to be good together offensively and also play solid against the other teams' top lines."
CHICAGO -- The wheel of change keeps spinning for the Chicago Blackhawks, with new faces continuing to get auditions and more familiar faces seeing looks in different roles.
This time, part of the lineup shakeup was caused by veteran center Michal Handzus, who did not participate in the Blackhawks' morning skate Saturday because of an upper-body injury. Marcus Kruger will fill in for Handzus at center on the second line Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild at United Center (8 p.m., FS-N, WGN), playing between star wingers Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane.
The move means Andrew Shaw will shift back to the middle of the third line, where Kruger's been playing of late, and rookie Jeremy Morin will get his first look at right wing on that unit this season. Morin was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Friday afternoon.
"[Handzus] could be out for a little bit, we'll see," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "[Morin] gives us a little bit of something there, some speed and quickness and can score goals ... and things happen when he's out there."
DETROIT -- The Detroit Red Wings are used to dealing with injuries this season, so the fact that they might have to play another game without top defenseman Niklas Kronwall shouldn't faze them much.
Kronwall had a puck slide up his stick at the morning skate Wednesday at Joe Louis Arena and hit him in the mouth, cutting his chin and damaging his teeth. Kronwall, who has missed the past two games with a concussion, was sent to see a dentist and is listed as a game-time decision for the team's game Wednesday against the visiting Ottawa Senators (7:30 p.m., TSN).
The Red Wings recalled rookie defenseman Xavier Ouellet from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League in case Kronwall can't play.
CHICAGO -- After watching the player they affectionately nicknamed "The Rat" pester opposing stars into poor performances the past few seasons, the Chicago Blackhawks will now get to live the other side of the Dave Bolland experience.
He and his new teammates on the Toronto Maple Leafs are in Chicago for a game Saturday at United Center (7 p.m. ET, CBC, NHLN-US), which will be Bolland's first game against his former team.
Bolland helped Chicago win a pair of Stanley Cups, including last season, when he scored the series-clinching goal in the third period of Game 6 against the Boston Bruins.
CHICAGO -- Looking for more offensive production, the Chicago Blackhawks are going back to what worked last season.
Heading into their game Saturday at United Center against the Toronto Maple Leafs (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, CBC), Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is splitting up star forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. Quenneville did the same thing for most of the 2012-13 regular season, which ended with Chicago winning the Presidents' Trophy prior to winning the 2013 Stanley Cup.
Kane and Toews were on the same line midway through the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and started this season the same way. But with the Blackhawks struggling to score more than two goals a game, Quenneville is ready to see what the old line combinations can do.
Marian Hossa, who didn't practice Friday but is expected to play, likely will move to right wing on the top line with Toews while Kane likely will slide back into the right-wing spot on the second line opposite left wing Patrick Sharp.
Pirri will replace veteran Michal Handzus and likely center the fourth line against the Sabres, giving Handzus a night off on the last half of a back-to-back set this weekend. Pirri was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League following Chicago’s 3-2 win at home against the New York Islanders. Jimmy Hayes was sent down to clear a spot.
“We felt Jimmy would play more down there and at the same time Brandon is a fit at center ice for us with Handzus not playing tonight,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll give him a rest in back-to-back games. That was some of the thought process. We’ll see, he’s here now and hopefully he takes advantage of it.”
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).
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
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."
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."
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."
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]."
CHICAGO – There were signs of slight improvement on their first power play Saturday night, but the Chicago Blackhawks reverted back to bad habits in the next two during their 2-1 overtime loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
After going 0-for-3 in a triple overtime Game 1 victory on Wednesday, the Blackhawks watched another trio of man-advantage situations go by the wayside in Game 2 with just two combined shots on goal – and both of those coming on the first power play of the game.
Chicago is now 0-for-6 in the series on the power play and its conversion rate dipped to 12.3 percent (7-for-57) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not helping matters is the success rate of the Bruins’ penalty kill, which is snuffing out power plays at a clip of 87.9 percent (ranked fourth in the postseason).
Prior to Game 2 on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS), the Chicago coach put his team through its morning skate with the same forward lines that finished the series opener Wednesday.
Rookie Brandon Saad is on the top line with captain Jonathan Toews and right wing Marian Hossa, where Shaw played almost the entire regular season and to start the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, with left wing Patrick Sharp fitting back into the second line and power forward Bryan Bickell slotting back into left wing on the third line.
"It was six periods [in Game 1], so we got a pretty good assessment of what they're up to," Quenneville said of the Bruins. "I think we got a little bit more comfortable with our own line rotation as we were going along. I think every game is different. We know we're playing a real good team here. We've got to be at our best. Every game is different. I think the lines right now look like they were for most of the regular season."
After playing all five games of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Final victory against the Los Angeles Kings, Stalberg wasn't among the top 12 forwards at Chicago's workout Tuesday before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"We had a discussion about it," Stalberg said on media day Tuesday, referring to a conversation with Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "I don't want to get into what was said in that, but I think this is what he wanted. He wanted a tougher lineup against them for the first game, so we'll take it from there. It's how it is right now."
CHICAGO -- Practice Monday was optional for the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center, which meant only a handful of options for TV crews and writers looking for players to interview.
Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw was one of those available afterward and he chatted about a number of different subjects, ranging from his own improbable path to the NHL to playing against 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara in the 2013 Stanley Cup Final to a photo of he and Patrick Kane celebrating Chicago's double-overtime victory Saturday in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.
The picture, which shows Kane sliding on his knees with arms extended and Shaw hugging him from behind, is making its way around the Internet via social media.
Here are a few of the more notable snippets from Shaw's media session Monday:
CHICAGO -- After watching teammates scramble to fill in during a one-game suspension, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith is excited to get back in the lineup.
The Blackhawks will try to close out the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final on Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS). With his team leading the best-of-7 series, 3-1, Keith said he's eager to rejoin the fray.
"I'm looking forward to the game and know it's going to be the biggest game of the series. I want to play a good hockey game," said Keith, who was suspended for one game after hitting Kings forward Jeff Carter in the face with his stick in Game 3. "It's tough to watch. When you're playing every game and then all of a sudden you're watching on TV, it's just a different feeling altogether. I couldn't really tell you, to be honest, if we were playing good or bad in the first period [of Game 4] or not … or what was going on."
CHICAGO -- It was a problem area for much of the regular season and hasn't really improved from a statistical standpoint for the Chicago Blackhawks during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Chicago's power play continues to struggle -- to put it mildly. After going 0-for-4 in a 3-2 victory against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final on Thursday at Staples Center, the Blackhawks are 1-for-12 in this best-of-7 series (8.3 percent).
They are 7-for-49 (14.3 percent) in the postseason, and 1-for-22 (4.6 percent) in power plays on the road in the playoffs.
"You look at maybe [Game 4] and we trailed for at least half the game there until we tied it up in the second [at even strength]," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said Friday. "We feel if you take advantage of a few of your power play chances there, maybe you could take the lead and take a little more control of the game and distance yourself a little bit from the other team."
CHICAGO – The Los Angeles Kings lost their first two games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs on the road against the St. Louis Blues, but still won that Western Conference Quarterfinals series in six games.
After dropping Game 1 of the Western Conference Final in a 2-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night at United Center, the defending Stanley Cup champions are again faced with a possible 0-2 hole should they lose the second half of back-to-back contests in Game 2 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Don’t, however, ask Kings coach Darryl Sutter if his team’s first-round experience might be something to draw confidence from if they’re flying home again down two games to none.
CHICAGO – Marian Hossa had quite the night Saturday at United Center.
The Slovakian star forward scored what turned out to be the game-winning goal for the Chicago Blackhawks in a 2-1 victory against the Los Angeles Kings in Game 1 of the Western Conference Final -- but he also did something noteworthy before the game started.
As the Blackhawks’ starting five skaters lined up on the blue line during the singing of the national anthem, Hossa looked into a TV camera that panned across them and gave a wink. It was shown live on the scoreboard’s big screen, but the intended targets for it were located much farther away.
“Lots of my friends back home were watching at the bar,” Hossa said. “I was just giving them some signal. They called me before the game, said they were going to watch. Hopefully they got the signal.”
Stoll was injured in Game 1 against the San Jose Sharks when he was hit high by Raffi Torres, who was suspended for the duration of that series.
Stoll took line rushes in pregame warmups as the third-line center between Dwight King and Trevor Lewis. Tyler Toffoli, who played in Game 7 against the Sharks, had to be scratched in order for Stoll to return.
Stoll shed his non-contact jersey and practiced in his normal spot Friday.
Faceoffs, where he won 56 percent of his draws during the regular season, and penalty killing was where Stoll was missed most.
"If you look at our faceoff percentage last series, it's down quite a bit … and he's a big part of that," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "I think we only got above 50 percent in one game. He still has an effect on our team when he’s not in the lineup, but from an X's and O's standpoint we're strong up the middle and a lot of that's because he's in the [third center] spot."
Here are the lineups for the Kings and Blackhawks based on pregame warmups:
CHICAGO -- During the Western Conference Semifinals against the San Jose Sharks, the Los Angeles Kings shared hotel space with a large Anime convention while playing their games at San Jose's HP Pavilion.
When the Kings checked into their hotel Thursday for the start of the Western Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks, they weren't even fazed by the "Star Trek" convention being held there this weekend.
"Actually, this is pretty tame compared to what we saw in San Jose," Kings captain Dustin Brown said Saturday morning prior to the series opener at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). "That was Anime, so that one was a little more bizarre."
CHICAGO -- After grinding out a Western Conference Semifinal win in seven games against the Detroit Red Wings, the Chicago Blackhawks returned to practice Friday prior to the start of a conference final against the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday at United Center (5 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville juggled his forward lines for the workout from what he used in the 2-1 overtime victory in Game 7 against Detroit and appears to be looking for more size up front by adding 6-foot-4, 233-pound power forward Bryan Bickell as the left wing for 6-2, 208-pound Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews.
“I think he’s earned that opportunity [with] how he’s played,” Quenneville said of Bickell, who’s one of Chicago’s top scorers this postseason with five goals and one assist. “Not just his production offensively but physically he’s been engaged and he’s got some speed and he’s had a lot of puck time. When he did get the opportunity [against Detroit] to move up with those guys he did a great job. I think it gives a little more size and presence on that line.”
CHICAGO -- The Detroit Red Wings might tweak the look of their power play for Game 7 of their Western Conference Semifinal against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
"We tried it out in practice," Abdelkader said. "We'll see what happens in the game, if it stays or not, but if it does we've just got to shoot pucks and get second chances, second rebounds and break them down. Power plays always start with a shot, so we've got to make sure we're shooting, getting pucks back and taking them to the net."
CHICAGO -- Michael Frolik couldn’t believe it when he looked at his phone following Monday's game at Joe Louis Arena.
The Chicago Blackhawks forward had quite a few text messages waiting for him after he scored the eventual game-winning goal on a penalty shot in the third period of a 4-3 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals.
The Original Six rivals will conclude the series Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But Frolik's legend has already grown, as his mobile phone kept reminding him Monday night.
"It kept ringing after the game," Frolik said. "That was kind of nice. It's amazing how many people follow that. I was happy to hear from so many people."
CHICAGO -- It's almost like a holiday in the Windy City whenever the White Sox and Cubs face each other, especially if you like your holidays spiced with bitterness, jealously and downright hatred.
In this city, fans are typically either White Sox black or Cubby blue with no exceptions made -- or love lost -- on either side. Monday night at the White Sox's U.S. Cellular Field, however, the "neutral" colors were red and black, the main color scheme of the NHL's Chicago Blackhawks.
Thanks to Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals between the Blackhawks and rival Detroit Red Wings starting at 7 p.m. Central -- a potential elimination game for Chicago -- the opening game of the annual Cubs-Sox rivalry was forced to share the spotlight.
How much baseball watching will be going on at the ballpark?
"Uh, not a lot," said Tim Light, of Burr Ridge, Ill., who attended the game with his Cubs-fan wife, Debby and proudly wore a Jonathan Toews alternate Blackhawks jersey. "As soon as 7 o'clock comes around, I'll be watching the hockey game."
Sobotka, who’s taken care of the ice at ‘The Joe’ for 30 years, has become famous for scooping up octopuses thrown on the playing surface for luck and swinging them over his head to fire up the crowd as he removes them.
The one hurled near the end of the anthem prior to Game 4 of a Western Conference Semifinals series between the Original Six rivals caught Keith’s attention.
“Oh I just wanted to look at that thing,” Keith said on Sunday, prior to flying back to Detroit for Game 6 on Monday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN,CBC, RDS). “I’d never seen something like that, that big.”
Quenneville put three of his top four star forwards on the top line – Patrick Sharp, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane – while also switching around the other three combinations. He also changed his defense pairings back to the way they were to start the season, after splitting all three up on March 31 in Detroit and keeping then that way.
The result was a 45-shot, 4-1 victory against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 5 of this Western Conference Semifinal series. The win forced a Game 6, which will be played Monday at Joe Louis Arena (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). The Red Wings are up 3-2 in the best-of-7 series, but Chicago’s stretch passes and ability to chase down pucks dumped into the Detroit zone behind defenders loosened up the Detroit defense.
CHICAGO – It was getting to the point with the Chicago Blackhawks' power play where fans started wishing their favorite team could just decline penalties the way they can in football.
Coming into Saturday night's Game 5 of a Western Conference Semifinal series against the rival Detroit Red Wings at United Center, the Blackhawks were 1-for-12 (8.3 percent) in the series on the man-advantage and 3-for-25 (12 percent) in nine games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Even worse, in Game 4 at Joe Louis Arena – a 2-0 Detroit victory that gave the Red Wings a commanding 3-1 series lead – Chicago managed to just one shot on goal in three power-play opportunities. The Blackhawks actually topped that number by one shot while shorthanded in that game.
The normally staid Toews came a little unglued in the second period of Game 4 in Chicago's Western Conference Semifinal against the Detroit Red Wings, especially after the first infraction, a high-sticking call he adamantly disputed, resulted in what turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-0 result.
After picking up another high-sticking call for his third straight penalty -- this one much more blatant -- Toews angrily headed toward the box while Seabrook, who's had his own struggles, took action.
"He looked frustrated and I don't know if that was a reason for the penalties," said Seabrook, whose ice time has dropped dramatically the past two games. "It was a little bit of bad luck with his stick. I just tried to calm him down and we need him. He's the best player on the team and our leader. If the rest of the group sees him like that it's going to trickle down.
"We need him to be focused and ready and I just told him to sit down and take a couple of deep breaths and get ready to be back out there because we need him."
The Blackhawks lost 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena and trail 2-1 heading into Game 4 on Thursday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS). But Quenneville saw something he liked from flip-flopping his top two left wings, rookie Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp.
The loss put Detroit up 2-1 in what's become a heated Original Six Western Conference Semifinal, but Chicago isn't showing signs of panic.
The core group of stars that powers the Blackhawks also was down 2-1 in the conference quarterfinals against the Nashville Predators at one point in 2010 before coming back to win that series and eventually the Stanley Cup.
"I think we played well [Monday night]," said Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson, who was on the 2010 championship team. "There were a lot of chances that we could've scored on. We battled really hard and I think it was a pretty good effort overall. They just scored more goals than we did. As long as the battle effort is there, you can't really be too upset with the loss."
Game 4 of the best-of-7 series is Thursday night at Detroit (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS2) and each side knows how pivotal it could be.
"We all know the importance of the next game there in [Joe Louis Arena]," Hjalmarsson said. "We’re all focused on that task and looking forward to it."
CHICAGO -- Mike Babcock wasn't happy with the way his Detroit Red Wings defended the middle of the ice to start their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Chicago Blackhawks this past week, so the coach changed it up.
After dropping the opening game 4-1 at United Center, a better-rested Detroit team paid more attention to the middle of the ice, particularly in the neutral zone, in Game 2 on Saturday. The Red Wings won 4-1 to even the best-of-7 series at a game apiece, but how they did it was impressive.
Detroit made sure the middle of the ice was accounted for almost all game, from the neutral zone all the way back to its net, and pressured Chicago forwards sooner -- gumming up the Blackhawks' rush game before it got started.
"They do a good job of clogging things up and making it tough to skate," Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said after practice Sunday, prior to leaving for Detroit. "Both teams skate really well and both teams are dangerous when their skill players have the puck in open ice. They've always been good at making it tough to get to the net and making it tough to get pucks back on the forecheck. They're a good team at [doing] that."
CHICAGO -- It's not a guarantee, but it looks like Viktor Stalberg will re-enter the Chicago Blackhawks lineup Monday night for Game 3 of their Western Conference Semifinals series against the Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).
The best-of-7 series is knotted 1-1 with the next two games in Detroit, and the Blackhawks are looking to rebound from a lackluster 4-1 loss in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon at United Center.
Stalberg, a fast-skating right wing, appears on track to get back in the lineup at that position after practicing there Sunday with the linemates he's spent most of the season with: left wing Bryan Bickell and center Andrew Shaw.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after practice Stalberg is likely playing Monday night.
"I think you just keep playing the way I have all year," Stalberg said. "If we get to play together again, we've been effective all year, so I don't think you want to change too much.
"I don't want to make too big of a deal of it. I just want to get back in playing and hopefully that's [Monday]. We'll see what happens. If I get a chance to play, I'll do anything I can to make a difference and help us win these games."
CHICAGO -- Drew Miller didn't score a goal, didn't record a point, and played 12:07 for the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday at United Center in Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinals against the Chicago Blackhawks, but he had an impact in his return from a broken bone in his finger.
CHICAGO -- One of the bright spots for the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday in Game 2 of their Western Conference Semifinal loss to the Detroit Red Wings was their penalty kill, which remains perfect through seven games of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Despite losing 4-1 at United Center, Chicago went 4-for-4 killing penalties and upped its string of consecutive kills to 24.
CHICAGO -- If the Detroit Red Wings are going to make their Western Conference Semifinals series close, they know they need an ornery "Mule" on the ice against the favored Chicago Blackhawks.
The hard part for Detroit coach Mike Babcock is pushing the right buttons on Johan Franzen, a Swedish power forward nicknamed "Mule" who can score goals by the bunches in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Red Wings need captain Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk to shine, but Franzen has a knack for scoring in the postseason that many players don't possess.
Tapping into that knack consistently, however, can be an issue at times.
Franzen didn't record a point, finished minus-2 and got one shot on goal in the series opener Wednesday at United Center, a 4-1 Chicago victory.
The second game is Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in the same building, and the Red Wings hope to see a snorting, sneering Mule on the ice.
"He [can] be pretty mean, but I think he's playing the best hockey when he's a little grumpy," Zetterberg said. "I think maybe it's up to us to get him a little bit grumpy before the games."
After playing 47 games in the regular season and all five games of Chicago’s Western Conference Quarterfinal series at right wing on the third line, Stalberg was bumped from the regular playing group prior to the start of the semifinals.
Stalberg was scratched for Game 1 against the Red Wings in what Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville termed a coach’s decision, and his playing status for Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) remains up in the air.
CHICAGO – Entering the Western Conference Semifinals, the Detroit Red Wings' hopes of upsetting the top-seeded Chicago Blackhawks hinged on the play of their defensemen, especially in the defensive zone.
The Red Wings knew it. Yet there they were in the last 40 minutes of Game 1 on Wednesday night at United Center with pretty much all of their worst nightmares coming to fruition.
They turned over the puck too much against an endless wave of fresh Blackhawks forecheckers. They got stuck on the ice for long stretches and felt their legs turn to jelly. They couldn't complete those desperately needed first passes to the forwards in order to exit the defensive zone for a rush up the ice.
They also wound up hanging goalie Jimmy Howard, who made 38 saves in the contest, out to dry on a night in which he battled hard to keep them in the game. Now it's up to the Red Wings -- especially their blueliners -- to fix things for Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m., NBC, CBC).
"I think it took way too long for us to get out of our own zone, and when we get out we don't have any energy to attack, so we had to [take chances]," said Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who played on Detroit's top pairing with Niklas Kronwall. "We have to do a much better job in the [defensive zone] and the [defense] has to do a better job of getting the pucks up and the forwards have to do a better job being open."
Quenneville denied the accuracy of a report Wednesday by the Chicago Tribune that Stalberg, who was a healthy scratch for Game 1, was being punished. The report, citing an unidentified source, said Stalberg approached an unnamed Blackhawks coach about his diminished role on the power play in the Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Minnesota Wild.
After logging more than two minutes a game on the man-advantage during 47 games of the regular season, Stalberg averaged 11 seconds of power-play time while playing all five games against the Wild. Quenneville, who did have a conversation with the speedy third-line wing about the situation, was asked directly about the report Thursday by the Tribune's Chris Kuc. The coach categorically denied its validity.
"First of all, that story is 100 percent inaccurate," Quenneville said. "Viktor didn't play and he knows the reasons why. It had nothing to do with anything about our conversation. It was strictly nothing to do with that at all."
The Chicago Blackhawks captain usually tries to fight back a smile, knowing he's talking about a rival team's top player, but it's usually futile. Toews envies Datsyuk's two-way game quite a bit -- making him a lot like the rest of the hockey world -- and 34-year old Datsyuk said he's been impressed by the two-way force 25-year old Toews has grown into in Chicago.
That's why it was somewhat fitting to see each of their names listed Wednesday, along with Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron, as Selke Award finalists. The award is given to the NHL's top defensive forward as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
CHICAGO -- Cory Emmerton will be back in the Detroit Red Wings lineup centering the fourth line when they face off against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at United Center in the first game of their Western Conference Semifinal series.
Emmerton was scratched for Game 7 of Detroit's Western Conference Quarterfinal against the Anaheim Ducks and was replaced by veteran forward Mikael Samuelsson, who has been plagued by injuries all season.
Samuelsson, who missed 41 games with a pair of injuries, hopes to play in this series but had another recent flare-up of an upper-body ailment that initially occurred in a 7-1 loss to Chicago on March 31 at Joe Louis Arena. He played 4:20 in the series-deciding game against the Ducks before apparently reaggravating the injury.
Emmerton said he got the message loud and clear from Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's decision.
"You don't want to watch ever. I got to watch and it wasn't a lot of fun," he said following Detroit's Wednesday morning skate. "I'll do my best to not get in that situation again. Everything's a learning lesson as you go along in your career. You do what you can do, move forward and keep getting better."
CHICAGO -- Instead of manning the right wing on the third line for the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night at United Center, speedy forward Viktor Stalberg will be in street clothes when the puck is dropped.
Stalberg will be a healthy scratch when the Blackhawks play host to the Detroit Red Wings in the opener of a highly anticipated Western Conference Semifinal series between the Original Six rivals (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
He's not injured, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville termed it a coach's decision when asked if there was something other than Stalberg's play factoring into the somewhat curious call to scratch their fastest skater against a fast-paced team like Detroit.
"He's out tonight," Quenneville said. "Coach's decision. I had a conversation with him, so he knows how it stands and [what] the situation is, but we'll leave it at that."
The series starts Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and the Red Wings plan to fly back to Detroit prior to Game 2 on Saturday (1 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC) in the same arena.
Two days off between games combined with a short flight was too good for the Red Wings to pass up -- regardless how much coach Mike Babcock talked up the great places to eat in Chicago following Detroit's upset of the Anaheim Ducks in Game 7 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series Sunday night.
"It's a little different," Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard told reporters following a Tuesday practice in Detroit. "I wasn't expecting all of this time off, but we'll definitely use it to our advantage of not really hanging out in Chicago and coming back here. The comfortability is a lot more."
CHICAGO -- Viktor Stalberg has practiced outside of the top four lines, in a white jersey, for each of the three practices the Chicago Blackhawks have held since winning their Western Conference Quarterfinal series last week.
That's usually a designation for a player who is injured -- meaning it's a non-contact jersey -- or for those who aren't being considered for the active lineup. The Blackhawks open their Western Conference Semifinal series against the Detroit Red Wings on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) and Stalberg isn’t injured.
So that can mean only one thing: He’s in coach Joel Quenneville's doghouse for some reason, likely based on his play in the first round against the Minnesota Wild. The only way to get out is to wait for another chance to impress, after finishing the first series with one assist.
"Stay ready," Quenneville said Tuesday when asked what Stalberg can do to get himself back on his usual spot at right wing of the third line. "Nobody said he's out of the lineup (for Game 1), but … make decisions tough on us."
CHICAGO -- The Minnesota Wild had three goalies on the ice for their morning skate Thursday, but Josh Harding will start against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center in Game 5 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series Thursday (9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS2).
Harding, who left Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on Tuesday after one period with a lower-body injury, told Wild coach Mike Yeo following the skate he's healthy enough to start the elimination game. The Wild trail the best-of-7 series 3-1.
"[I was looking] to see him, obviously, go out there and make saves and more importantly for him to come to us and say he's ready," Yeo said. "We don't know how he feels, but you have to trust him. He says that he's good to go and there was absolutely no doubt about it. That's what we were looking for."
CHICAGO -- The groin injury Dave Bolland is dealing with right now probably doesn't hurt the Chicago Blackhawks center as much as the fact he's not playing.
Bolland, along with goalie Ray Emery (lower-body injury), will miss Game 5 of the team's Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. CBC, RDS2, NBCSN). The Blackhawks lead the best-of-7 series 3-1 and with a win would advance to the conference semifinals.
Bolland and Emery have been scratched for the previous four games of the series.
"It eats [at you] a lot," Bolland said. "It's pretty painful, actually. It's not fun hanging out in the training room and the workout room while the guys are on the ice playing. You want to stay out of there as much as you can. It's never fun."
Through four games of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, however, all they've produced is one goal and one assist -- each credited to Hossa and coming without assistance from Toews or Saad.
The Wild, who trail 3-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 5 on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS2, NBCSN), are getting good results by playing their top defense pairing against the Blackhawks' top line.
CHICAGO -- It started fine, hit a lull, picked up at the end of the regular season and now the power play is back to troubling for the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Chicago is up 3-1 in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Minnesota Wild, with a chance to close it in Game 5 Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS2, NBCSN), but getting better results with the man-advantage is on the Blackhawks' list of things to do.
Chicago has scored on one of its first 11 power plays in the series (9.1 percent) after finishing 19th in the regular season (16.7 percent).
"It's definitely something we've talked a lot about," Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane said Wednesday. "The units have switched a lot throughout the season, but whoever's out there, you've just got to take pride in being out there and making something happen."
Emery and Bolland have missed the first four games of the series each with a lower-body injury, and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the pair is doubtful to play in Game 5 on Thursday at United Center (9:30 p.m. ET, CBC, RDS2, NBCSN).
"Nobody skated [Wednesday], but they’re both fine," Quenneville said. "[They’re both] doubtful for [Thursday]."
CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs haven't taken place in St. Paul, Minn., since 2008 and the atmosphere inside Xcel Energy Center on Sunday afternoon is expected to be exciting.
The Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild will square off in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS) and the visiting team ought to be a good judge of the playoff atmosphere inside the building.
The Blackhawks are known for having a loud, intimidating crowd at United Center -- starting with the loud cheers during the national anthem -- but they're anticipating the Wild's arena to be like the team's nickname.
"I think it's going to be loud," Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith said Saturday. "The fans there and the way they play the music … they get that building rocking pretty good. It's the first time they've played in the playoffs for a while, so we expect it's going to be a lot of energy in that building and a fast-paced game. We're going to need to be ready right away."
CHICAGO --Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo said on Friday night it was time to go back to the drawing board for Sunday's Game 3 of a Western Conference Quarterfinals series his team trails 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks.
After the Blackhawks won Game 2 by a 5-2 score on Friday night at United Center, Yeo said one area that will need to be tweaked again is a forechecking scheme that proved ineffective against the Blackhawks' swift-skating, puck-moving defensemen.
The Wild worked on creating havoc with the forecheck in a practice between the first two games, but the Blackhawks weren't fazed much at all by it -- dominating puck possession and breaking out of their own zone with a head of steam regularly.
"Part of our strength is our defensemen's ability to get pucks out of our zone and our forwards have done a good job of coming back all year supporting, so that makes it a lot easier on the defense when our forwards get back in position to help out," Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Minnesota's got a lot of good skaters and they're fast, so it's not easy. They get in, on the forecheck, really quick. Guys like Zach Parise are fast getting in there, so we have to be ready."
Backstrom will miss his second straight game after incurring a lower-body injury in warmups prior to Game 1 on Tuesday, and Stoner is out with an unspecified injury that happened early in the first period of the series opener on a big hit by Chicago's Andrew Shaw.
Josh Harding, who played well when pressed into service at the last second because of Backstom's injury, will get the start again. Justin Falk will enter Minnesota’s lineup in place of Stoner. Before Tuesday's games, Harding hadn't made an NHL start since Jan. 30, when he played at home against the Blackhawks and got pulled in the first period after allowing two goals on four shots.
After making 35 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss in Game 1 on Tuesday, Harding is looking to have another strong performance Friday night.
"I'd sure like to hope so," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "For him, there are a lot of positives to take out of the game, and I think as much as anything else, it's the confidence of going out and playing well in a game like that. For a guy who's missed a lot of hockey, he's played good hockey and it's just kind of a statement to himself that, 'I'm getting my game [back].'"
Emery and Bolland, each out with a lower-body injury believed to be a groin issue, are making progress but not quite ready to get back to full on-ice work. Bolland didn't skate Thursday, before or during practice, and Emery came out briefly before the session for some work with goaltending coach Stephane Waite. He quickly left before team drills started.
"We're going to rule them out," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Ray was out there today and [Bolland] didn't skate, but he's getting real close to getting on the ice. [Emery] felt good, too, so it was good progress today."
The Blackhawks did not practice at United Center, which will be the site of Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series, which got off to a nail-biting start Tuesday night with Chicago’s 2-1 win in OT.
That meant goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland, who each missed the series opener with a lower-body injury, had another day off to rest and recover. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville met with reporters Wednesday and gave a brief update on the injured duo, whose availability for Game 2 on Friday is up in the air.
"I don’t know about Game 2, but hopefully they’ll be skating [Thursday]," Quenneville said. “We’re hopeful on that, but I don’t want to comment too much on Friday right now with them.”
CHICAGO -- After playing one regular-season game with the Minnesota Wild this season, 23-year-old defenseman Marco Scandella was recalled from Houston of the American Hockey League Monday. He will play alongside Jared Spurgeon in Game 1 of the Wild's series against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) in a whirlwind couple of days that took him from the American Hockey League playoffs to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I'm super-excited," said Scandella, who has 89 games of NHL experience but will skate in his first NHL playoff game. "I've been watching the Stanley Cup Playoffs my whole life and I've been playing hockey to be a part of it. I was just focused on playing the [AHL] playoffs … so it's not like I saw it coming. I was just happy about it and I'm ready."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have been asked quite a few important questions in the past few weeks leading into the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, but one got answered for good Tuesday at United Center.
Patrick Kane decided he would grow his annual playoff mullet, complete with steps shaved into each side, like he first did to start the 2010 postseason run that ended with him scoring the winning goal in overtime of Game 6 in the Stanley Cup Final.
Only this time, Kane isn't alone. Rookie right wing Brandon Saad is mimicking Kane's "business up front, party in the back" look for his second go-round in the postseason -- steps in the side an all.
"It's pretty short right now," Kane said. "Hopefully, it will have some time to grow in. We have myself and a new addition to the team this year that wanted to do it too. Saad joined in on the mullet trend and his looks pretty good. It's a little fun."
Pominville has an upper-body injury that stems from an illegal hit to the head by Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown during a game April 23 at Xcel Energy Center. Brown was suspended two games for the hit, and Pominville hasn't played since.
He was able to practice at left wing on the third line Monday, but Pominville didn't get the clearance to play in Game 1.
"[He's] just not quite ready," Wild coach Mike Yeo said following Minnesota's morning skate. "This is a big game, but you've got to look at the big picture and we've got to make sure that when we get him back in, we get him back in for good."
The Blackhawks recalled defenseman Ryan Stanton from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Friday, but coach Joel Quenneville said more prospects will likely make the trip to St, Louis on Saturday to give some regulars a breather prior to the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week.
After wrapping up first in the Western Conference and earning the Presidents’ Trophy for posting the best record in the National Hockey League, Chicago has the luxury of not worrying about these final two games.
“We’re going to play our group tonight and [Saturday] we might be resting some guys,” Quenneville said after Friday’s morning skate at United Center.
Goalie Ray Emery and center Dave Bolland are both out against Calgary with lower-body injuries and neither will make the trip to St. Louis. Corey Crawford will start in goal against the Flames, while backup Carter Hutton might get the nod against the Blues.
Quenneville said he’s not concerned about Bolland’s injury and expects him to be ready for the playoffs, which in the past has been when the gritty centerman shines brightest. However, the Blackhawks coach hinted on Friday that veteran Michal Handzus might get a look at second-line center – between stars Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane – even when Bolland returns.
Franzen, who scored his 14th goal of the season in a 3-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday, didn't go back onto the ice for the last few minutes of the game. His status was undetermined afterward and no description of an injury was given -- only that Franzen wasn't available to go back on the ice despite staying on the bench.
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock still didn't know whether Franzen would be available after Detroit's optional morning skate Thursday, but the Swedish power forward said he'd likely be in uniform. He also said his absence from the ice in the waning minutes of Wednesday's game isn't cause for alarm.
"Just got a little rest, no need to play those last minutes (with a two-goal lead)," said Franzen, who has six goals and 11 points in the past six games. "I thought I'd get off and take the rest, so that's it.''
Instead, Bertuzzi will sit out for at least one more game and hopes to return for Thursday's home game against the Nashville Predators. Bertuzzi hasn't played since Feb. 7 against the St. Louis Blues because of a painful pinched nerve in his back.
He's been skating for a while, but hasn't been able to do much conditioning work on the ice until lately. That, according to Bertuzzi, is why he isn't ready to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings on Wednesday night.
"I'll be ready to play [Thursday]," Bertuzzi said after working extra following Wednesday's morning skate. "I needed another hard skate. Like I said before, a week ago, I can't come in and not be ready to play a full 60 [minutes] and help out, contribute, be big down low, finish my checks. I needed another hard skate and that's what we just finished."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock sounded both surprised and disappointed upon learning Bertuzzi's status for the game against the Kings.
"I thought he was going today," Babcock said. "Nothing made me hesitate. It wasn't my decision."
CHICAGO -- The Phoenix Coyotes could use a boost heading into the last five games of the regular season and might get one Saturday night against the Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET) at United Center.
Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said after Saturday’s morning skate that injured goalie Mike Smith, who missed the past two games with a lower-body issue, might return to face Chicago (34-5-4) in a big road game for the Coyotes (18-17-8).
“I haven’t talked to him yet, but there’s a chance he’ll play tonight,” Tippett said. “He’s our No. 1 goaltender. If we can get him in there and get him on a roll, that gives us the best chance to win.”
CHICAGO -- All that's left for the Chicago Blackhawks to accomplish in the regular season is to secure the Presidents' Trophy as the NHLs top team in points earned.
Otherwise, the Blackhawks have already locked up everything else. They were the first team to secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they won the Central Division handily, and they will be the Western Conference's top seed in the postseason. They've done all that and still have six games left, which raises the question if they will continue playing their usual lineup or start sitting out key players to avoid injuries and garner rest.
The answer, at least short term, is to stay the course. Chicago plays back-to-back games at United Center this weekend, beginning with Friday's contest against the Nashville Predators (7:30 p.m.) and finishing against the Phoenix Coyotes on Saturday night.
"I think we want to go in the same mode here," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Friday's morning skate. "We've still got six games [left]. We've got a busy schedule next week, but we'll play these games and go along here and we'll make those decisions as we go along. We're not going to change going into these two games. We'll see. We have that in our pocket to visit with, for sure, but that depends."
CHICAGO -- It's been almost a month since the Dallas Stars lived through a hockey nightmare against the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center.
Chicago came into "The Big D" on March 16 and put up a memorable 8-1 blowout victory on the board that included starting goalie Kari Lehtonen being chased and backup Richard Bachman also surrendering four goals -- including a Patrick Kane jaw-dropping spin-o-rama backhand number from the right circle.
Now the Stars will conclude their season series against the Blackhawks on Monday night at United Center, and things have changed considerably for Dallas. Since that Chicago rout, the Stars are 9-5-0 and currently riding a five-game win streak that's put them into contention for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a handful of other Western Conference teams.
CHICAGO -- The Detroit Red Wings are reeling coming down the stretch, attempting to secure the Western Conference's last spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After losing to the San Jose Sharks in a shootout Thursday night in Detroit, the assignment gets even more difficult Friday night at United Center, where the Red Wings will play the Central Division rival Chicago Blackhawks.
Chicago blasted Detroit 7-1 in the last meeting March 31 at Joe Louis Arena and aim to make it a four-game season-series sweep in the final meeting between the storied franchises as division rivals.
Chicago's Dave Bolland will sit out his fourth straight game with a lower-body injury believed to be his foot, which was struck by a hard slap shot from Nashville Predators defenseman Shea Weber on April 1 in a 3-2 Blackhawks shootout win.
Corey Crawford will get the start in goal for Chicago, and Jimmy Howard is expected to get the start for Detroit after taking the loss on Thursday night against San Jose.
Here is how the Red Wings and Blackhawks might line up on Friday night:
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks could become the first team in the NHL to clinch a Stanley Cup Playoff spot if they pick up at least a point against the Nashville Predators on Sunday night (7 p.m. ET) at United Center.
Meanwhile, it's getting close to do-or-die time for the Predators, who continue to lose forwards to injuries and close games down the stretch run of the season. Nashville dropped a 1-0 game to Chicago on Saturday afternoon at Bridgestone Arena -- continuing a vexing trend of not scoring enough goals -- and now the Predators face the Blackhawks again a little more than 24 hours later without Gabriel Bourque and veteran forwards Paul Gaustad and Mike Fisher.
All three will miss Sunday's game with undisclosed upper-body injuries, and Colin Wilson remains on the injured reserve list with an upper-body injury. Bourque and Gaustad didn't play in the game Saturday, but Fisher did. Now he's out, and forward Austin Watson was recalled Sunday morning from the Milwaukee Admirals of the American Hockey League to take his place.
After going through an optional morning skate at United Center, Sharp and Hossa both need more time to fully heal from what is believed to be shoulder-related issues. Chicago doesn't play again until Thursday at home against the St. Louis Blues.
"They're real close and then the fact we've got a couple extra days here, so I think we [want to be] … more than ready when they're coming back," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll get 'em on the ice on Wednesday and we'll know for sure whether they'll be playing Thursday or not. They could."
DETROIT – Jimmy Howard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer if the Detroit Red Wings don’t reach a contract extension with him, but he does know what he wants to happen.
“I want to play here a long time,” Howard said. “It’s been hard to think about anything [other than playing games] because we’ve been playing so much, but it’s something I’d like to get worked out.”
Red Wings general manager Ken Holland told NHL.com earlier this week that reaching a deal on a contract extension with Howard is his plan, so what’s left is actually negotiating the deal. Whether that happens during the season or afterward remains to be seen, but there might not be a lot of time for it to happen after the season ends if the Red Wings qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and go on any sort of extended run.
CHICAGO – The team that's occupying the visitors locker room at United Center on Friday just happens to be the only team in the Western Conference that hasn't lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Anaheim Ducks have beaten the Blackhawks in each of the first two meetings and both have come right down to the end. Now they'll meet for a third and final time this regular season Friday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NHL Network).
Anaheim (22-7-4, 48 points), which trails West-leading Chicago (25-4-3, 53 points) by five points, prevailed 3-2 in a shootout at United Center on Feb. 12 then won 4-2 on March 20 at Honda Center. In that second victory, Anaheim scored twice in the third period to take the lead before adding an empty-net goal.
Neither loss sat very well with the Blackhawks, who ripped through the rest of the conference to start the season with an unprecedented 24-game points streak.
"People want to point out that we haven't won against this team yet, but I don't think that's a huge flaw or anything," Chicago captain Jonthan Toews said. "Obviously we want to prove ourselves. We've played two good games and it's come down to the wire against the Ducks, so if the same situation comes up [on Friday night] we obviously want to be on top. We'll work as hard as we [can] to get there and just make the smart plays and the right plays to stay there, I guess, and find a way to get the two points."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks didn’t hold an official morning skate on Tuesday at United Center, but they did get some good news.
Injured star right wing Marian Hossa returned to the ice for conditioning work for the first time since leaving a game against the Colorado Avalanche on March 18 late in the first period after a hit from defenseman Ryan O’Byrne.
“He skated today, so he’s progressing” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said of Hossa, prior to Chicago facing the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night (8:30 p.m. ET). “He’s kind of comparable with [Sharp], so we’ll see how they do. But he’s not playing [against Calgary].”
CHICAGO -- Jarome Iginla opted not to speak with reporters Tuesday morning at United Center after the Calgary Flames' optional morning skate.
Thus, any thoughts the Flames captain might have on trade speculation involving him will have to wait until after Tuesday's night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks (8:30 p.m. ET) -- one of the teams some think might make a play for him.
Iginla's teammates, however, were asked about the ongoing rumors with the April 3 trade deadline looming. The general consensus: remain narrowly focused and keep a sense of humor about it.
"Most of us can read, and so we're aware of it," forward Mike Cammalleri said. "I guess, amongst ourselves, you can make our own comedy of it and then just prepare to play the hockey game, and really quickly realize it's not something we can worry about."
Hossa and star left winger Patrick Sharp are both out with upper-body injuries believed to be shoulder related, but the good news for Chicago is that center Andrew Shaw (flu) -- who didn't participate in the team's morning skate -- will play against the Kings.
DETROIT -- Considering the circumstances, Patrick Eaves is fortunate the aching jaw that will keep him out of Wednesday night's game against the Minnesota Wild (7:30 p.m., NBCSN) isn't a more serious injury.
Eaves was hit in the chin during a practice Tuesday by a puck that slid up his stick, and he left the ice after getting to his feet. Eaves went to see a doctor and had X-rays taken, which revealed no fractures. Further tests showed Eaves had instead sprained the Temporomandibular Joints located at both tips of his jaw.
Corey Crawford started the last game, a 6-2 road loss against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday night at Pepsi Center, before being pulled after two periods for Emery. Crawford allowed five of the six goals in the first regulation loss of the season for the Blackhawks (21-1-3), but coach Joel Quenneville said his performance wasn't the reason he didn't get the nod.
Emery's play during a 3-2 Blackhawks win against the Oilers on Feb. 25 at United Center did appear to factor into the decision.
"Both guys have been very good, so that's a good argument for whoever's playing," Quenneville said in a pre-game meeting with reporters on Sunday afternoon. "Ray played well against these guys the other day and he's played well. [Crawford] will get back in there soon, too. We don't see him sitting there too long."
CHICAGO -- The Edmonton Oilers will shake up their lineup prior to facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday night at United Center, during a second trip to the Windy City on this season-long nine-game road trip.
Oilers forwards Shawn Horcoff (hand) and Teemu Hartikainen (shoulder) will both come off injured reserve to face Chicago (21-1-3), while center Eric Belanger is headed to IR because of a groin injury. Belanger was injured on the last shift of Edmonton's previous game, a 6-0 loss on Friday night in Nashville.
"He's going to be going home [Sunday] night," Edmonton coach Ralph Krueger told reporters at the team's hotel on Sunday afternoon. "It's definitely an injury in the groin area that needs some care and some time. [He] felt a little bit of a pop in the groin area and we've done our best here the last couple of days, but we realize this is an injury that needs deeper care. That's why he's going home [Sunday night], so he can get right into treatment in Edmonton. The earliest he could play would be next Sunday."
After Bollig was sent to the AHL on Wednesday afternoon, the Blackhawks used his roster spot to bring defenseman Steve Montador off the injured reserve list, which gave Chicago eight active defensemen heading into a home game that night against the Colorado Avalanche.
Prior to the Blackhawks' 3-2 win at United Center, forward Marian Hossa was a late scratch because of an upper-body injury after taking warm-ups.
Chicago then lost third-line center Andrew Shaw in the second period with an upper-body injury before star left wing Patrick Sharp was hurt 7:49 into the third after being driven hard into the boards by Colorado's Ryan O'Byrne. Sharp left the ice holding his left shoulder and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he would probably miss some time.
The move likely means veteran defenseman Steve Montador is ready to return from an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related that has kept him out of the lineup since March 27, 2012, when he took a high hit in a game against the New Jersey Devils.
Montador had hoped to be ready for the start of the 2012-13 season, but he wasn't medically cleared to return.
CHICAGO -- After facing the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN2), the Chicago Blackhawks will have burned through half of the season's 48-game schedule.
They also will be playing the only Western Conference team that hasn't had a chance to give Chicago (20-0-3) its first loss in regulation time this season -- though the Avalanche hold just a 2-7-3 mark on the road thus far.
Among the 13 Western Conference teams Chicago has faced to date, the Blackhawks have earned victories against all but the Anaheim Ducks, who left Chicago on Feb. 12 with a hard-earned 3-2 shootout win. It was one of just three shootout defeats for the Blackhawks, the only time they've been on the wrong end of the final score this season.
"I'm sure they're excited," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said of the Avalanche, following his team's 5-3 home victory Tuesday against the Minnesota Wild -- a win which also was a team-record 10th straight. "I'm sure they want to be the team that comes in and maybe catches us off-guard, but we've just got to regroup and get ourselves ready for another game at home. We need to take advantage of the energy that our fans give us in the first period and try to carry that for three periods."
It will be the seventh game the Blackhawks play in an 11-day window, which makes the fact they've now won those 10 straight games and gone 29 straight dating to last season with at least a point even more impressive.
It’s not going to be an easy task for Colorado, even if reports in the Denver Post say it's possible that injured defensemen Erik Johnson (head) and Ryan Wilson (ankle) might return after extended absences.
Bolland has missed five straight games with an undisclosed upper-body injury and is anxious to rejoin his teammates while centering Chicago's second line between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. The Blackhawks (19-0-3) still haven't lost in regulation through 22 games this season -- 28 straight if you add last season's closing 3-0-3 stretch -- and Bolland hopes to help extend the streak.
"I'm feeling good and I'm going to play tonight," Bolland said after Chicago's morning skate. "It's been great, even watching them on TV keep the [points] streak alive, so coming back and helping them out is a big thing in keeping this thing going."
Filppula is listed as day-to-day with a shoulder injury.
In goal for the Red Wings will be Jimmy Howard, while the Blackhawks will start Corey Crawford. It will be Crawford's first game since leaving a game against the St. Louis Blues on Feb. 28 after the first period due to an upper-body injury that appeared to make him wobbly leaving the ice.
The Blackhawks will be without second-line center Dave Bolland for a fifth straight game due to an upper-body injury, with Marcus Kruger likely manning the middle again on the second line.
Bolland skated Feb. 28 for the first time since getting injured Feb. 22 against the San Jose Sharks. As for defenseman Steve Montador, who hasn't played yet because of an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday morning the veteran blueliner is "getting closer" to returning.
Here is how the Blackhawks and Red Wings might line up Sunday:
DETROIT -- It wasn't the answer that Detroit Red Wings center Darren Helm was hoping to hear, but at least the medical specialist he saw recently in New York for his injured back had an answer.
Helm, a speedy third-line center, has only played one game for Detroit this season and has missed 17 straight with a frustrating back injury that, until recently, was caused by an unknown reason. After consulting with the specialist last Monday, Helm was given somewhat of a diagnosis.
"He seemed to think he found a small tear in one of the discs," Helm said. "It's kind of a six-to-eight week injury, he said, from the time it happened. I don't know if I'm close to where he thinks I should be healing or not, but I do feel better. That's the silver lining, I guess."
Playing in Helm's usual third-line center role is rookie Joakim Andersson, who will be there again Sunday when the Red Wings host the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks (12:30 p.m. ET, NBC, NHLN-CA).
CHICAGO -- Despite looking wobbly leaving the ice after one period and not returning to a 3-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night, Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford was back on the ice Friday at United Center for an optional morning skate.
Ray Emery, who was named the National Hockey League’s third star for February on Friday, relieved Crawford for the final two periods and preserved the win and shutout, Chicago’s second in the past three games.
Prior to playing the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Crawford was feeling better and would be on the bench as Emery’s backup.
“Corey’s fine,” Quenneville said. “He skated this morning. I think they both could go today if they [had] to, but Ray did a nice job. The decision-making going into games, into these three games in 3-1/2 days here, this was kind of the plan. We’re going to have Corey and Ray [available] tonight and we’ll go from there.”
CHICAGO -- The Columbus Blue Jackets were already short two regular defensemen when they took the ice Friday at United Center for their morning skate.
The shortage got even worse when defenseman John Moore left the ice surface earlier than expected and was pronounced out of Friday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks (7:30 p.m. CT, NHLN-US) with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
The Blue Jackets recalled defenseman Dalton Prout from Springfield of the American Hockey League, but his flight isn't scheduled to arrive in Chicago until early evening. Prout might not arrive at United Center until just before the game's start or later.
There is no "Plan B" if Prout can't get to the arena in time.
CHICAGO -- Eight days after a scary collision at Joe Louis Arena left Columbus Blue Jackets center Artem Anisimov motionless on the ice, he will get back into a game Friday night at United Center.
Anisimov, a big-bodied Russian forward, will have missed three games because of the upper-body injury that stemmed from the incident against the Detroit Red Wings. He will center a line between Matt Calvert and Cam Atkinson on Friday (8:30 p.m. ET), when Columbus plays the Chicago Blackhawks (17-0-3), who haven't lost in regulation and have twice beaten the Blue Jackets (5-12-3) in a pair of one-goal games.
"He hasn't done a whole lot leading up to it, so we're going to have to be smart in how we manage his minutes," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "He needs to be really solid 5-on-5 and then we'll go from there. If his energy's good and he feels good, we can start using him maybe on the power play or penalty kill, as well. [Just] having that big presence up the middle of the ice, some size and some skill, [is good for us]."
CHICAGO – They haven't lost a single game in regulation through the first 18 games, their goal differential is an astounding plus-23 prior to playing the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night at United Center, and still the Chicago Blackhawks insist they can take it up a notch.
"We should think we're not anywhere near as good as we can be – and have to be – [in order] to be effective," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said following a tough 1-0 home win on Sunday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets. "There's not a lot of negative things [to criticize], but there were some things [against Columbus] … we want to look to improve our team situation, game in and game out. Let's want to get better."
The win against Columbus upped Chicago's current National Hockey League record string of games to start a season with at least a point to 18 straight, but the Blackhawks sound tired of talking about it.
Chicago (15-0-3) still hasn't lost a game in regulation and is riding a National Hockey League record streak of 18 games with at least a point earned to start a season.
Emery (7-0-0) and Crawford (8-0-3) have both been outstanding options for Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who watched the latter pick up his second shutout of the season in a 1-0 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday – which was his first game back since the injury occurred Feb. 12 against the Anaheim Ducks.
Lennart Petrell passed his concussion protol testing on Sunday night, which clears him to return to the active lineup for Monday night’s game in Chicago (8:30 p.m. ET). Going to the injured reserve list with a sore shoulder is Teemu Hartikainen, according to Oilers coach Ralph Krueger – who met with reporters after Edmonton’s morning skate on Monday at United Center.
“Lennart Petrell cleared his test last night and we’ve got him back in the lineup,” Krueger told Oilers.com. “We’ve had to put Teemu Hartikainen on IR. His shoulder worsened after the last game. Maybe he cheered to hard after the last goal. I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but truly he’s been playing with a lot of pain and it’s an injury that needs a break, need a rest, and needs some regeneration.”
CHICAGO – Maybe if it were any other team coming into United Center on Monday night, the Chicago Blackhawks might get caught napping.
It will be Chicago’s third game in four days and with each win or point, the Blackhawks now just extend their own NHL record for consecutive games to start a season with at least a point – which stands at 18 straight contests. There’s got to be a letdown at some point, but the team in the visiting dressing room this time might be enough to prevent it on Monday night.
The Edmonton Oilers walloped Chicago twice at Rexall Place last season and the Blackhawks haven’t forgotten.y)
Ray Emery started three straight games while Crawford sat out with an upper-body injury and also drew the start in Friday night's NHL-record setting 2-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks – which pushed Chicago's unprecedented start to 17 straight games with at least one point earned.
Emery has the hot hand, but Crawford was also outstanding before getting hurt – posting a line of 7-0-0 with a 1.65 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
"Corey was going very well there, too, prior to getting injured, so it's good to have both guys back," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We've got back-to-back games. We're just looking at [Sunday's] game. It's good to have Corey back and Ray did an excellent job, like our goaltending has all year."
CHICAGO – The Columbus Blue Jackets have lost another integral part of their starting lineup after defenseman Jack Johnson was put on injured reserve Sunday morning.
Johnson is currently listed as day-to-day with an upper-body injury after being injured in the first period of a 2-1 loss on Saturday night in St. Louis. The Blue Jackets (5-11-2) will be the next team trying to give the Chicago Blackhawks (14-0-3) their first regulation loss in a game Sunday night at United Center.
Johnson, who’d been playing on the second pairing with Adrian Aucoin, missed a couple of shifts toward the end of the first period against the Blues on Saturday night, then tried to play at the start of the second. He left the ice 6:47 into the second and didn’t return.
The Blue Jackets, who are also without forwards Brandon Dubinsky (knee sprain) and Artem Anisimov (upper-body), recalled forward Ryan Johansen from Springfield of the American Hockey League on Sunday morning to take Johnson’s place.
CHICAGO -- There were 24 players who participated in Friday's morning skate for the Chicago Blackhawks, which meant good news for a number of injured players in various stages of the recovery process.
The biggest news of the day was star forward Marian Hossa skating for the second straight day after taking a big blow to the back of his head on Tuesday night against Vancouver, but there were other storylines of note. One was starting goalie Corey Crawford (undisclosed upper-body injury), who will return to the bench to back up Ray Emery on Friday night against the San Jose Sharks (8-4-3) at United Center.
It was his second straight team workout and first morning skate since leaving the lineup four games ago.
"I feel good," Crawford said. "I had a pretty good practice [Thursday] and I had to get the timing down a little bit. I felt better today for timing, so I feel ready. I'm 100 percent now."
CHICAGO -- Ray Emery has his own streak going at United Center at the same time the Chicago Blackhawks are in position to tie the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks for the NHL record of 16 consecutive games to start a season without a regulation loss.
Since coming to Chicago in 2011-12, Emery has yet to lose a game in regulation at United Center – he's 11-0-3 in the building as a Blackhawks goalie after backstopping a 3-2 win Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings.
What's his secret?
"The team that's in front of [me]," said Emery, who will face the Vancouver Canucks at home Tuesday after stopping 25 of 27 shots on against the Kings on Sunday. "It's a pretty good squad. You always want to play well at home. It's probably a bit of luck that it's turned out that way, but with a team like this … some nights it's hard to lose with a group like that."
CHICAGO -- David Booth will play his first game Tuesday since last season's Stanley Cup Playoffs.
After a preseason groin injury during on-ice testing caused him to miss the first 14 regular-season games, Booth will get back to playing games when the Vancouver Canucks face the rival Chicago Blackhawks at United Center -- a game in which the home team is vying to tie the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks for the NHL record of 16 consecutive games with at least a point earned to start a season.
"It's definitely an exciting time and an exciting game [to return]," Booth said. "I'm glad it worked out to be this game."
CHICAGO – After taking a hard slap shot to the midsection late in the second period of a 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday, Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook left for a stretch before returning in the third to finish the game.
Seabrook, however, will not be in uniform when the Blackhawks (12-0-3) play the rival Vancouver Canucks (8-3-3) Tuesday night at United Center – a contest in which the hosts are vying for to tie the 2006-07 Anaheim Ducks for the NHL record of 16 consecutive games with at least a point to start a season.
Seabrook wasn’t on the ice for the Blackhawks morning skate, and coach Joel Quenneville said afterward the top-pair defenseman would miss the game with what's being termed a lower-body injury.
CHICAGO – Jonathan Toews has only had three fights in his young career, but the last one left its mark on his right eye.
Toews, a highly-skilled center and captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, scrapped with San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton in the first period of a 4-1 Chicago win at United Center on Friday. He wound up taking a few shots from the much-taller Thornton, but felt like he proved his point regardless.
"I think there’s times where you have to assert yourself and stand up for yourself and I think that’s all it was," Toews said. "You’re not going to see me do that very often and I haven’t in my career. But it is part of the game, and maybe [I did it] for that reason … that you want to buy your time and space and respect out on the ice. I guess that’s something you kind of have to do to prove you deserve it, I guess."
Still, Crawford (day-to-day, upper body) will not play against the Kings. He also won’t be Ray Emery’s backup for the game (3:30 p.m., NBC). Henrik Karlsson will dress as the Blackhawks backup instead, as
Emery looks to keep an impressive streak going.
Since joining the Blackhawks last season, Emery has a 10-0-3 record at the Madhouse on Madison Street, including a 1-0-0 mark this year – after picking up the win in a 4-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks here on Friday.
Sheppard evidently got injured during an hour-long practice on Thursday in Chicago. San Jose might also have a lineup change coming on the back end, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan didn't specify what that might be.
"We'll look at inserting a new forward [for Sheppard],” McLellan said. "Potential change [on defense, as well]. We'll have to see after the skate how guys feel."
Crawford, who's 7-0-3 with a 1.65 goals-against average, is out with an undisclosed upper-body injury and was listed as day-to-day by Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville after Chicago’s morning skate Friday.
CHICAGO -- It might be just another game on the schedule, with more points the biggest thing at stake, but Tuesday's matchup at United Center does carry with it a little more interest than normal.
The Anaheim Ducks come into the game knowing they could become the first team this season to hand the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks a regulation loss (10-0-2). That in itself adds a little more spice than normal to a game that features a pair of teams that weren't really discussed much as serious contenders in the Western Conference prior to the season.
The NHL record for most consecutive wins without a regulation loss to start a season is 16, held by the 2006-07 Ducks (12-0-4).
"I think you always want to beat a team that's undefeated," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Tuesday prior to his team's morning skate. "You always think of it as quite a challenge. They're by and far, right now, the best team in the League. So it's a test for our team."
Joel Quenneville said Daniel Carcillo (knee sprain), Steve Montador (upper body) and Rostislav Olesz (knee) all skated on their own prior to the Blackhawks taking the ice for their team skate. Carcillo was injured in the third period of the season's first game at the Los Angeles Kings, and Montador is believed to be dealing with concussion symptoms that date to last season. Olesz is up with the Blackhawks rehabbing a knee injury that happened late last season in Rockford of the American Hockey League.
Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller did get on the ice for the skate at some point in his attempt to return from a lower-body injury that happened last Friday night at the Dallas Stars.
Crawford got the nod -- his fourth in a row and fifth in six games this season -- because he’s been solid in a starting role for the Blackhawks (5-0-0) – whose five-game win streak to start this season tied the franchise mark set by the 1971-72 team.
“He’s played well this week and we’re going to keep him going,” Quenneville said on Sunday afternoon, prior to playing Detroit (7 p.m. ET, FS-Detroit, CSN-Chicago). “He looks quick. He’s got some momentum, as well, so we’ll give him another crack tonight.”
Through his first four starts, Crawford is 4-0-0 with a 1.99 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Quenneville said that backup goalie Ray Emery, whose only start was a 6-4 road victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Jan. 20, will likely return to action during the upcoming road trip.
The Blackhawks won’t play Monday or Tuesday before embarking on a six-game swing that starts on Wednesday at Minnesota and includes back-to-back games next weekend against the rival Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames.
“We’ve got two days off and we’ve got three in four nights,” Quenneville said. “I’m sure that Ray’s going to get a game, at least. I don’t want to look too far ahead, but Corey’s deserving of keeping it going and [seeing] how it goes.”
The 26-year old Helm, who’s been hampered by a back injury that happened shortly before training camp, will again be inactive against the rival Chicago Blackhawks (5-0-0) on Sunday night at United Center.
Taking his place in the lineup will be veteran forward Patrick Eaves, who will shift to the right wing of the third line usually centered by Helm – whose spot in the middle will be manned by Justin Abdelkader.
“It’s his back,” said Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who didn’t say whether the injury will continue to be assessed day-to-day or whether Helm might need a longer time off for the injury to heal. “I don’t know if it’s a setback or a new thing. I don’t know. I’m not the doc.”
“Frustration’s a waste of time,” Babcock said, just a couple hours prior to playing the hottest team in the NHL with a patched-together lineup. “So, let’s just get on with it and win a game.”
Also among the injured for Detroit is defenseman Jonathan Ericsson, who’s missed three straight games with hip and shoulder injuries he sustained in Columbus during a practice. Ericsson will be a gametime decision against Chicago and will replace Jakub Kindl if he plays.
It’s always a big game at United Center when the Detroit Red Wings come to play the Chicago Blackhawks, but Sunday night has the potential to be even more special for the home team.
The Blackhawks (5-0-0) beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 on the road Saturday night to win their fifth straight game to start the season, which tied the 1971-72 mark for best record to start a season in franchise history.
This iteration of the Blackhawks can set the new record by beating Detroit on Sunday night (7 p.m., FS-Detroit; CSN-Chicago) – which could mean even more considering the opponent and intense Central Division rivalry.
The Red Wings are missing a number of injured regulars and are still getting used to playing without retired star captain Nicklas Lidstrom on the blue line. The Blackhawks, meanwhile, are mostly healthy and getting a lot of production from the “core group” of players who were kept around long term after the 2010 Stanley Cup championship season.
Lineup notes: Without skating in the morning, it’s tough to say exactly what Detroit coach Mike Babcock will do with his lineup against the Blackhawks. Ericsson will likely be a gametime decision because of hip and shoulder injuries that are healing up, but he’s expected to return to the lineup by media covering the team on a regular basis.
Lashoff has played pretty well with Kronwall while filling in during all of the injuries, so that makes Kindl the most likely candidate to be scratched against Chicago. Eaves could potentially find himself drawing into the lineup somewhere in the bottom-six forward group, while Helm (back) and Filppula (knee) continue to battle nagging injuries that could potentially take them out of action if they worsen.
Lineup notes: Chicago did not hold a morning skate after beating Columbus 3-2 on the road Saturday night. Brookbank played alongside Leddy and Mayers played right wing on the fourth line in place of Frolik. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville may opt for the speedier Frolik against the Red Wings and could go back to Rozsival on the third defense pairing, after he’s played well in three games.
They also have a trend going in their favor in this heated Central Division rivalry, at least on paper.
Dating to Feb. 3, 2010, the Blues (2-0-0) -- who are tied with the Blackhawks (2-0-0) atop the Central with four points -- are winless in Chicago. The team will have its annual red-carpet arrival event prior to the game for fans to cheer the Hawks players and celebrate the start of a new home slate, but Blues coach Ken Hitchcock knows his team won't be afforded the same hospitality.
"We usually get our [butts] kicked in this building," Hitchcock said following the team's optional morning practice.
St. Louis is winless in seven straight and is just 1-5-4 in its last 10 visits to United Center. Asked about their run of success at home against the Blues, the Blackhawks didn't think it mattered too much.
In fact, those asked about it didn't even know how long it had been since the Blues had won a game at United Center -- Feb. 3, 2010.
"I didn't even really pay attention to that, to be honest," Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith told NHL.com. "Every game against St. Louis is a tough game. They've got a lot of guys who compete hard over there and we're excited about the challenge. You have to play a good game against them, a patient game."
Chicago forward Patrick Kane, who had a goal and added three assists in the Hawks' first two games, thinks the matchup game might play into the lopsided numbers in his team's favor on home ice.
"[The Blues] are very tough to play in their own building and sometimes when you get them here, you get your own matchups and feed off the crowd a little bit," Kane said. "Usually in those games there's a lot of intensity and you can really use that to your advantage. I think tonight's going to be more of the same tonight."
Hitchcock agreed and expected his team to get another good early-season test, one night after a shootout victory in Nashville that he compared to a playoff game in terms of intensity.
"We just want to play well," Hitchcock said when asked about St. Louis' struggles in the Windy City the past few years. "Where Chicago tests you is … defensively. They test your composure under fire. You're not going to get away with giving up double-digit scoring chances. They're just too good. You're going to have to figure out a way to negate those as much as possible, and that's the challenge. Our challenge is to see what we can take away and make them uncomfortable."
Here's a look at how the Blackhawks likely will line up:
Lineup notes: Crawford will get the start in net, according to Chicago coach Joel Quenneville. The Hawks did not skate forward lines Tuesday, so it's possible Quenneville might opt to make some minor tweaks against the physically-imposing Blues. Possible changes could include swapping scrappy veteran -- and former Blues player -- Jamal Mayers for fourth-line center Marcus Kruger. Chicago, however, has been pleased with Kruger's play thus far at that spot.
CHICAGO -- After hearing the term "severe injury" used about Marian Hossa in the League's explanation video about the 25-game suspension for an illegal hit by Raffi Torres, there was cause to wonder if the injury could be long-term -- maybe even stretching into next season.
The 33-year old Hossa, a star forward for the Chicago Blackhawks, missed the final three games of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes because of an undisclosed upper-body injury after Torres clipped his head with his shoulder and sent him to the hospital. Hossa, who led the Hawks in scoring with 77 points (29 goals and 48 assists), left the hospital that night under his own power after being taken off the ice on a stretcher.
Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, however, said on Wednesday that he doesn't think Hossa's injury will linger into next season.
"[We're] very optimistic that he's going to be back," Bowman said. "We're here in April and training camp doesn't open until September. That's a lot of time to be rested and prepared and training in the offseason. So, we don't approach that any differently than a different injury."
Hossa briefly made an appearance at United Center on Wednesday during the team's locker clearout/player evaluation meetings, but didn't speak with reporters. As for his injury, it's starting to sound similar to other concussion-related issues that plagued several Blackhawks players -- including captain Jonathan Toews, who missed the last 22 games of the regular season before returning for the playoff series.
"We've had a lot of similar-type injuries with players in the past and it's too hard to predict a recovery time on these things," Bowman said. "There's no reason to think [Hossa is] any different than any other player that has that type of injury."
Toews, meanwhile, declined an invitation to play for Canada at the upcoming IIHF World Championships primarily because he doesn't want to risk a relapse of his concussion.
"I think for now the smart play is just to rest and make sure everything's clear and it's behind me," Toews said. "Obviously, I'd like to go represent Canada every chance I get, but right now it's not the smartest thing to do."
If Hossa is having similar injury issues as Toews, then his advice would be not to push returning to hockey-related activities too quickly and be honest with himself and doctors about how he's feeling.
Toews said he played "a handful" of games before speaking up about how he was feeling, which he said won't happen again should he feel that way again in the future.
"I think it's something I still need to look into to make sure it's a problem that I've dealt with and it's gone and it's not going to come back," Toews said. "It was definitely a learning experience going through two months being away from the guys and out of the locker room and having to deal with that sort of thing. It's not something I want to go through again, but I'll definitely be smarter about it next time."
The 38-year old forward wanted to be part of a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and saw the young core group of stars in Chicago as his best opportunity. As it turned out, it was a frustrating season for Brunette and the Blackhawks, who were bounced from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games by the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
Brunette, who hurt his right foot blocking a shot late in the season and played through the pain in the postseason, doesn't foresee the Blackhawks bringing him back, and the 16-year NHL veteran is contemplating retirement.
"I think they're going to go in a different direction, so I'm not going to be holding my breath thinking that they're going to call or hanging around by the phone," Brunette told reporters during Chicago's locker clean-out/player meetings day at United Center. "I haven't really thought about [the future]. It takes a few days to decompress and think about, kind of what happened and kind of re-assess when the mind clears and you're able to come up for air a little bit. We'll see as we go along."
Asked later about whether he was considering retirement, Brunette admitted it could be a possibility.
"It was a tough year and you don't want to leave this way, but there's times when the game tells you to leave and you don't have a decision," Brunette, who finished with 12 goals and 15 assists in 78 games, said. "We'll see. I'm not sure. I'm going to let it decompress, come up for air and make some kind of decision."
Brunette has 268 goals and 465 assists in 1,110 games with six different teams.
It was a good snapshot of the Coyotes' entire series against the Hawks, who've outshot them by a wide margin and still trail 3-2 after the previous five games were all decided in overtime.
"We talk all the time about [how] we have to do whatever it takes to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "And [we say] if the other team is shooting the puck a lot, we'd better be in the lanes as much as we can."
Mission accomplished on that front, so far.
Heading into Monday night's Game 6 at United Center, Phoenix has blocked 109 of Chicago's shots -- which ranks fourth most in the playoffs and is the most of any Western Conference team so far. Conversely, the Blackhawks have blocked just 53 shots -- but also faced far fewer pucks shot toward them.
Chicago is second overall in shots and first in the West with 202, while the Coyotes have launched just 139 shots at Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford -- the second-lowest amount among Western Conference teams, ahead of just Nashville.
That includes just 19 shots total in each of the past two games -- an overtime win in Game 4 followed by an OT loss in Game 5 at home Saturday night. The Coyotes might look to pick up the tempo at least a little bit for Game 6, as their offensive numbers in those last two games were even difficult for them to see.
"I think the whole game we played too conservatively," Yandle said of the Game 5 loss. "I don't know if we expected them to give us a win or it just to be handed to us, but I think the whole game we were a little behind the eight ball and I think tonight we've just got to push the pace a little more and forget about last game."
As long as they don't forget about getting in the shooting lanes defensively and sacrificing their bodies to stop shots, Tippett will be OK with that rationale.
"[Coyotes development coach] Dave King has a great saying and it's, 'Loose pucks and ice bags,' and if we didn't have ice bags on after the game we didn't play hard enough," Tippett said after the Coyotes morning skate. "That includes blocking shots."
CHICAGO -- There is no shortage of motivations to pick from in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series for the Chicago Blackhawks.
There's the spot they put themselves, getting down 3-1 in the series and trying to overcome the odds of being eliminated when they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday in Game 6 (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).
There's last season's first-round exit in overtime of Game 7 in Vancouver that's still a bitter memory. And then there's star teammate Marian Hossa, who will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.
Hossa, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher in Game 3 after an illegal hit by now-suspended Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, visited his teammates Monday for the first time since the incident happened.
Apparently, just seeing Hossa's face was all the motivation some players needed.
"He's our teammate and me ... I'm close with him," forward Michael Frolik said. "He's from Slovakia, so we are close friends. When it happened, we said in the room, 'We have to play for him,' and you don't want to see things like that. It maybe gets us closer and ... for sure, we're trying to win for him."
Viktor Stalberg took it a step further by saying the Hawks also want to win the series just to extend the playoffs and see if Hossa possibly could return from his injury to play again.
"You never want to see a guy go down like that," Stalberg said. "We'd certainly like to have him in the lineup. He's been our best player all season long. It definitely hurts us, but hopefully he's getting better and you never know, we might get him back at some point if we keep progressing. I think that's the ultimate goal ... to get him a chance to get back here."
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said there is no news to report as far as Hossa's injury condition, but believed just getting back around the team was a positive for all parties.
While Hossa won't be returning anytime soon, Chicago will get rookie forward Andrew Shaw back for Game 6 after he served a three-game suspension for running into Phoenix goalie Mike Smith behind the net in Game 2.
Shaw said he doesn't think the incident will change the intensity that allows him to overcome a perceived size disadvantage to be a pest for opponents at both ends of the ice.
"I'm just going to play my game and not change a thing," Shaw said. "Those things happen once in a while. Accidents do happen, but I'm just going to stick to my game and do the best that I can do."
He's also thrilled to get what he called a "second chance at the playoffs" after watching the Hawks win Game 5 in Phoenix in overtime -- which gave him the opportunity to get back in his first postseason series.
"I'm so excited," Shaw said. "When [Toews] scored there in overtime, I was hooting and hollering all around the [locker room], just excited to get another chance to play in the playoffs."
CHICAGO -- Here is a look at how the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks might line up on Monday night at United Center for Game 6 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Chicago will get rookie Andrew Shaw back from a three-game suspension and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he will draw into the lineup somewhere. However, at the morning skate Shaw wasn't among the top four lines and skated instead with Brandon Bollig and Jamal Mayers -- who are expected to be healthy scratches again.
CHICAGO -- Could the Chicago Blackhawks make the switch to Ray Emery in goal for Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Phoenix on Saturday night?
"We're talking about that," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday, shortly before he and his team departed for Phoenix. "We'll talk about our scenario, but I don't forsee making any announcements [before the game]."
Corey Crawford has started each of the first four games and lost three of them in overtime -- including a pivotal Game 4 at United Center 3-2 on Thursday night. Mikkel Boedker, in fact, beat Crawford in overtime in successive games for the Phoenix Coyotes -- who are on the brink of clinching the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoffs series in 25 years.
Crawford got the majority of starts in the regular season, but lost the starting job for a couple of six-game stretches with some inconsistent play. Boedker's goal in OT, scored off a partial breakaway by stuffing the puck through the pads, was the only one of the three Crawford allowed that he had a chance to stop.
It just happened to come at the worst time of the game and gave the Coyotes a huge victory. Regardless, the Hawks say they're fine with either Crawford or Emery in net -- and they don't think Crawford should be hanging his head because of the OT losses.
"Goaltending is a position that seems to take most of the responsibility, especially in losing efforts," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "But really, what you don't notice is those little efforts that he does on every play, every shift, and those stops that he's making to keep us in these tight games. Maybe he deserves a little more credit for that. So, we're standing behind him. He's worked as hard, if not harder, than anybody in this series. He deserves our full support, [and] we need to be better and more supportive in front of him."
"Goaltending is a position somewhat like defensemen, who are the last line of defense," Keith said. "Well, the goaltender is the very last line of defense. They can be a hero one day and a goat the next day. Corey's played great all year long, and played great for us in the playoffs last year. He had his best game in the playoffs last year in Game 7 [against Vancouver], when we were facing elimination, so we've got a lot of confidence in him and in both of our goalies."
They're likely to call on some new faces who just recently arrived from the minors, as well -- or junior hockey in the case of Chicago's Brandon Saad, who could find himself playing a role in the Blackhawks' top six group in place of injured Marian Hossa.
Here is a look at how both teams could line up when they take the ice at the Madhouse on Madison. Some of it, however, is just guesswork because neither team skated their forward line combinations during the morning skate sessions.
CHICAGO -- The Phoenix Coyotes will again be without two key forwards on Tuesday night at the United Center for Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series.
Center Martin Hanzal and forward Lauri Korpikoski will both miss their second straight game with undisclosed injuries -- meaning the Coyotes will again have to rely on their depth in an effort to extend their 2-1 lead in the series.
Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the way the series has played out has confirmed his gut feeling that Phoenix has enough depth to last for a deeper run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"You hope you have that depth," Tippett said. "You don't know what you have until it actually gets thrown in there, so we're certainly getting tested right now. We've got some players that just finished up in Portland [of the Western Hockey League] and are with us now. They've been up and down a couple times this year throughout injuries, so hopefully that experience they got with our team will benfit us."
Phoenix just recently called up centers Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Alexandre Bolduc prior to Game 3 on Tuesday, so one or both could draw into the Coyotes' lineup somewhere. If they do, Tippett said he's comfortable with the kind of effort his team will get.
"They recognize this is going to be a very intense game," Tippett said. "Every play in the game is going to count and we expect them to jump in and do the job for us."
Hanzal (lower body) said he's feeling better and participated in the morning skate. He initially told reporters that he'd be a game-time decision, but Tippett pronounced him out not long afterward. Korpikoski (upper body) did not skate.
CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa's physical condition has not changed since being released from a hospital emergency room Tuesday night.
The Chicago Blackhawks' star forward was knocked to the ice on a check in the neutral zone by Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres in Game 3 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series at the United Center and taken off on a stretcher.
He left the hospital under his own power, but is said to have an upper body injury and will not play in Game 4 Thursday night. His prognosis for any further games is also unknown, as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is keeping information on it closely guarded.
"There's no change," Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate. "Spoke to him yesterday and he's feeling the same as the last two days. I'm not going to go any further with it than where we are today."
DETROIT -- Here are the lineups the Red Wings and Predators likely will use when they meet Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena in Game 4 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC):
DETROIT -- One of the more popular side stories prior to Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC) involves table tennis.
After "news" broke on Monday that Red Wings forward Todd Bertuzzi put the kibosh on a game of ping pong between Predators teammates Roman Josi and Brandon Yip at Joe Louis Arena, players and coaches from both teams fielded questions about it Tuesday.
The Red Wings had the tables brought in this season as a pre-game activity in the area located just outside the two locker rooms. Bertuzzi told the Detroit Free Press that he asked a security guard to prevent the Predators from playing.
Yip and Josi confirmed that's what happened and said they were surprised by such a big media flap about it -- including a bunch of online blog posts.
"It was a little funny," Yip said. "It's nothing to look too far into, I don't think. We just went out there to play and ... the security guard said we're not to play. We were a little disappointed, but we went back and did our normal routine. I don't think it will have any affect [on the game] ... except I got a little more TV time today."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was asked about it during his meeting with reporters and was told by a team spokesman prior to answering that the incident didn't happen.
"That's why stuff like that is rumors," he said, smiling. "You start that rumor. Lots of rumors going around ... when I'm bored I start them. Good job by you.''
Nashville coach Barry Trotz sounded just as amused by it.
"It really has no effect [on the game]," Trotz said. "If they want a ping pong table in Nashville, I'm more than willing to give them one. It's their toys. We have our toys, all those things, a ping pong table, our balls. We're OK. We've got a soccer ball. We have our things that we do. There's nothing really to it. That's their decision. It's their toy."
DETROIT -- While his season as a whole can be considered a success, the past month for Valtteri Filppula hasn't been pretty.
The 28-year old Detroit Red Wings forward has scored just one goal in the past 17 games dating to the regular season. He last found the back of the net March 17 at San Jose. He had career-highs of 23 goals, 43 assists and 66 points this season while shifting from center to left wing.
Through Detroit's first three Stanley Cup Playoffs games, however, Filppula has no goals and one assist. He's also taken just six shots on goal, including just two of the Red Wings' 43 in Game 3 on Sunday.
"You create chances to score, but at the end of the day, chances ... they don't count," Filppula said. "We have to find a way to score and hopefully we can do a better job."
The Red Wings have struggled scoring goals in the same timeframe that's seen Filppula's production fall off. They also find themselves down 2-1 in their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators and could use an offensive outburst in Game 4 on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC).
"I feel like we've been getting some chances, for sure," Filppula said. "[Sunday's] game, we had a lot of good chances and couldn't score. It's tough, obviously. You hope to get more chances but their goalie is playing really well, too. The more chances, hopefully the better luck you have that some go in."
In the regular season, Filppula led Detroit in goals scored against Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne this season, with four in six games.
"It's a little different," Filppula said of the postseason. "Playoff hockey is always different. There's less room and you don't get as many good chances as you do during the regular season. It's tighter. The biggest thing is getting second shots and second chances and getting goals that way."
Still, the Wings know that when Filppula's firing more pucks at the net, the better it is for their scoring chances.
"I think we saw that [this season] when he was scoring some goals, he was shooting the puck a little more, driving the net, and [that's] something [he] can do an even better job at," Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "It would help [if Filppula heats up]. You're always looking at one player to be that difference and I think Fil can be that difference for us."
Gill went through Nashville's morning skate wearing skate guards, which was the first time he'd done gone through a game-day skate since incurring a lower-body injury in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
Gill hasn't played in the series and also missed the season finale in Colorado. The good news for the Preds -- who lead the series 2-1 -- is that Gill appears to be making good progress, according to Nashville coach Barry Trotz.
"He's improving every day, made some real good improvement," Trotz said of Gill. "He’s not in [Tuesday], but really good improvement. I thought he looked very good, actually."
Gill declined comment through a team spokesman. Whenever he does return, the Preds' penalty killing should get a big boost -- literally. The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill -- who was acquired from Montreal in a deal a week before the trade deadline -- takes up a lot of space in front of the net where opposing forwards like to camp.
"That's a specialty for him," Trotz said of Gill's penalty-killing ability. "He's a big man. It's like parking a small car in front of the net sometimes when he's out there."
It also will provide a chance for the Predators' top defense duo of Shea Weber and Ryan Suter to catch a breather. With Gill sidelined, they've been spending a lot of time killing penalties.
"They do a real good job and I think [Kevin Klein] gets underrated on that," Trotz said. "[Suter and Weber] are always the big names, but [Klein and Roman Josi] do a good job, too. They've done a really good job to this point, but I'd be excited to get Hal back, because that's really where he excels -- especially this time of year."
Trotz did say there will be a lineup switch for the Preds in Game 4, but declined to reveal it. Rookie defenseman Ryan Ellis stayed out on the ice for the skate a lot longer than the defenseman he replaced in Game 3, Jack Hillen, which could be a clue.
Hillen played for Gill in the first two games of the series.
Forward Brandon Yip also is expected to draw into Nashville's lineup, at right wing of the fourth line in place of Jordin Tootoo, while David Legwand might start the game at fourth-line center instead of being in the middle of the second line.
Prior to Detroit's 3-2 loss on Sunday in Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena, the Red Wings power forward chastised the calls and non-calls from Game 1 and Game 2, in which he says some stick work in the first game and an elbow in the second left him with the black eye he's currently sporting.
Franzen then picked up a pair of slashing penalties in the second period on Sunday, with the second one leading to a 4-on-4 situation that eventually got the Wings their first goal by Pavel Datsyuk.
Franzen went to check Ryan Suter near the Predators bench and only got a piece of him before slamming into the boards right in front of the Nashville bench. Predators center David Legwand was then spotted holding Franzen's sweater with a tug -- which prompted the Red Wings forward to yank free and drive his stick toward Legwand on the bench in a spearing motion.
Did the heat of the moment cause his temper to boil over into making a bad decision?
“No," Franzen said. "He held me. If he does it again, I’m going to do it again. He got called for it and I’m happy for that. We're a good team 4-on-4, so if he's going to do that again, I'm happy to do it. Maybe I'll drag him out onto the ice and sit on him, I don't know ... maybe do something else."
Franzen said that by jabbing his stick in retaliation, he feels that led officials to look into what happened to start the incident in the first place -- which resulted in a bench interference minor called against Nashville.
"The ref wouldn't have called him if I wouldn't have done that," Franzen said. "He needed help from his [linesmen] and his partner to figure that out, so that would never have been called otherwise."
It also happened to create 4-on-4 play, which has shown in this series to help Detroit's top offensive stars -- like Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg -- create more scoring chances.
"I would take that any day," Franzen said. "If I could get [Datsyuk] and [Zetterberg] out there playing 4-on-4 instead of 5-on-5, you'd play like that all day if you could. [There's] a lot more room to create stuff on."
Detroit captain Nicklas Lidstrom doesn't necessarily agree with his Swedish countryman's logic. Lidstrom talked at length on Monday about the Red Wings not taking bad penalties and putting themselves at a disadvantage either in numbers or taking key players off the ice for however long the infraction is worth.
Lidstrom was asked about Franzen's incident with the Nashville bench and said it was a good example of what the Wings cannot do in the remaining games of this series.
"That's where you have to try and stay disciplined, and it's hard sometimes," Lidstrom said. "It's very hard. You're in the heat of the moment and your heart rate is going [really fast]. You're so into the game, so it's hard sometimes. But that's when you get sucked into those kinds of penalties. You can still react to it, but you have to be aware of it and you have to have that in the back of your mind that you can't do certain things now."
DETROIT --Brad Stuart isn't getting off the kind of start to these Stanley Cup Playoffs that he'd hoped to, but he's not going to dwell on the negatives that have happened to him or the Detroit Red Wings thus far.
Detroit trails its Western Conference Quarterfinal series 2-1 to the Nashville Predators, and every game has finished with a 3-2 score -- including Sunday's Game 3, in which Stuart was on the ice for two of the goals allowed. In all, he's also been on the ice for six of the eight goals Nashville has scored so far and is tied with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin with a League-worst minus-4 rating.
"This time of year, any type of mistake can be the one that costs you the game," Stuart said on Monday. "The players that dwell on that are the ones that kind of tighten up and don't play their game. The other ones, who just go out and play, are the ones who have success this time of year. Mistakes are going to be made. There's no question. It's how you respond and how you deal with it that's important."
Stuart said he and his teammates who've been part of some mistakes in the first three games should be able to brush them off -- especially with Detroit's lineup featuring a lot of playoff-savvy veterans.
"This time of year the little things get talked about -- every little play, every little mistake could be the difference," Stuart said. "So, if you've had experience in dealing with that and know how to put it behind you, it's a lot more effective than dwelling on something and letting it affect the rest of your game."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock put 41-year-old star captain Nicklas Lidstrom back together with Ian White as the Wings' top defense pair, which had been the case for most of the season. After Lidstrom was injured blocking a shot and missed 11 games in March, White was forced to work with others on the blue line and wasn't a shoe-in to work with Lidstrom after he returned.
In fact, Babcock had been using the bigger Jonathan Ericsson with Lidstrom as the top pair after he also returned from a lengthy injury. That changed mid-game Sunday, though, with White taking the right point beside Lidstrom on the left once again -- which also was how they lined up during Monday's practice at Joe Louis Arena.
Babcock, however, cautioned against trying to predict how his lineup will look before or during the game.
"We like Ericsson and Lidstrom together on match-ups, too," Babcock said. "When we need the puck moved a little crisper … we thought [White] was having a good game."
Prior to Lidstrom's injury, he and White had plus/minus ratings in the upper 20s and were sitting near the top of the League in that stat.
"All these questions you're asking about -- who's playing with who -- I'm going to go to the game and I'm going to watch, and whoever plays the best is going to play the most," Babcock said. "It doesn't matter to me what their name is.''
DETROIT -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock's most common terminology for getting off to a good start in games is "starting on time," but lately his team seems to be starting games by repeatedly hitting the snooze button.
Detroit has fallen behind in eight of its last night games, including the regular season and two of the first three games in its Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Nashville Predators. As a result, the Wings find themselves down 2-1 in the series heading into Game 4 Tuesday at Joe Louis Arena (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC), a building where they lost 3-2 in Game 3 on Sunday after falling behind 2-0 before making a furious effort to come back.
"I thought someone told me it was like 80 percent of the time during the regular season when you score first you win, so I don't think that's any different now," Babcock said after Monday's practice. "It's a priority for everyone. You want to get started on time. We lost the first four faceoffs last night. That led to forechecks … any way you look at it, that leads to momentum. That probably leads to you taking a penalty and more momentum, so you got to start on time for sure and it's a priority each and every night.''
The Predators owned the faceoff battle early in Game 3, winning 75 percent of the draws through the first 15 minutes of the game and taking a 1-0 lead on Shea Weber's power-play goal just 2:48 into the game.
The Red Wings again struggled with committing early penalties in that game and it wound up costing them with not only Weber's goal, but lost puck possession and offensive flow. Johan Franzen was called for two slashing penalties in the second period, with the second one leading to a five-on-three Nashville power play.
The Red Wings killed it and actually gained some momentum from it, but that's not the ideal way Babcock wants his team to get its offense going -- especially playing without injured penalty-killing forwards Patrick Eaves and Darren Helm.
"When I look at the tape those are both penalties," Babcock said of the infractions by Franzen and Kyle Quincey to create Nashville's 23-second two-man advantage. "Stay out of the box. Real simple. It takes a ton of energy to play four against five. Normally we could have [Eaves and Helm]. They eat up a ton of those minutes, so now [Pavel Datsyuk] and [Henrik Zetterberg] are doing it. I'd rather have them shooting it in the net than keeping it out of the net, so it's a waste of energy just because I was careless with my stick. But the great thing about this stuff is we control all of it and we're going to fix it.''
If they don't, it could be more of the same as the two losses to the Predators -- both of which saw Detroit fall behind early while trying to find its footing following multiple penalties. That's why with a pivotal Game 4 on tap Tuesday, the Red Wings really are focusing on hearing the alarm this time.
"Both teams right now have teams that can really frustrate the opposing team [with a lead]," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said. "It seems like right now, whoever scores first has the momentum throughout the game."
DETROIT -- Despite winning the third game of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday and taking a 2-1 series lead, Nashville coach Barry Trotz appeared to send a message in Monday's practice.
Both teams tout active, productive two-way defense corps led by stars in the top pairing. So far, though, it's been the Predators receiving the bigger edge from their blue line. Nashville has gotten three goals and two assists from its defense, led by captain Shea Weber's two goals, while Detroit has gotten just one goal, by Ian White, and three assists.
It hasn't just been offensively, however. Weber and Ryan Suter are logging a lot of minutes without injured veteran Hal Gill playing, and the second two pairings also have contributed big plays and points.
"We try and chip in whenever we can," said Kevin Klein, who had a goal and an assist in Game 3, and also saved a sure game-tying goal by deflecting a shot with the shaft of his stick. "Obviously [Suter and Weber] carry most of the load offensively. They create so many opportunities while playing solid defense. They're two of the best defensemen in the world and we're lucky to have them."
Not just for the obvious reasons, either.
"It's nice for the next four or five guys to just fly under the radar and do our thing and let them get all the praise," Klein said. "It's good. It keeps the pressure off the young guys, too."
Star goalie Pekka Rinne helps the Predators' defense as well, but said Monday that it's a two-way street -- especially in Nashville's defense-oriented system.
"They've been our backbone for a long, long time and they're always there for us," Rinne said of his defensemen. "They're creating offense as well as making a lot of great defensive plays and blocking shots and giving our forwards pucks at full speed for good breakouts and all that stuff. It's a really big part of our team."
DETROIT -- Hal Gill skated in a full team practice Monday, the first time the Nashville Predators defenseman has done that since sustaining a lower-body injury blocking a shot in the second-to-last game of the regular season.
The 6-foot-7, 241-pound Gill -- who was acquired in February for his postseason experience and penalty-killing ability -- skated for about 30 minutes before leaving the ice at Joe Louis Arena prior to drills that involved more contact.
Nashville coach Barry Trotz said Gill is feeling better, but didn't shed much light on whether Gill will play in Game 4 of the Predators' Western Conference Quarterfinals series with the Detroit red Wings on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., NBCSN, CBC).
"He'll be just day-to-day and we'll see where he is [Tuesday]," Trotz said. "He said he felt a lot better. I said, 'Don't push it too hard.' He was fine. He actually stayed out there for quite a while."
Gill has missed the first three playoff games, plus the last game of the regular season, with the injury. Gill didn't speak with reporters following practice, but his teammates said they were hoping to get him back in the lineup for a pivotal game in the series, which Nashville leads 2-1.
"Hopefully he's feeling pretty good and he can get back in there and play for us soon," Predators center Mike Fisher said. "We're hoping."
DETROIT -- Just one game after scoring his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to help his team get a win, Detroit Red Wings rookie Cory Emmerton sat at his locker stall on Sunday afternoon soaking in a very different feeling.
The Red Wings lost Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series against the Nashville Predators 3-2 at Joe Louis Arena and Emmerton wound up being the only guy on his team not to record a shot on goal.
Detroit launched a whopping 45 shots on goal, had 19 others blocked and missed the net 15 times, but it was a play by Nashville's Kevin Klein in the third that had Emmerton shaking his head a little bit.
Emmerton was about to cap a rush early in the third by putting home a rebound of Drew Miller's shot into a wide open net when Klein somehow blocked the shot from the low slot with just the shaft of his stick at the last second.
"We had a good breakout there, I tried to beat my guy up the ice and [Miller] did a good job," Emmerton said. "It was a tight spot to make a pass, so he passed up the pass and the puck went off the pads and I just tried to wire it. But the D-man just kind of did like a spin or something with his stick and I don't know how, but I hit him right in the middle of the shaft. It's unbelievable, but it's a tough break."
DETROIT -- It's become a constant mantra now for the Detroit Red Wings, who've suddenly become prone to taking penalties in their first three games of a Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinal series against Nashville.
Detroit has committed 20 penalties, served 43 minutes in the penalty box and given the Predators a whopping 16 power plays already -- including a costly one by Drew Miller just 1:35 into Sunday's 3-2 Game 3 loss at Joe Louis Arena.
Miller was called for goaltender interference on a one-man rush after it appeared he tried to stop and was nudged into Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne.
"I for sure bumped into him, but it's not on purpose," said Miller, who went to the box and watched Shea Weber put the Preds up 1-0 at 2:48 of the first on Nashville's first power-play goal of the series. "It's skating as fast as I can down the ice to try to get to the puck and then shoot it at the net. So, I don't know if I was pushed from behind a little bit or what, or hit him hard. I couldn't even tell you."
Regardless of intent, it was just the start of another penalty-filled game for the Red Wings -- who wound up getting whistled for six infractions overall. Detroit finished the regular season behind only Nashville as the second least penalized team in the NHL, but suddenly has an issue with parading to the box.
It's starting to eat at the Red Wings, too -- whether they're taking their frustrations out on the calls or themselves.
"You've got to be more aware, but you can't use your stick, you can't tug someone [and] you can't, you know, interfere with someone," Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom said. "You've got to be a lot smarter and you've got to think about it, too. Sometimes you've got to take a penalty to stop the scoring chance, but just be more aware of what they're calling out there."
What the officials have called, however, is starting to be a touchy subject in the Detroit locker room. Several Red Wings players were asked leading questions about the officiating in the series overall, but none really took the bait a day after Johan Franzen had some harsh comments about it.
Franzen was also the recipient of two slashing calls on Sunday, with the first one leading to a Nashville 5-on-3 situation for almost half a minute in the second period.
"The regular season, we're not really that kind of team," Henrik Zetterberg said. "All of a sudden in the playoffs we get a lot of penalties. [The] PK's been good, but we knew it [wouldn't] last forever. They've got a good power play. If you keep giving them chances, they will eventually score."
DETROIT -- It's a disturbing trend that can't be ignored when talking about the Detroit Red Wings.
Including the final six games of the regular season plus their first three Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinal series contests, the Red Wings have fallen behind eight times and had to fight their way back.
It happened again on Sunday against the Nashville Predators in Game 3 of Detroit's opening-round series and led to a 3-2 loss -- the same score as the first two games. The Wings also fell behind in Game 1 at Nashville's Bridgestone Arena and were scrambling late trying to tie it.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock said a big issue related to the trend is happening in the faceoff circle, where the Red Wings were beaten soundly in the first period on Sunday.
"I thought we had to win faceoffs off the start, we were 0-for-4 in our first faceoffs, so they got on top of us," Babcock said. "We'd like to do a better job in the faceoff circle. The team that wins the draw, ends with the forecheck and gets on top of the other team, so that's something we'd like to do better."
Plus, there's the whole matter of actually playing against somebody. The Predators are also adept at sitting on leads, which is what happened Sunday after Shea Weber potted a power-play goal 2:48 into the game and Kevin Klein scored early in the second for a 2-0 lead.
"The thing I find is the other team is trying, too," Babcock said. "You're trying to get off to a good start, they're trying to get off to a good start. They got the power play early and made us pay."
Red Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom agreed with his coach and said that continually chasing the lead is no way to win in the postseason.
"It's so much harder to score those goals [to tie it] and get those chances in the playoffs," he said. "They make it harder to get in front of the net. It just shows how playoff hockey is so different than the regular season."
DETROIT -- The Nashville Predators won a hard-fought 3-2 game at Joe Louis Arena on Sunday afternoon and did it with a pair of rookie defensemen on the back end.
Ryan Ellis joined fellow rookie Roman Josi in the starting lineup for Game 3 of a Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series between the Predators and Detroit Red Wings -- which was his NHL playoffs debut.
Josi played in the first two games, while Ellis replaced Jack Hillen on Sunday in a continuing effort to replace veteran defenseman Hal Gill -- who missed his third playoff game and fourth game overall with a lower-body injury that happened blocking a shot in the second to last game of the regular season.
Ellis played just 7:50, but delivered three hits and had one of 19 blocked shots for the Preds.
"I was a little nervous," Ellis said. "It's quick out there, a faster pace than a regular game. It's nice to win. Whether it be big or small, it's better to win."
Like Josi, Ellis also made his NHL debut this season facing the Red Wings.
"It’s definitely nice to make the debut here," said Ellis, who played junior hockey just across the Detroit River for the OHL's Windsor Spitfires. "It would have been nice to play the first two, but whatever the team has to do to win. I’m just here to be a part of that."
Nashville coach Barry Trotz was just glad the talented rookie blueliner got his playoff debut out of the way.
"I thought he played pretty well," Trotz said. "He’s a young guy playing in 'The Joe.' I know he's from across the river, so I know he's very familiar with 'The Joe' and the atmosphere. I thought he played pretty well. He's one of the most intelligent players you'll come across. More than anything, he's a winner. He's been a winner at every level. I was real happy for his first game. I know he was excited, but I don't think he gets too rattled. He was very composed."
Klein's goal, just the second playoff marker of his career, came just 3:50 into the second period and put the Preds up 2-0 to quiet a raucous pro-Wings crowd. Maybe more impressive was the way he scored it.
After Detroit's Brad Stuart created a delayed penalty situation, Klein took a short pass at the Red Wings blue line and blew past Stuart into the slot for a wrist shot that beat Howard high to the top right corner of the net.
"I don't know what I was really doing there," Klein said. "It's one of those plays where you just kind of read and react, and [Erat] gave me a nice pass there. It was nice to make a move and go in and score, get the boys fired up a little bit. It was nice to pot that one. When I got in alone, I saw the top was open a little bit, and I happened to execute it."
He also happened to come up with the quote of the day to sum it up.
"I like to step up and show my offensive talent once a year," said Klein, who scored four goals and added 17 assists in 66 games this season. "That’s about it."
Klein also blocked a shot from close range off the rush by Emmerton to save a sure goal, using just the shaft of his stick. Emmeton had pounced on a rebound of Drew Miller's shot that ricocheted off Pekka Rinne's pad to the low slot -- leaving the Preds goalie out of position.
Klein then picked up a secondary assist on Sergei Kostitsyn's goal with just 3:30 left to play in the third that made it 3-1 Nashville.
"Kevin was really good," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "He really stepped up. He was real strong. The second goal was huge. He looked like a 40-goal scorer jumping up there. He roofed it. I thought it was a real defining moment."
As for the shot block, Rinne was relieved and impressed.
"That was awesome," Rinne said. "He's done that a lot this year. I guess he has a little bit of goalie instinct, but he made a huge block ... really saved a for-sure goal. That's obviously one of the key plays."
Weber's altercation with Henrik Zetterberg just after the final horn of Game 1 in Nashville's Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series earned him a fine by the League, but Wings fans got a chance to let him hear it in Game 3 on Sunday at Joe Louis Arena.
Weber was booed virtually every time he touched the puck, and he touched it a lot while playing 27:06 and spreading it out over a whopping 33 shifts.
It didn't matter, as Weber scored the game's first goal on a power play, launched four shots on goal, delivered three hits and blocked three shots to earn praise from Nashville coach Barry Trotz after the Preds' narrow 3-2 victory.
"He was a monster out there," Trotz said. "He scored a big goal. Obviously, when he came to the rink, he knew he wasn't going to be the most likeable guy in the arena. He made a big statement. He said, 'I'm here to stay and nothing's going to stop me from being a top player.' He's all about business, on and off the ice. I'm very fortunate that I can put him on the ice, night in and night out."
As for the constant boos, Weber just took them in stride.
"It's part of it, whatever," he said. "I guess we're more focused on the game."
DETROIT -- It's only two games into their Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinals series and already it's been kind of an odd one for both the Detroit Red Wings and Nashville Predators.
Not only was there the well-publicized incident with Shea Weber and Henrik Zetterberg at the conclusion of Game 1 at Bridgestone Arena, but there's also the fact Detroit won Game 2 with both coaches basically agreeing Nashville played a better game.
The Red Wings were limited to just 17 shots on goal in the second game, yet triumphed 3-2 on goals by Ian White, Cory Emmerton and Johan Franzen plus some outstanding work in net from Jimmy Howard (24 saves). The only constant thus far, heading into Sunday's Game 3 at Joe Louis Arena (Noon NBC, CBC, RDS), has been the tight-checking nature of both games -- which both ended in 3-2 scores.
There's no reason to expect any different on Sunday, either.
"I don't think there's been a whole lot of room either way," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "We only had [17 ]shots on goal [in Game 2], so we stopped playing the third period -- didn't skate I didn't think [and] got in a protective mode, which isn't the way you want to do it. In saying that, there's just not a lot of room for either team and that's what we expect. They'll go make some adjustments. We'll go make some adjustments. And we'll both try to do better."
Predators coach Barry Trotz didn't sound all that different in his assessment of the series.
"I was more comfortable with our game [on Friday] when we lost than our first game, when it was just a game that broken up through penalties," Trotz said. "It really hasn't been that physical of a series. Last year against Anaheim, that was nasty. This one's just ... you have to grind for inches. It's more of a grinding series than it is physical."
Detroit's Ian White missed practice on Saturday with a sore instep on his left foot as the result of blocking a slap shot in Game 2, but he's expected to play on Sunday. Nashville defenseman Hal Gill, who hasn't played since the end of the regular season, will be a gametime decision.
Here is how each team is likely to start Sunday's game:
DETROIT -- On the one hand, the Detroit Red Wings couldn't be happier about their penalty-killing units in their first two Western Conference Quarterfinal games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Detroit has killed all 12 power plays that were granted to the Nashville Predators and the Red Wings haven't allowed a power-play goal in the last nine games dating back to the conclusion of the regular season -- totaling 37 straight successful penalty kills.
On the other hand, the Wings also took significantly more penalties in the first two games than they'd averaged per game all season.
"I have no idea how many in a row it's been," Red Wings defenseman Jonathan Ericsson said of the penalty-kill streak. "The last two games there, have been a bit too many penalties we've taken. We don't really want that."
What they do want is to continue doing the things that have sparked such recent success while playing with less skaters -- such as blocking shots in bunches, clearing out loose rebounds and winning faceoffs inside the defensive zone.
"I think we've just been doing a great job frustrating them, blocking shots, taking away passing lanes and just working hard out there," said Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard, who's also been a big part of the defensive special teams unit's hot stretch. "I really think it's the sacrificing [of] the body, the way we've been blocking shots. Guys have been putting their bodies on the line out there. It's not easy to step in front of Shea Weber's shot. Guys have been doing it."
The Wings have also been doing it without the help of two top penalty killers -- Darren Helm and captain Nicklas Lidstrom. Helm is out for the remainder of the playoffs after severing tendons in his forearm in Game 1, while Lidstrom isn't playing on either penalty-kill unit because of a deep bone bruise on his foot that's susceptible to getting hit again by a hard shot -- which is what caused the initial injury.
"Not having [Helm] out there is a huge blow," Howard said on Saturday. "With his speed and everything ... he gets up ice and then disrupts the flow of their breakouts. But at the same time, guys are stepping up and that's great to see."
Speaking of things to see, Howard's been having a difficult time seeing shots because of traffic in front of the net caused primarily by Patric Hornqvist -- who said he patterned his net-front game after fellow countryman Tomas Holmstrom.
Though Hornqvist hasn't scored yet on the power play, he's definitely making his presence felt in front of Howard.
"He's just like [Holmstrom]," Howard said. "He's really going to get his stick on pucks. As a goalie, he just makes your life miserable out there. He's a hard guy to move as well."
That's why it's nice to have the big body of Ericsson back from a wrist fracture that kept him out for much of the final stretch in the regular season. Ericsson's play in all situations has been noticeably improved this season, especially since his return, but especially so while killing penalties.
"That was one of my goals before the season and from the meetings I had, was to take a step on the penalty kill and become a bigger factor for the team," Ericsson said. "That's how I wanted to contribute. I think I got better throughout the year on the penalty kill, but you're always working as a unit out there. Everyone has to work together. It's not one player or two."
DETROIT -- Mike Babcock wasn't real thrilled with the play of his third and fourth forward lines down the last stretch of the regular season and into Game 1 of the Detroit Red Wings' Stanley Cup Playoffs Quarterfinal series.
He told reporters prior to the second game on Friday at Bridgestone Arena that Detroit needed more at both ends of the rink out of his "bottom six" forwards and they responded in kind. Rookie Cory Emmerton, who centers the fourth line, scored his first NHL playoff goal on a great individual effort late in the first period to highlight the offense, but third-line wingers Drew Miller and Danny Cleary also drew recognition from Babcock on Saturday.
DETROIT -- They haven't allowed a power-play goal 12 opportunities with the man-advantage for the Nashville Predators during the first two games, but the Detroit Red Wings might have paid a price for it anyway.
Defenseman Ian White missed the team's brief practice Saturday in Detroit with a foot injury that happened while killing a Nashville power-play late in the second period of a 3-2 win Friday at Bridgestone Arena.
White blocked a hard, one-timed slapshot by Predators defenseman Roman Josi with the instep of his left skate with just 6:01 left in the period and was immediately slowed. White managed to finish the game, but couldn't get his foot into the skate boot on Saturday morning for practice.
White and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, however, expect him to play in Game 3 on Sunday of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series (noon, NBC) -- which is knotted at one game apiece with the next two in Detroit's Joe Louis Arena.
"Just a little tender," White said. "Just take the day off and let it rest."
White, who raised his foot off the ice to stop the puck, also said X-rays weren't necessary.
“No, I’ve been hit in the foot by a puck many times, so I was pretty sure it wasn't broken," he said. "It was just one of those things that when you take a puck in the foot, it’s gonna hurt.”
White also got stuck on the ice during a high-tempo sequence after getting hit in the foot and hobbled around as best he could until he could get to the bench.
“We were out there killing for a while," White said. "You take that puck in the foot and you’re already tired and you can’t skate and you have to go battle some more, but that’s how it goes.”
CHICAGO -- The easy thing to do with this series is simply line up all the stars the Chicago Blackhawks have, put them next to the numerous "lunch box" types the Phoenix Coyotes utilize and favor the guys from the Windy City.
However, the Blackhawks are not on board with that kind of logic.
Not only did they beat Phoenix just one time in four games played this season, but the Hawks also found out too many times for their liking what can happen when the defensively-sound Coyotes are allowed to build an early lead.
"It's the same old answers you'll hear from now until the Stanley Cup is raised," Hawks star forward Patrick Sharp told NHL.com this week. "You want to score first. You want to play with a lead in games. You want to play with a lead in the series. You want to try and steal a win in their building. That's all very important, especially when you're talking about a team like Phoenix, that's so well-coached and so well-disciplined."
Yet, the thing that often gets overlooked is the fact the Coyotes can score goals too. Ray Whitney finished with 24 goals and 53 assists to lead the team in scoring with 77 points, while Radim Vrbata led the way in scoring goals with 35 markers to go with 27 assists for a 62-point season.
Shane Doan also scored more than 20 goals (22 to be exact) and seven other 'Yotes put up double figures in that category.
"They know how to shut games down and just play that patient style, but they also have the ability to put the puck in the net," Sharp said. "We've got a big task ahead of us. You think of their team as a well-coached, patient, defensive-minded team, but they've got some players over there who have the ability to put up big numbers. [Vrbata] had one of the most underrated seasons I've seen in a while. Keith Yandle on the back end has had a couple of good seasons in a row. You can name a number of guys who are good. You can go in there thinking it's going to be a slow game, but they can put the puck in with the best of them."
Blackhawks center Dave Bolland, whose job on the third line will be to disrupt the Phoenix scorers, agreed with Sharp's assessment.
"We've got to be ready for them," Bolland said. "They've kind of had our number this year and we've got to be ready for whatever they throw at us."
Along those same lines, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is already cautioning his team not to let up just because it looks as if star captain and top center Jonathan Toews might return for this series from a concussion that kept him out the final 22 games of the regular season.
"I don't think we have the luxury to say, 'Oh, Johnny's back ... we can rely [on him] and relax and Johnny's going to take over here,'" Quenneville said. "I don't think we're that kind of team anyways. I just think that everybody's got to continue [doing] what got us through the end of the year and turn it up a bit."
If Toews does play, he will center a line with Patrick Kane at left wing and Marian Hossa on the right side -- which has the potential to be a threat to score each time they go over the boards. Still, the second line of Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger and Viktor Stalberg was the top group down the final stretch of the regular season and Bolland's third line was almost as effective.
Quenneville said his team needs to keep all of its lines rolling, especially now.
"[It's] playoff hockey," he said. "The intensity's going to get ratcheted up a bit and I think we've all got to bring it. [Toews] has got to be excited as well, but don't feel comfortable knowing that Johnny's going to return. There's going to be that much more demand on everybody that we're expecting more come playoff time."
CHICAGO -- When practice is held away from United Center at the facility located just down West Madison St., Chicago Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw doesn't have a stall inside the dressing room.
So, he sits on a folding chair in the middle of the room to get undressed and do interviews. In several ways, it's perfect for Shaw -- who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft and scrapped his way into the League basically by putting himself squarely in the middle of everything on the ice.
Shaw scored 12 goals and added 11 assists in 37 games as a rookie by mainly hanging around the "dirty" areas of the ice in the offensive zone and by finding a home defensively on Chicago's third line -- which is the Hawks' main checking line assigned to pester opposing stars.
Now, Shaw can't wait to get into the action in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.
"I'm so excited," the 5-foot-10, 180 pound Shaw said Tuesday. "They say it's a lot more energetic game and that's my game -- hard hitting. I just can't wait to get out there in front of their crowd and our crowd and get some wins. Hopefully I'm not as nervous as I was my first [NHL] game, but I'm pretty excited and can't wait to get started."
He doesn't plan on changing his approach, either. Despite the intensity of playoff games often meaning even harder whacks in the back for "net-front presence" forwards like Shaw, the diminutive-but-hard-nosed rookie said he's ready for it.
"They'll hurt, but I'll grind it out," he said of the crosschecks likely coming his way. "Hopefully standing there rewards me."
Standing in front of the net, however, won't help him grow a better playoff beard. The 20-year old Shaw's reportedly been working on his playoff beard for a couple of weeks already and barely has a whisker showing on his face.
"I haven't been able to grow a playoff beard yet," Shaw said, laughing. "It's kind of embarrassing when you're playing juniors and you're 19 or 20 years old and 16-year olds are growing bigger beards than you, but I'll see what I can get going. I don't know what it is. My brothers both have big beards. My younger brother has a bigger beard than me. It just hasn't hit me yet."
Toews, who missed the final 22 games of the regular season after sustaining a concussion, practiced for the second straight day as the center of the top line in Chicago's final home practice before flying to Arizona to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
"Same as [Monday]," Toews said, when asked how he was feeling following Tusday's practice at Johnny's Ice House West, near United Center. "[I'm] just waiting until gametime time on Thursday. I feel good. I’ve been making improvements and working on little things every single day, so that’s going to be the routine for the next little while."
Neither Toews nor the Blackhawks have officially said the 24-year-old star will play in Game 1 on Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena, but the feeling around the team since Monday is that he will.
"Compared with a couple of weeks ago, it’s night and day," Toews said of the symptoms he's dealt with since leaving the lineup. "[I've] made huge progress and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be sitting here talking. It’s been going good the past week. [I'm] just taking as good a care of myself as I can. It’s great when you see a difference every single day. Finally, those things I’m doing are paying off and I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I guess."
Toews did say he's still experiencing some dizziness on the ice, but attributed it more to physical conditioning than the concussion. He also said it's tough to weigh his long-term health -- especially after he's done playing hockey -- with the present situation.
"As a young hockey player, you have a certain level of invincibility," said Toews, who's had at least one prior concussion in his NHL career. "You don't really think that far down the road. You're thinking about
the here and now, getting back in the room and on the ice to be part of the mix and help your teammates."
Toews cited the uncertainty of how, exactly, concussion-related injuries and symptoms affect the brain in the long run as one of the issues he's been mulling over the past few weeks.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Toews has cleared every protocol that's been put in place for a player to return from such an injury and that it's now up to Toews to make the call as to when he's healthy enough to play.
"I think those hurdles will be crossed before he even begins," Quenneville said. "I think he's made some real consistent progress recently and that's where we're comfortable with where he's at. Each and every day, he feels even better and that gives him reassurance and us confidence that when he's ready, he will be ready to play. We're hopeful and looking forward to that."
It's not an easy decision to make, but the more Toews talks about it, the more it sounds like he'll be in uniform Thursday night against the Coyotes.
"It's tough to see where this is an injury that maybe does have long-term effects ... who really knows?" Toews said. "But you've got to be careful and do what you think is right. It's tough to see where ... it's a case that's debatable. You could talk about it all day, but no one really knows if things like that happen because of an injury like this. Every case is different and no one can tell you what to do. You've got to be smart about it and do what you think is right."
Meanwhile, his teammates say that getting their captain back will be a welcome sight whenever it happens.
Toews said he's not going do too much whenever he gets back into the lineup, anticipating some rust in his game after the long layoff, but at least one of his teammates is leery of setting the bar too low.
"I don't expect that," Hawks star forward Patrick Sharp said. "I've been out for long stretches and come back. Now's the time when I felt a little nervous, leading up to the game ... but Johnny's played in a number of big games in his career already. I anticipate him to come back and pick up where he left off."
DETROIT -- It's not every day that a player has his contract extension announced in the middle of a game, but that's what happened Saturday with Chicago Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery.
Emery, who came to the Hawks on a tryout contract in training camp and then signed a one-year deal, will stay in Chicago for one more year according to a release from the team -- which was sent out during the first period Saturday against Detroit.
Multiple reports said the contract is for $1.15 million. Emery, who made a comeback with Anaheim last season after a potentially career-threatening hip surgery, is 15-9-4 in 34 games with a 2.81 goals-against average and .900 save percentage this year.
The Blackhawks signed second-year goalie Corey Crawford to a three-year contract extension last summer, so their goaltending situation now appears to be set for the 2012-13 season.
Emery was also named as Chicago's Masterton Trophy candidate, which is the second year in a row he's earned that designation.
Sheahan, however, will indeed make his debut on Sunday afternon at Joe Louis Arena against the rival Chicago Blackhawks (1 p.m. NBC, TSN2). Detroit general manager Ken Holland told Mlive.com's Ansar Khan that Sheahan -- the 21st pick of the 2010 NHL Draft -- will draw into the lineup in place of rookie Jan Mursak.
Sheahan, who just signed his entry-level contract Thursday after playing six games in Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League, will most likely play on the fourth line along with fellow rookies Cory Emmerton and Gustav Nyquist.
Emmerton will probably stay at center of the line with the other two flanking him. Reporters spoke with Sheahan after his first official skate as a Red Wing on Thursday morning and he was understandably exited.
"It’s amazing," said Sheahan, a 6-foot-2, 200 pound forward who played center for three seasons at Notre Dame. "You look around the locker room and there’s so many good hockey players. It’s pretty heartwarming, I guess, and it’s a pretty cool experience."
Sheahan also feels like he can bring something to the table already for the Wings, despite his lack of pro experience.
"I feel like I can bring a big body to the team and maybe a physical presence," Sheahan said. "I’m looking forward to getting the chance and seeing what I can prove. I like to use my big body as an advantage and protect the puck and make things happen in the corners. I have to be responsible in the defensive zone."
Sheahan tallied 64 points (20 goals and 44 assists) in 114 career collegiate games. It's apropos that he makes his NHL debut against the Blackhawks, whose top two legendary players -- Bobby Hull and Stan Mikita -- went to high school and played junior hockey together in Sheahan's hometown of St. Catharines, Ont.
"We want to find that mix," DeBoer said prior to an optional morning skate here at Joe Louis Arena. "We want to have four lines that we can put out there at any time and some other guys are going to get an opportunity to fill that spot. For me, I've been talking about it for a long time. It's a critical piece for us and we've got to find the right group there."
DeBoer was asked if he thinks the Devils will be a "four-line team" once the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
"I don't know," he said. "We'll see. I don't have an answer to that. I want to be comfortable enough that it's an option for us. That's where I want to get to."
Getting center Travis Zajac back March 25 after an extended injury absence should help in that regard. He fits in as the top-line center, which allows standout rookie Adam Henrique to slide into the third-line center role. With veteran Patrik Elias centering the second line, the Devils look particularly strong up the middle.
"It's all about depth this time of year," DeBoer said. "Everyone's got good high-end players. The depth guys are what makes the difference and this team over here [Detroit] is built around depth. You can see the importance of it."
DETROIT -- It took reporters a few minutes to figure out who the guy wearing No. 15 on his helmet was for the Detroit Red Wings during Thursday morning's optional skate at Joe Louis Arena.
Soon it was learned the mystery Red Wing was rookie center Riley Sheahan, who was Detroit's first pick (No. 21) at the 2010 NHL Draft. The team then announced that the 20-year old Sheahan, who played three seasons at Notre Dame, had signed to an entry-level contract after playing seven games with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the American Hockey League on an amateur tryout agreement.
"It was a tough one there today just getting my legs working," said Sheahan, who was put through the paces by Wings assistant coach Jeff Blashill. "It’s great to be on the ice and putting on the Wings gear."
Will he be putting on that gear for one of Detroit's remaining two regular-season games?
"I haven't really gotten details right now," said the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Sheahan, who scored one goal and added an assist for Grand Rapids. "It's the coaches' decision. I'm just looking forward to it."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock seemed to shoot down the idea of Sheahan getting any playing time Thursday against the Devils or Saturday against the Blackhawks.
"I'm not going to take a look at him," Babcock said. "Our guys were there watching him last night [with Grand Rapids]. I'd love to put him in the lineup. I always like to put big people in the lineup. He's a big body and he looks like he's going to be able to play. He's going to decide with his play over time how soon that's going to be. If he's a regular every day Red Wing or just a guy who plays in exhibition and ends up in Grand Rapids ... I don't know the answer to those questions."
DETROIT -- Only a few players took part in Thursday morning's optional skate for the Detroit Red Wings, but injured center Darren Helm was one of them.
Helm, who's recovering from a Grade 2 tear of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee, got back on the ice for the first time since being injured himself March 17 in San Jose while trying to make an open-ice hit in the neutral zone.
Helm wore a brace on the knee and skated for about 30 minutes, showing some of the speed that makes him such an effective player on the Wings' third line. He's not ready to return for game action just yet, however, and remains hopeful that he could return midway through Detroit's first Stanley Cup Playoff series.
"Before I came in today, I wasn’t even sure when I'd be on the ice," Helm said. "They wanted me to get on there now and it felt better than I thought. It's still a ways away, I think, but it still helps a lot mentally. As soon as I got going, I felt pretty good. It's kind of feeling it out slowly. It's all feel now, I think. The docs will be keeping an eye on it."
As for being ready to play in the first game of the playoffs, Helm is keeping an open mind but seems to be aiming for later in the series.
"It'd be a nice goal to have," Helm said of returning for Game 1. "Previously they told me probably not Game 1. So I'm not going to be super angry if it's not Game 1. Obviously I want to be back. We have to play it as safe as possible right now. If I re-hurt it, it could be the rest of the year. At the same time, I don't want to milk it too much. It's a pretty exciting time and I want to get out there."
Helm said the biggest challenges right now on the ice are stops and starts plus any sudden side-to-side movements. This is the first time he's worn a knee brace, but he didn't seem to mind it too much.
"It didn't feel too bad," he said "It's a little stiff, a little tight. I don't think it'll be a factor when I get going."
CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have a couple of injured players who may or may not be ready to return on Thursday in Minnesota, but one of them isn't star defenseman Duncan Keith.
Keith's return from a five-game suspension against the Wild is a sure thing after sitting out for elbowing Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the head during Chicago's 2-1 overtime win on March 21 at the United Center.
"It's been awhile, five games, but it's gone by quick, too," Keith said after Tuesday's practice. "I'm looking forward to getting back and helping the team here in the last couple games and the playoffs."
Quenneville said that Keith will slide back into his usual spot on the top pairing with Brent Seabrook, while Niklas Hjalmarsson will likely go back to the third pair with rookie Dylan Olsen after playing well in Keith's absence.
"It was tough," Keith said of sitting out. "Obviously you want to be out there playing and helping the guys. They did a great job and played well. We've been playing well for a long time now, I think. I just want to help out and keep it going."
Keith declined to comment on Sedin's condition -- which is said to be concussion-related -- or about the incident itself.
Chicago went 2-1-2 in the games Keith missed, but it might turn out to actually help the speedy, puck-moving defenseman for the playoffs. Keith, the 2010 Norris Trophy winner, usually logs the most minutes in the League each season and is again right at the top at 26:53 -- behind only former Hawks teammate Brian Campbell (26:55).
It was suggested that fatigue from all that skating might've caught up with Keith last season and even stretching into this one, but he's always denied it. However, Keith didn't downplay the potential importance of the time off he just received -- which, per the current collective bargaining agreement, also cost him $149,688.15 in foreited salary to the Player's Emergency Assistance Fund.
"I don't think taking a suspension is ever a good thing, but you know, I think if you're looking at it and trying to look for the positives ... I guess getting some rest at this time of year would probably be beneficial in that regard," Keith said. "I didn't feel like I needed rest. I've been able to play a lot of games every year, so I don't feel that's a reason or anything why I need rest. I feel good and I feel stronger than I was before, so hopefully it pays off."
Meanwhile, he had quite a bit of unexpected down time the past couple weeks. What did Keith do with it all?
"I just worked out and not a whole lot (else)," he said. "I walked the dogs a lot."
DETROIT -- The regular season is winding to a close this week and as it does, there are some in the Motor City who are starting to look at possible first-round matchups and hoping for the most favorable opponent for the Detroit Red Wings.
The Red Wings, however, are not among those sizing up the opposition in the Western Conference. They know whichever team they face first will pose a tough challenge, which means the only thing they care about now is trying to secure at least one round of home-ice advantage.
Some fans have even hoped the Wings -- currently fifth in the West -- would slip into the sixth seed to avoid playing the well-balanced, defense-oriented Nashville Predators first.
"You know what, with that you're flirting with danger there when you're trying to pick your matchups," Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard said after Saturday's practice at Joe Jouis Arena. "You want to be playing your best and you want to go in there feeling like no matter who you're playing, you'll beat. You don't want to be flirting with disaster there by trying to pick your opponent."
The Red Wings host the Florida Panthers on Sunday afternoon at the "Joe" in a big game for both teams in terms of the postseason. Florida is trying to hang onto first place in the Southeast Division and the third seed in the Eastern Conference that comes with it, while Detroit will try to surpass the West's fourth-place Predators and surging Chicago Blackhawks.
Nashville lost at home on Saturday night to the Blackhawks, which pulled Chicago even in points (97) with the Red Wings. Detroit is technically ahead because of tie-breakers, but Chicago could pass both the Wings and Preds with a Panthers win on Sunday in the Motor City and a Blackhawks win on Sunday night in the Windy City.
Why are the remaining games and the points at stake still more important to all three Central Division rivals than who they face in the quarterfinal round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs?
"Because home ice advantage, even if it's only for one round ... can be vital in the playoffs in a series," Howard said. "By no means can we just coast in there. We've got to be playing and all be on our game."
Neither Florida nor Detroit skated on Sunday morning, but here is a look at how both teams could line up when the puck is dropped:
DETROIT --Jimmy Howard was under the impression all along that Friday night's game at home against the Nashville Predators was his targeted return date from a nagging groin injury.
Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, however, seemed like he wasn't 100 percent on board with that plan earlier this week when he told reporters that if Howard wasn't ready to play by Wednesday night's game in Columbus then he wouldn't be facing Nashville.
Howard didn't play in a 4-2 loss to the Blue Jackets, but Babcock decided to give Howard the start against the Predators after consulting with goalie coach Jim Bedard and athletic trainer Piet Van Zant about it.
"I talked to Jimmy B and I talked to Piet and everything seems to be OK," Babcock said after Detroit's morning skate at the United Center. "Jimmy says he's feeling good about himself, so obviously we'd like to get him going. When you look at our last 22 games, he's played in seven of them. We need to get him going. No different than the rest of our team."
Howard said he did know about Babcock's earlier comments regarding his return.
"It was a little discouraging, but at the same time he's the coach and the one who drives the ship here," Howard said. "You know, you've got to respect it."
Howard said he feels good enough to get back in goal and try to regain his sharpness that helped him win more than 30 games and become an NHL All-Star player for the first time in his career. There are only four regular-season games left, but the third-year starter for the Wings thinks that should be enough to get himself ready for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
“Everyone wants to feel great going into the playoffs," Howard said. "What's going to be key for me over the next four games is getting back to where I was before the injuries.''
Howard also missed eight games in February with a broken index finger on his right hand prior to the groin issue flaring up. The injuries have interrupted a season in which he was starting almost every time the Red Wings suited up.
Still, Howard said he's not concerned about regaining his top form in such a short amount of time.
"I know what I'm capable of doing out there," he said. "It's just going out there and doing it again. [It's been] on and off for a month a half and not playing a lot, but I've been able to practice a lot. I think that's key for me, because I always practice the way I play. Going out there and working hard translates into games.''
The Red Wings are hoping that's the case, anyway.
"There's a lot of urgency to get playing at the highest possible level going into the playoffs, and he's the same," Babcock said.
DETROIT -- It might be a preview to a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series when the Nashville Predators pay their last visit of the regular season to the Motor City to play the Detroit Red Wings on Friday night.
The Predators are currently fifth in the Western Conference at 96 points and trail the fourth-place Red Wings by just a point. A regulation victory would leapfrog Nashville past Detroit and possibly put the Preds in the driver's seat for home-ice advantage in the first round.
Jimmy Howard will make the start in goal for the Red Wings after missing the past four games with a nagging groin injury, while forward Martin Erat will get back into the lineup for Nashville after missing the past two games with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
The last time Nashville was in Detroit, the Red Wings won the 22nd of their 23-game NHL record home winning streak in unlikely fashion. Time was running out in regulation of a 1-1 game when Nicklas Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg connected on a pair of great passes to set up Pavel Datsyuk with a head of steam coming into the Nashville zone for one last scoring chance.
Datsyuk made a move to get around Ryan Suter in the slot and zipped a wrister into the top left corner of the net past star Preds goalie Pekka Rinne for a stunning victory.
"I'd say that was more like a flukey goal with five seconds left, but [Lidstrom] sees those things right away, even when he has his back turned," Preds forward Patric Hornqvist said after Nashville's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "He threw the puck up to [Zetterberg] and he chipped it to Datsyuk in the middle. They have those guys in their locker room who can really make it happen."
Needless to say, Nashville hasn't forgotten the feeling after that game despite beating Detroit once since then at Bridgestone Arena.
"That can't happen again," Hornqvist said. "We can't stop playing, even when there's five seconds left and they have the puck on the far blue line. That's the lesson we learned from that game."
Here's a look at how the Predators and Red Wings might line up on Friday night at Joe Louis Arena:
CHICAGO --Patrick Sharp has already defeated teammate Patrick Kane in an advertising-sponsored burrito contest, so why not take on Duncan Keith for the right to grace the cover of a video game?
EA Sports announced on Thursday that fan votes will determine which player winds up gracing the cover of its EA Sports NHL 13 video game, with two players from each team facing each other in the first round of the competition.
Sharp and defenseman Duncan Keith were chosen to face off for the Blackhawks.
"It's pretty special and we'll see how everything plays out," Sharp said after Thursday's morning skate at United Center. "I'm not exactly sure how all the fans vote for it, so maybe I'll get back on the Twitter or something and get my fan base up. But it's a cool competition."
Keith, who didn't participate in the skate and is serving a five-game suspension for an elbowing incident, wasn't available for comment.
The first-round winners from each team will advance into a field of 32 players that includes two "wild card" selections and from there the field will be whittled to a top 16 through voting. That will net a 16-player single-elimination playoff bracket to determine the ultimate cover player.
The Blackhawks have already had star Patrick Kane (2010) and captain Jonathan Toews (2011) on the cover of the EA Sports NHL series, and both said they'd be thrilled to welcome another Chicago star into the club.
"We've had two in the past couple years, so it'd be nice to have another one, I guess, and have the Hawks well-represented," Kane said. "It's a cool game. I remember growing up saying, 'This is a game I want to play with this guy on the cover or that guy on the cover,' and to be one of those athletes was pretty special. It'd be nice to have the Hawks represented again. Hopefully Duncs wins, though. We don't want Sharp to win."
Toews didn't have a rooting interes other than to see another Hawks player showcased.
"It's awesome," he said. "There's been a lot of Hawks on there lately. That'd be cool. It's one of those things that's kind of like a fantasy a little bit. When you get a chance to do it, you don't really believe it's happening, that you've come that far. But you always have that. I always have that [2011 game] sitting next to my DVDs, so it's pretty cool."
Sharp, meanwhile, got in a friendly shot at Kane after hearing his fellow star forward was rooting for Keith.
"I was [into video games] when I was a little kid," Sharp said, smiling. "I used to play a lot of games with my older brother and my friends, but ever since they put Kane on the cover I stopped being a fan."
How about if he wins this competition, though?
"Oh, well then things will change," Sharp said, laughing. "I'll get back into it."
Voting began on Thursday and fans can vote as often as they want at NHL.com/CoverVote. Fans can also get more information at EA Sports' NHL Facebook page and are encouraged to use the hashtag #NHL13Cover on Twitter to support their favorite players.
CHICAGO -- The comeback from an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related didn't even last one full game for Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Steve Montador.
The 32-year-old Montador, who'd missed 22 games in a row, was re-injured Tuesday night in New Jersey when his head collided hard with Devils defenseman Mark Fayne early in the third period. Montador did not participate in Thursday's morning skate at United Center and will not play against the St. Louis Blues.
"We'll just say right now he's out indefinitely," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "Upper body."
It's been a frustrating second half of the season for Montador, who was acquired by Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman before free agency started last summer and signed a four-year contract extension worth $11 million ($2.75 million cap hit) according to capgeek.com.
He's missed 25 games because of injuries overall, and has five goals with nine assists and a plus-4 rating in the 52 games he's played. Chicago will also play its third straight game without top puck-moving defenseman Duncan Keith, who's serving a five-game suspension for elbowing.
Montador actually played forward on the fourth line in New Jersey, rather than defense, which meant veteran 40-year-old defenseman Sean O'Donnell was on the third pairing with rookie Dylan Olsen. Sami Lepisto isn't ready to return yet, so that appears likely to be the setup for the game against the Blues, as well.
Look for Michael Frolik to grab Montador's spot on the fourth line with rookie Jimmy Hayes likely being a healthy scratch for the sixth straight game.
He'll miss his 18th straight game Thursday, when the Hawks host the St. Louis Blues at the United Center, but Toews hinted that his return from an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related could be right around the corner.
"(I'm) getting very, very close," said Toews, who has skated for 10 straight days, including Thursday's morning workout. "I think getting to this point and not playing is probably the toughest thing to do, but at the same time it's smart. I definitely need a few more days to kind of see how it goes through this weekend and we'll see where we're at next week, basically. Right now, I'm feeling great. I've just got to get those legs going and try to get myself back to being as close to game shape as I can."
Toews said he expects to get clearance for contact either Thursday or Friday, which is one of the last steps he'll have to clear in order to return to game action.
"He's getting real close (for contact)," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I think in the next day or so, so hopefully he gets out there and gets a little bit more (on-ice work), but he had a lot over the last few days and we like the progress."
Toews does, too.
The last time he tried to return from his current injury, he skated hard for four straight days and then had a return of the symptoms that have kept him out. This time, he's gone six consecutive days longer and apparently feels more like himself following each skating session.
"Last time I was on the ice, I was feeling like I was close to being able to play and I (had) more of a setback than anything, so this time around I feel like there's nothing I can do really that's going to make that happen," Toews said. "I've been pushing myself harder and harder every day and I feel good. I feel confident. Any day now I should be ready to go."
The Hawks are likely to take the conservative approach, however, which means Toews' most likely will return in one of two games next week -- at Minnesota or at Detroit in the regular-season finale.
"It (stinks) when you see the season wind down," Toews said. "Of course everyone's excited to get into the playoffs, but I haven't played in what feels like forever, so it doesn't matter to me. As soon as I'm able to be on the ice, I'll be out there."
What, exactly, will be the key thing that will earn him the green light?
"When he's ready to go," Quenneville said. "He's got to be comfortable as a player, and organizationally there's some hurdles you've got to pass."
Chicago is 10-5-2 in the 17 games Toews has been out, but that success doesn't surprised the Hawks' 23-year old captain.
"We have a good leadership group and we don't always just rely on one guy," said Toews. "In these games that I've missed, the guys have realized they want to keep winning and they want to hang in there and play playoff hockey and be competitive once you do get there. So they've kind of committed themselves to doing those little things right and playing the right way. It's been fun to see that."
"He's our No. 1 goalie right now, so he's playing," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said after Monday's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "It was a 3 o'clock game (Sunday). Took him out for the third period thinking that we'll get him a little bit more rest and get him ready for (Monday night)."
Richards said he hadn't had a discussion with Mason after the outing and hopes the goalie will be able to erase it and look ahead to the Red Wings -- who've struggled with injuries, but stormed back from a 4-1 deficit to beat Carolina 5-4 on Saturday night at the "Joe."
"I didn't have a conversation (with Mason)," Richards said. "There may be different times when I'll have conversations with either him or another player in regards to whether it was a tough outing or my decision ... a decision I made maybe, but I didn't talk to him last night and I didn't talk to him today, but I did let him know that he was going to play."
Despite Detroit's multitude of injured regulars, the Wings still have enough left to be dangerous to face, according to Richards. Like they did on Saturday night to the Hurricanes, the Red Wings are capable of putting up goals in bunches -- which is nothing new to the Blue Jackets when facing Detroit.
"That's what good teams can do," Richards said. "This team knows how to win. They have a skill set up front and they can burn you if you aren't ready to play. It's blood in the water. I've felt it in this building before and I've seen it before, whether we're playing at home or on the road. So, it's going to be how we manage it."
Along those lines, how will the Jackets finish out the last seven games of an otherwise dreadful season?
"The goals are the same,'" Richards said. "I think we all knew that's where we were going to be. We had all accepted that and again, our focus was going to be on how we played the last 19 games. We've have some good games. We've had some disappointing games. We've had some games where we've played well for the majority of the game, but we lost our game and it ended up costing us games."
Richards said he believed the Jackets are still in it to win games, but admitted it gets tougher for players to stay motivated over the last few games of a disappointing season. Still, Monday night's game is against a team trying to clinch its 21st straight post-season appearance in a row with a victory.
"I don't think there should be a lot of motivation from me getting ready for this game and even the next game at home, playing these guys back to back for six periods," Richards said. "These guys can embarrass you quick. They're trying to elevate their game. They're gearing up for the playoffs. They're using this game and the next game to get ready for the big games for them coming up."
DETROIT -- If there is a silver lining to the multitude of injuries the Detroit Red Wings have been saddled with this season, it's that several young players have gotten a chance to show what they can do in the NHL.
Smith was sent back to Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League on Saturday night, after Nicklas Lidstrom returned, while Nyquist is still with the Wings likely until Johan Franzen returns. Both left impressions on their teammates and Red Wings coach Mike Babcock.
"I thought (Smith) was really good," Babcock said. "We just sent him down because we need to play the players that are here, but we also need to play him. I thought he played great for us. Smitty did a real good job. He's just got to continue to grow with his maturity, his decisions with and without the puck, but I think he's an NHL player for sure.''
And the 22-year old Nyquist?
"As far as Gus, I just noticed he's got 5 points in (his last) six games, so by accident he gets points," Babcock said. "It's a good opportunity. He's a real smart player. He's good without the puck. He's got a lot to learn, but it looks like he's a legitimate NHL player.''
"He has everything," said Zetterberg, whose own line with Valterri Filppula and Jiri Hudler is scorching hot right now. "He's fast. He's good with the puck and he sees the ice very well. He's just got to commit to the shot a little bit more, but that's ... everyone who comes over here from Sweden, that's a tough thing to do. But he will learn soon."
Lidstrom had some high praise for Smith, as well.
"He's a very good skater," Lidstrom said. "He brings the puck up the ice real well and he's really good at reading plays, when to get up in the play. I think it's just a matter of getting used to playing up here at this level of hockey and the tempo and keeping it simple. He did that, too. When he was in trouble, he got rid of the puck or got the puck out of our own zone -- which is something you want to do. He adjusted real well to that."
Howard took shots again in Detroit's morning skate, while Ericsson and Franzen participated fully in the session.
"We'd like to get healthy, like to get playing going into the playoffs," said Red Wings coach Mike Babcock, who sported a red McGill University cap to celebrate his alma mater's Canadian university hockey national championship won on Sunday night. "I thought our club played well the other night (against Carolina). You want to be confident going into the playoffs. In order to do that you need wins.''
You also need as many top players in the lineup as possible. On that front, Babcock can at least pencil in legendary defenseman and Wings captain Nicklas Lidstrom to his top pairing for a second straight game. Lidstrom is back after missing a career-high 11 straight games with a deep bruise in his ankle.
He returned to the ice for the first time in Saturday night's stirring 5-4 comeback win against the Hurricanes and went through the morning skate on Monday. While he's still not 100 percent, the good news is the ankle didn't regress in the two days since playing last.
"It felt good (Sunday), no real setbacks or any more soreness than I anticipated," said Lidstrom, who'd been having some trouble turning on the ice a little more than a week ago. "(My mobility) is a lot better. Before I had more of a sharp pain, which I don't have anymore. It's going to be sore for some time, but it is a lot better."
Babcock was just happy to see No. 5 back in the active lineup, regardless of the 41-year old star's limitations.
“He was a long way from being what he's capable of being the other night," Babcock said. "I don't know if it's so much what he did in the game as what he just brings with his presence and who he is and his calmness. We really moved the puck well, spent a lot of time in the offensive zone the other night. Anytime you have quality D, that allows that to happen."
Detroit is also missing speedy center Darren Helm (knee sprain) for at least a couple more weeks and probably won't get forward Patrick Eaves (concussion symptoms) back this season. As for the three Wings who are getting closer to returning, Howard is targeting Friday, Franzen hopes to get a couple of full practices in and go Wednesday or Friday, and Ericsson hopes to be cleared by Wednesday's game in Columbus.
"It feels better and better every day," said Ericsson, a big defenseman who's missed 12 straight games since his wrist was fractured by a shot. "Everything's going forward.''
Babcock sounded like he wanted to play Ericsson on Monday night, but won't have him as an option despite the big Swedish blueliner's slap shot rounding back into form.
“I know. I hear him every day," Ericsson said of Babcock. "It's getting really close. I think we want to be more careful now, so it doesn't get worse before the playoffs. Try to be smart about it. Shooting is fine. It's more battling stuff. I haven't really tried pushing people around in the corners. It's going to be a test. I'm going to have someone like maybe [Franzen] to push around the corner."
Howard's issue is strengthening the groin muscle that's giving him an issue.
"Right now it's more about getting healthy, getting out there and not thinking about groins, and just playing," said Howard, who will miss his third straight game on Monday because of the issue -- which also cost him three games earlier in March. "We're taking a little bit different route this time around, trying to strengthen it a little more."
Howard said the injury isn't about his flexibility, though.
"It wasn't really stretching it or anything like that sort of motion that was bothering me," he said. "It was more getting tired and feeling weak, so strengthening it is the key now.''
As for Franzen, his back spasms have subsided and conditioning is the biggest hurdle left before he gets back in a live game.
"Now it's more about getting back in shape and getting skating," said Franzen, Detroit's leading goal scorer who's skated for five straight days. "You lose more than you think being out for a week. You're off one week and it goes straight downhill.''
Franzen said a magnetic reasonance imaging test was run on his back and got relatively good news.
“We did an MRI ... looking good," the 32-year old Swedish power forward said. "Nothing out of the ordinary. Just looked like an old hockey player's back. Nothing extreme.''
An old hockey player's back?
“Yeah," Franzen said. "A 32-year-old hockey player's back."
Steve Mason will start in goal for Columbus, which lost 6-3 to the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday afternoon. Here's a look at how the Blue Jackets and Red Wings might line up on Monday night:
CHICAGO -- The next hurdle is getting cleared for contact, but for now, injured Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will take the steady progress he seems to be making.
Toews, who will a 16th straight game on Sunday night with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion symptoms, did on-ice work for a sixth straight day on Sunday at the United Center. The Hawks didn't hold a morning skate, but Toews and several other injured Hawks were put through the paces skating in order to see how their bodies reacted.
"He did good," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said on Sunday afternoon. "He progressed. I thought all of those guys today that skated had a good skate. Everybody was feeling all right."
Montador has been cleared for contact and the plan is to get him acclimated to it in practice
this coming week before potentially returning to the lineup. After top defenseman Duncan Keith was suspended five games for an illegal elbow he hit Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the face with, the Hawks' blue-line depth will be challenged.
"He's cleared for contact, so we'll get him out here and get some contact in this week," Quenneville said of Montador, who's missed 21 straight games. "We've got a busy week as well, so we'll see how he progresses this week and we'll get him in here at some point."
Kruger is day-to-day with a suspected recurrence of an earlier upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, while Quenneville is hopeful that Lepisto might also return before the regular season ends. After Lepisto was hurt on March 6 in St. Louis, he was initially classified "out indefinitely" and has missed seven straight games.
"He tried it in the ice today," Quenneville said. "Not bad. He had a spin a little while ago, but first real spin."
Of course, the same could be said the other way around too. Chicago didn't make as many changes through trades as the Predators have made since that 3-2 Nasville victory, but the Hawks are certainly not the same team as they were at that point.
That loss was Chicago's ninth straight winless game and things seemed to be spiraling downward in a hurry. The Hawks still had captain Jonathan Toews healthy, but their psyche wasn't.
Meanwhile, the Predators since that game have decided to push all of their chips toward the center of the proverbial poker table -- making trades to bring in the likes of pieces like defenseman Hal Gill, forward Andrei Kostitsyn and center Paul Gaustad and then convincing Alexander Radulov to return from Russia to join the cause.
Toews (suspected concussion symptoms) and Duncan Keith (five-game suspension) won't be playing on Sunday night when the Central Division teams meet up at the United Center for the fifth of six games against each other this season, but it's no less exciting of a matchup.
After winning five straight games and going 9-1-1 in the past 11 -- all without Toews -- the Hawks have pulled themselves within two points of the Preds in both the division and Western Conference standings.
A regulation win on Sunday night will pull them even and both teams will be just one point behind Detroit for second in the division and fourth in the West.
Pekka Rinne has started all four of the previous meetings for the Preds this season, going 3-1, and is likely to get the nod on Sunday too. On the other side, Corey Crawford has seemingly reasserted himself as the Hawks' starter with five straight wins and only five goals allowed in the last 107 shots he's faced.
Nashville beat Winnipeg 3-1 Saturday night at home, while Chicago's been off since beating the Vancouver Canucks in overtime Wednesday at the United Center. Here's a look at how the two teams might line up:
DETROIT --Jimmy Howard had just played in his first NHL All-Star Game when a magical season in which he was on pace to set a new League record for wins came to a screeching halt in Vancouver.
A hard shot by Maxim Lapierre struck the Red Wings goalie in the right hand and broke his index finger -- that kept him out for eight games in February. After making five of six starts when he returned, Howard left a game March 4 against Chicago after just one period because of an issue with his groin.
That one kept him out for three straight games. He returned to start three of four before leaving with another groin issue, which still has him sidelined heading into a Saturday night game at Joe Louis Arena against the Carolina Hurricanes.
"Groins are an important part of being a goaltender," Howard said on Saturday morning, after taking shots for the first time in a week. "It is frustrating. I mean, I thought we got a good handle on it prior to me coming back in L.A. Everything was feeling really good. It was frustrating, but at the same time [I'm] just trying to be optimistic and staying positive, trying to keep my mind in the right frame of mind."
He's also working on rehabbing the groin muscle in question.
"We're trying to really strengthen it so it's stronger than what it was before," Howard said. "We're doing a lot of stuff in the weight room with the bands and stuff, really trying to make it a lot stronger. Not so much stretching it. The flexibility's there, it's just strengthening it.
"I don't know what the magic number is or anything like that for getting ready. Just being out there and taking shots in practice feels good again. I'm hoping it's not going to take that much longer."
DETROIT -- It seems like ages ago, but only a month has passed since the Detroit Red Wings traded to get 26-year old Kyle Quincey and create a logjam on their blue line.
At that point, Detroit had eight NHL defensemen and the Wings talked about how important that kind of depth heading into the playoffs.
Rookie Brendan Smith wasn't even up from the minors yet, as he was still developing with Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League. Four days later, in Quincey's second game back with the team that originally drafted him, the Red Wings quickly had their depth challenged when three defensemen got hurt against Quincey's former team, the Colorado Avalanche.
Quincey strained his groin, captain Nicklas Lidstrom sustained a deep bone bruise in his ankle and Jonathan Ericsson fractured his wrist. While Quincey only missed one game, Lidstrom and Ericsson have both missed 11 straight.
Red Wing veteran Mike Commodore was also dealt to the Tampa Bay Lightning hours before the trade deadline expired and then Jakub Kindl left the lineup with an oblique strain that's kept him out for eight games. Smith was recalled from the minors and played solidly, but the Wings are currently without some key pieces on the back end -- especially Lidstrom and Ericsson.
Lidstrom, who is a game-time decision Saturday night against Carolina, is the quarterback of the power play. Ericsson was a big part of the penalty kill with his big frame.
"I think we're going to get [Ericsson] back for next game [Monday]," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "Anytime you lose three [defensemen] like that and your starting goalie and [Pavel Datsyuk] and all these guys ... you know, we've been skinny for a while here. But I think it's been good for our game honestly. You have to work real hard at your game and improving your game defensively because you can't score."
That could start to change in a hurry over the next week, as several of Detroit's injured players start to make their way back into games with the regular season winding down.
Lidstrom might be the first to return, but Ericsson said he's not far off.
"It's been better every day," he said after on-ice work Saturday morning. "I notice the difference every day. It feels good to me. It's in progress and getting closer every day. I said I was ready, but the doctors have their say, too. I think they're making probably the smartest choices, too, if I'm playing or not. Gotta listen to what they're saying, too. It feels pretty good. I feel like I'm close anyway."
Still, he needs to pass a few more tests in order to get clearance.
"There's a few things I kind of need to improve before I'm game ready," Ericsson said. "My range is pretty good, but I'm pretty weak at some spots and I'm not pain-free or anything like that ... so we don't want to make anything worse."
Kindl, however, is ready to go. He'll get back in the lineup Saturday night after dealing with an oblique strain for the first time in his career.
"It's a part of the body you're using it for everything, like stickhandling, shooting [and] skating, so it was a part I couldn't do but now I feel really good and I'm ready to go," he said. "It's part of our sport, injuries. I had to deal with it and I did everything I could to stay in shape and worked hard. Finally I feel good."
DETROIT -- Slowly but surely, the hobbled Detroit Red Wings are making their way back to the ice as the regular season winds to its close in the next couple weeks.
The biggest question mark, however, is if there is enough time for all of the walking wounded to get back up to top form before the playoffs start?
"When you miss lots of hockey, you know ... it's the NHL," Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said. "It's good games. It's good players. You've got to spend some time playing if you're going to be succesful."
And that's where the Red Wings currently find themselves, with a number of injured regulars still out for a game Saturday night at Joe Louis Arena against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The good news is they will get defenseman Jakub Kindl (oblique strain) back on the blue line after missing eight games, while captain and top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom might play after missing a career-high 11 straight games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle.
Lidstrom, who took part in Detroit's optional morning skate and looked close to his normal skating form, will be a "game-time" decision after he takes warmups to test it out for a second time in the same day.
"I'm going to be sore for a while," said Lidstrom, who's clearly been frustrated by having to miss so many games in a row. "It's going to be staying with me for a while. It's just a matter of not getting worse. I think that's what they're afraid of ... that it's going to get worse. So, that's why they want me to come down here again and take warmups."
Whether he plays against the Hurricanes or not, it looks like Lidstrom is close to returning and both Ericsson and Franzen hope to be back in action at some point next week. Ericsson is actually hoping to play Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets after healing enough from a fractured wrist that occured in the same Feb. 25 game against Colorado that knocked Lidstrom out.
Detroit also just got star center Pavel Datsyuk back two games ago after almost a month absence from arthroscopic knee surgery and has several players who've played through some nagging injuries that might've sidelined them had the team been relatively healthy.
The question now, however, is how many Red Wings can return before the playoffs and how soon before the regular season ends?
"It's great to see all the guys getting back out there," said Howard, who's also missed extended time this season with a broken index finger. "We need to get healthy and hopefully we can leave this injury bug behind us. It's been a rough month and half, two months for us in that aspect. At the same point, we've got to find a way to win games."
If they do and get healthy in time for the playoffs, do they still feel like they can be one of the League's elite teams and a Stanley Cup contender this season?
"Yeah, I think so, but you can't just turn it on like that," said Franzen, the Wings' leading goal-scorer (26) who will miss his fourth straight game with his back issue. "You've got to be together for a while and play some good games and get the confidence going. When we get that going, yeah, we are a really good team."
Franzen skated for the second day in a row Saturday morning, including an extensive conditioning skate after the players who were playing on Saturday night left the ice. Franzen said he didn't feel great afterward, but not because of his back -- which he said felt okay.
"Back feels pretty good, but I feel awful out there," he said. "It's been awhile since I've [done] anything, so I've just got to get the lungs back. I feel like I've been out for a while and it's first time skating hard today and doing anything hard actually. So, yeah, I can definitely feel that."
He doesn't have a set date that he hopes to be back, but said the coming week is a strong possibility. He also feels like returning before the end of the regular season is a must if hes going to be at his best in the postseason -- where he's made a lot of noise in long playoff runs before.
"That's important," the 6-foot-3, 223-pound Franzen said. "I'm going to get back before the playoffs start. That's for sure. Need to get some games in and gets the legs back and get the lungs back."
DETROIT -- The "Perfect Human" might finally get back into a game for the Detroit Red Wings, who've missed their captain Nicklas Lidstrom greatly for the past 11 contests.
The 41-year-old Lidstrom, who's missed a career-high 11 straight games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle, took part in Detroit's optional morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. Afterward, he told reporters that he will be a game-time decision when the Red Wings take on the Carolina Hurricanes.
Lidstrom will take part in the pre-game warmup and then a team decision will be made.
"It slowly has been getting better," said Lidstrom, who initally made a West Coast trip 10 days ago but was sent home to rest when he couldn't skate. "I think today is better than [Friday], so that's a good sign it's going in the right direction. They want to make sure I have no soreness going on the ice twice in one day."
If Lidstrom plays, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock said rookie defenseman Brendan Smith will be a healthy scratch to make room. Smith, however, is on notice that he could get the start if Lidstrom can't go.
"It's a big difference from when I was out in California and went home from the trip," Lidstrom said. "It feels a lot better than about a week ago."
As for who will make the final call on Saturday night to him playing or not, Lidstrom, said it will be a group decision between himself, doctors and athletic trainer Piet Van Zant. If it were solely up to him?
"Oh, I wanted to play four weeks ago," Lidstrom said. "I didn't want to miss any games. I thought it was going to be shorter. I wanted to play as soon as possible, but it just hasn't been able to do that."
If he does play, the biggest challenges will likely be how the ankle holds up once the tempo of the game increases past he levels that exist in practices and how good Lidstrom's conditioning is after sitting out for so long.
"I've been working hard off the ice, but it's not the same as skating," Lidstrom said. "That'll be some adjustment time, too. I've been skating the last couple of days, but again, when you're in games, it's gonna be different."
In other Detroit injury news, goalie Jimmy Howard (groin) progressed to taking some shots at the skate and is hopeful to return soon, while defenseman Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) is hoping to be ready for the game Monday against Columbus.
Defenseman Jakub Kindl (oblique strain) is going to make his return to the ice Saturday night against the Hurricanes, while forward Johan Franzen (back spasms) skated for the second day in a row and said his conditioning was the biggest issue.
The Hurricanes did not skate after losing 5-1 at Columbus on Friday night. Here is a look at how Carolina and Detroit are expected to line up on Saturday night:
CHICAGO -- A few hours before finding out that their top defenseman, Duncan Keith, had been suspended for five games by the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks got some good news on the ice at the United Center.
Injured captain and top center Jonathan Toews, who's missed the Hawks' last 15 games with an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion, skated on his own Friday afternoon for the fourth straight day. Toews had skated four consecutive days once before during his recovery, but then needed to back off for about 10 days, presumably because symptoms of his condition returned.
"When you get him on the ice more for consecutive days you have more hope, but we'll see," coach Joel Quenneville told reporters.
When asked if he'd like Toews to get a couple of regular-season games under his belt before heading into the playoffs, Quenneville compared the situation to one last season with third-line center Dave Bolland -- who missed the end of the regular season and the first three games of a first-round playoff series with a similar injury.
"We'll see," Quenneville said. "Maybe we were in that same process last year with Bolly and we're just hoping for that same situation, so we'll see."
Defenseman Steve Montador, who's also out with an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, skated with the team in practice again but said he wouldn't rush his return just because Chicago's depth will likely be tested again by Keith's absence -- he was suspended for an elbow to the head of Vancouver's Daniel Sedin in the first period of Wednesday's 2-1 overtime win.
Rookie center Marcus Kruger also skated for a bit on his own Friday after the rest of the team practiced. Kruger left the game against Vancouver in the second period with an upper-body injury and did not return. He missed eight games at the end of December and the start of January with an upper-body injury also believed to have been from a concussion.
CHICAGO --Jonathan Toews went through a second straight day of on-ice work at the United Center on Wednesday morning, but the waiting game for the Chicago Blackhawks captain's return from suspected concussion symptoms is still status quo.
It's still a "wait-and-see" process the Hawks are going through with Toews, who will miss his 15th straight game on Wednesday night when Chicago hosts the rival Vancouver Canucks. The good news is that Toews is back on skates after needing a few days off following four-straight days doing on-ice work.
"Kind of the same," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said, when asked to assess Toews' current health status. "Your body tells you what it's able to do. That's all part of the process. Hopefully you get consecutive days and you just keep on pressing – get a little more every day – that's kind of where we're at."
Toews has not been cleared for contact, which is logically the next -- and maybe final -- step that he'll need to take before being cleared to return for game action. Following the game against the Canucks, the Hawks will have just seven games left in the regular season.
Toews' situation is comparable to one that kept center Dave Bolland off the ice a year ago at this time of year. Bolland didn't return until the fourth game of a first-round playoff series against Vancouver that wound up going seven games with the Hawks losing the deciding game in overtime.
"You look at Bolly last year, he got back and was playing Game 4 against Vancouver," Quenneville said. "He was up to speed pretty quick. There's a process when you know you're ready, you're ready. I don't know how long it takes before you’re ready for contact, ready for pace, ready for making a contribution – it's tough to say when and tough to say how long it's going to take."
Quenneville was also asked whether he thought Toews might have pushed himself too hard the first time he returned to the ice with the injury, which spanned four days in a row of hard skating. Toews spoke to reporters after the workouts and even said he was hoping to play in a March 13 home game against the St. Louis Blues.
He needed to halt his on-ice and then off-ice workouts for about 10 days not long after stating that as a potential return date.
"I just think that every day you're trying different things," Quenneville said. "You push your body in different ways, testing it and see what you’re able to handle – on or off the ice."
Chicago defenseman Steve Montador, who will miss his 21st game in a row with what's believed to be a similar injury to Toews, also skated on Wednesday morning and continues to show signs of progress according to Quenneville.
The Hawks got other positive news on the injury front, as well, as defenseman Nick Leddy will play against the Canucks despite not finishing Tuesday night's 5-1 win at Nationwide Arena in Columbus.
Leddy was illegally checked from behind early in the third period by Darryl Boyce, who was assessed a boarding minor, and only played one more shift before sitting out the rest of the game.
Quenneville also said that Corey Crawford will start against the Canucks, which will be his fourth straight start and fifth straight appearance. He's won four games in a row and has allowed just four goals in the four previous appearances.
"Corey at this time last year had the ball and he was running with it and we played him  games in a row?" Quenneville said. "And he handled back-to back games ... we don't usually do that during the course of a season. This is a big game. The fact that we're coming back to him is a good sign for him to get some confidence going that we're relying on him at an important time of the year."
The Chicago Blackhawks don't really care about the recent struggles of the Vancouver Canucks, who were in Chicago on Tuesday awaiting a game on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET, TSN) at the United Center.
The Canucks likely still will win the Northwest Division, but they've dropped five of their last seven games and appear to be staggering to the finish line of the regular season. However, after going through their own trying period following the All-Star break, when they went winless for nine straight games and plummeted to sixth in the Western Conference, the Hawks know first-hand how dangerous a struggling-but-talented team can be.
"We've gone through a lot this year," said Hawks defenseman Duncan Keith, who had 4 assists in a 5-1 rout of the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Tuesday. "There's been a lot of ups and downs and we've learned how we need to play. At the same time, we're not going to take anything for granted, knowing that we can't deviate from our system and play our team game. That's how we win games."
It's pretty similar to how Vancouver eventually shook off its early-season "hangover" and how the Canucks probably will get themselves back on track after this malaise ends. First they'll have to deal with the Hawks, who are 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and are 9-4-1 in the last 14 games played without injured star captain Jonathan Toews (upper body).
Neither team held a full morning skate at United Center on Wednesday, but both know there's a little more than just two points at stake. Bragging rights always are a bonus in this feud, but this time it's about both teams measuring up late in the season.
Chicago has discovered a formula that seems to work even without Toews, and lately it's all keyed by having quick starts that turn into comfortable wins. Now it's time to see if the Hawks can zoom out to a quick lead against the Canucks, who are expected to start Roberto Luongo in goal. Luongo hasn't played in two games and is 0-3-0 with a 5.30 goals-against average in his last four starts.
Luongo's struggles, however, are irrelevant to the Hawks. They're too focused on the numbers that determine the conference standings -- which find them just two points behind fourth-place Nashville in the West.
"They obviously have a great team and they're right at the top of the conference," Keith said of the second-place Canucks. "We know it's going to be a tough game. It always is against them. We've seen a lot of them. It's another big game ... another big two points that are on the line."
There's also that little rivalry between the two, which just never seems to burn out. But even that's being downplayed -- at least by the Hawks.
"There's a little bit more chippiness and that sort of stuff," said Chicago goalie Corey Crawford, who is expected to start after winning four straight games. "I don't know what it's going to be like. We just want to get the two points and I think that's our main focus."
The Blackhawks may be without defenseman Nick Leddy, who was injured early in the third period of Tuesday's game.
Here's a look at how the Canucks and Blackhawks might line up Wednesday:
COLUMBUS -- Sunday's 3-2 shootout victory in Calgary didn't come without an injury price to pay for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
A little more than 12 minutes into the game, starting goalie Curtis Sanford had to exit with a lower-body injury and top-pair defenseman James Wisniewski left after getting hit in the face with a puck.
Neither will play on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena, when the Jackets host the Chicago Blackhawks for the sixth and final time this season, and Sanford is probably finished for the season with a torn leg muscle, according to Columbus coach Todd Richards.
"Sanford is more than likely done for the year," Richards said. "He's got a slight tear of his ... uh, the doctor told me the name of it, but I can't tell you. I don't have any muscle, so I don't know what it is. But it's a leg muscle and he tore it, so he's more than likely done for the year."
As for Wisniewski, who was hit on the right cheek with a shot in the third period and left the game, there's no timetable for a potential return just yet.
"There's no fracture, but flying home he started getting symptomatic with concussion-like symptoms," Richards said. "Today we told him to stay away from the rink. He'll come in today and meet with the doctor and we'll go from there."
Columbus recalled defenseman David Savard to take Wisniewski's spot. He didn't arrive in time to participate in the team's morning skate, but could find himself in the lineup right away.
Sanford, meanwhile, will have the best numbers on the team if his season is indeed over. He's got a 2.60 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. Sanford, who battled nagging injuries on and off this season, left a good impression on Richards with his resiliency.
That's why he felt obliged to say something to Sanford on the team bus in Calgary heading back to the airport.
"He was on crutches, so he sat up at the front of the bus," Richards said. "I just turned to him and said, 'You've had some bad luck this year.' And really, that's what it's been ... [he got] a real opportunity to play and when he has played, he's played really well for us and given us a chance to win games. There were probably two or three games tops where he hasn't been at his best. Other than that, in all of the starts he's given us a chance and kept us in games."
His reward for it is another vexing injury and the chance to come back again next season and try to win himself a spot in the NHL again.
"It's another one of those things where he's fighting for a contract next year, fighting for a spot next year whether it's here or somewhere else," Richards said. "These players want to play and play in these type of games, so it's frustrating for him, disappointing for him and disappointing for us as an organization."
Richards did provide a little more comic relief, however, when a reporter wondered if the muscle he couldn't remember might've been Sanford's quadricep.
"No, a quadricep I would know," Richards said, smiling. "I would remember that one. That's one of those big muscles that ... I do know they exist."
COLUMBUS -- It was a sore subject for Patrick Sharp most of last season and it didn't end up quite the way he wanted.
Sharp had a minus rating next to his name for most of the 2010-11 season and finished minus-1, as the Chicago Blackhawks tried to defend their Stanley Cup championship with almost half of the title-winning roster scattered across the League after a salary-cap related sell-off.
Sharp also injured his knee in the latter stages of the season, just as he was getting into a groove as the team's top goal scorer. He finished with a minus rating for just the second time in his seven-year NHL career, after posting a plus-24 in the Cup winning season
"Yeah, it bothers you," Sharp told NHL.com on Tuesday. "I think I was minus-1 last year and it would've been nice to be even, but at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter. [Hawks coach Joel Quenneville] trusts me in a lot of different situations, whether I'm minus-10 or plus-20, so that's the main thing and I want to make sure I keep that trust."
He's certainly doing a good job of it.
Heading into Tuesday night's game against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena (7 p.m.), Sharp is leading Chicago in the rating category at plus-24 despite yet another extended injury absence for a broken wrist.
"It's just one of those weird stats," Sharp said. "I don't think I'm doing anything different than I was last year. Sometimes you get in a rut where you're out there for goals you can't do anything about, and I don't know if it really reflects too much [on the player]. This year, more than anything, I've been scoring five-on-five and that makes a big difference."
That's because pluses and minuses are not assessed during special teams play and Sharp is a power-play regular.
"Last year, a lot of the offense came from the power play and you don't get the pluses there, so that could be a reason," he said of his minus-rating. "But I like to think of myself as a two-way player and Joel brings the best out of players that way."
COLUMBUS -- Maybe it's just one of those happenstance statistical anomalies that happen every so often in professional sports.
Maybe that's the best way to explain why Viktor Stalberg seems to have the Columbus Blue Jackets' number every time he plays them. Stalberg's remarkable run of success against the Jackets this season includes eight of his 18 goals and four straight game-winners among the Chicago Blackhawks' five wins in the season series.
Stalberg now has a chance to extend his game-winning goal streak against Columbus to five straight on Tuesday night, when the Hawks go for the sweep of the season series at Nationwide Arena. Columbus overall has been one of the worst teams in the League pretty much all season, but Stalberg doesn't necessarily think that plays much into his hot hand against the Jackets.
"They're one of the bottom teams, but if you look around, some guys have different teams that they score against more than others and Columbus seems to be one of those teams for me," he said after Tuesday's morning skate. "It's fun playing them. It's usually a pretty fast-paced game and it fits me. It seems like I get a little more confidence when we play these guys, since I've scored a lot against them."
The Blue Jackets, on the other hand, might get the opposite effect when facing Stalberg and the talent-laden Hawks. They're well aware of what the speedy 26-year Swedish forward has done to them, but also know they can't just focus on him with the likes of star forwards Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa and a nightmarish two-way third line capable of scoring, too.
"The problem is if you focus on one guy, there's usually somebody else there that will burn you," Columbus coach Todd Richards said. "It's a credit to their team and how they've been able to build this thing. You can't focus on [Stalberg]. I think all the players in the room know what he's done to us this year and there has to be a focus of when he's out on the ice, but you've got to know where Sharp is, you've got to know where Kane is, you've got to know where Hossa is, you've got to know where [Andrew Brunette] is ... they've got lots of weapons over on the other side."
Still, that one guy who's burned them the most has been pretty impressive in his previous five tilts against Columbus. Richards not only took notice, but has started to see Stalberg -- and all that speed -- a little differently this season.
"At times, it's depressing watching him play against us," Richards said. "What's impressive to me is just how he moves up and down the ice. To me, it's really opened my eyes to what kind of player he can be."
Stalberg feels like he's improved, too. It's not just the fact his goals total is nearing the coveted 20 mark either.
"I think I've played a lot more consistent," he said. "Even if I haven't scored, I think I've been a lot more effective in all zones and I'm getting a lot more starch in our own end and little things like that."
Learning when to put on the afterburners and when to lay off is an ongoing process, as well.
"That's something you learn to use more and more," said Stalberg, whose overpowering speed and skating are becoming widely known across the League now. "It's still something I'm learning. I think I'm getting better at using it, slowing down and then accelerating a little better than I have in the past -- instead of just going full speed the whole way. [There's] maybe more confidence [about] when to use it and when not to."
This past Sunday in a 5-2 win against the Washington Capitals was a great example. Stalberg spotted a loose puck in the right circle of the Washington zone and went hard after it despite being several strides behind Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov -- a good skater.
Stalberg reeled him and passed him to scoop the puck and break sharply toward the goal, where he then deked goalie Michal Neuvirth and tucked the puck between the pad and far post for his 18th goal of the season.
"He's got a lot of speed and a lot of guys didn't realize that ... how fast he was," Blue Jackets defenseman Aaron Johnson told NHL.com. "Once he gets that breakaway speed, he's a tough guy to catch. I wouldn't be surprised if he is the fastest guy [in the League]. As soon as he makes that big turn and goes to the middle, it's not fun as a defenseman, that's for sure."
As for Stalberg's goals being the game-deciders in four straight?
"That's quite a stat to have," Johnson said. "Obviously it's a guy we've got to key on and hopefully keep off the scoresheet tonight."
It would seem the potential is strong for the Hawks, who are 7-1-1 in their last nine games, to get caught in a "trap" game on Tuesday night at Nationwide Arena (7 p.m.) in the sixth and final meeting of the season between the Central Division foes.
Chicago also has a big game against the rival Vancouver Canucks at home on Wednesday, but coach Joel Quenneville hopes to see more of a "first things first" mentality from the Hawks on Tuesday night.
"It's an important game from our perspective," Quenneville said after Tuesday's morning skate. "They've been playing well and beating some teams here. They've been in every hockey game. They seem to have added a bit more to their game as far as their closeness, they've got purpose to their game and you watch how they compete ... it's going to be a hard game."
That's what Columbus coach Todd Richards is counting on, anyway. Richards said his team is not downplaying its dismal season record against the Blackhawks and would like to add at least one victory before the year is done.
"We're 0-5 against them, a division team," Richards said. "You're 0-5, so I don't think there's a lot more to say after that. Hockey players and athletes in general, there's a lot of pride in how you play. It will be a great challenge tonight, but we'd like to finish on a good note against them out of six games."
Defenseman James Wisniewski will not play for Columbus after getting hurt on Sunday in Calgary and experiencing concussion symptoms on the flight home, according to Richards.
David Savard will likely draw into the Blue Jackets lineup on the back end with the other defenseman shuffling into new pairings. Richards said that goalie Curtis Sanford, who was also injured against Calgary and had to leave the game in the first period, is likely out for the rest of the season after tearing a leg muscle.
Chicago captain Jonathan Toews did not make the trip while still recovering from an upper-body injury believed to be concussion-related, but might skate on his own for the first time snce last week.
Here is how the lineups might look for the Blackhawks and Blue Jackets on Tuesday night:
They'd probably laugh in your face, as reporters learned Monday morning after Detroit's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena.
"He's still got what? Thirty goals?" asked Red Wings defenseman Niklas Kronwall. "I'd say that's still pretty good."
Informed of a notion that there's now a "book" on how to contain Ovechkin's immense offensive talents, Kronwall chuckled.
"Really?" he said. "Be sure to send it this way."
Chicago's top defenseman, Duncan Keith, probably would like a copy of it too -- just to see if there's a section entitled: "How to Stop the Reverse Between-the-Legs Pass to Himself and Go."
Ovechkin pulled that little number out at Keith's expense Sunday in Chicago, and the 2010 Norris Trophy winner didn't really have much of a chance to stop it. Ovechkin zipped past him to the outside going 1-on-4 and then deposited the puck into the short side of the net over Corey Crawford's shoulder for his 30th goal of the season.
"It's a good goal," fellow Russian Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings said. "All over the highlights. It's a good goal. It's why he's one of the best."
Asked if he likes playing against Ovechkin, Datsyuk only needed four words for an answer.
"Against him?" Datsyuk said. "Not really."
That's because Datsyuk -- whose own hockey skills are largely unmatched -- thinks Ovechkin is still every bit the superstar he was when he was averaging 54 goals per season in his first five seasons. Ovechkin "only" has 30 goals this season, but Datsyuk believes Ovechkin's past amazing seasons skew anything less.
"He's the same as before, but now more people waiting for him more and more," Datsyuk said. "If he's not scoring 50-goal seasons, (they say), 'Oh, he not good anymore.' I think he's really good. You need to pay attention. He shoots from anywhere. He's one of those guys who can score from anywhere."
The Red Wings learned that lesson the hard way a year ago in this building, when Ovechkin fired a rocket wrist shot through the legs of a defenseman that went over the shoulder of goalie Jimmy Howard and under the crossbar.
"It's quick and it's fast," Howard said of Ovechkin's shot. "He gets it off relatively quick; usually it's really hard, as well. He's dangerous no matter where he is on the ice when he's shooting."
That's why the best way to play against him as a defender is just anticipating his position on the ice and trying to take away as many options as possible.
"You'd like to get a gap up on him early, hopefully try to take away that wrister he's got," Kronwall said. "Anytime he enters the zone, he either tries to beat you wide or he's going for that wrister between your legs. It's tough. He's always shooting at the right times."
And when he's not, as Keith discovered Sunday, he's just as dangerous with his stickhandling.
"That's why it's so tough, because you don't know what he's going to do," Kronwall said. "Sometimes he'll shoot and sometimes he'll fake the shot and go around you. With that speed and size advantage, you've definitely got to be aware of when he's on the ice. Those guys are definitely hard to defend, and with his size and skillset and shot, he's the complete package."
Nyquist was with them for Detroit's morning skate at Joe Louis Arena on Monday, while veteran Danny Cleary was put on the right side of the a re-tooled third line that will be missing injured center Darren Helm (knee sprain).
"Depends how he plays," Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland said when asked if Nyquist might stick in the NHL. "He might be (with Datsyuk and Bertuzzi) for a shift. It all depends. Nyquist has played very well in the American Hockey League, but that's the American Hockey League. We're trying to roll 3-4 lines and Cleary is a guy that can play up and play down. You put Cleary and (Justin Abdelkader) and (Drew Miller) together and it's a real good third checking line."
Putting the talents of Datsyuk, Bertuzzi and Nyquist together also could be interesting. Nyquist is one of the AHL's top scorers this season and recently has shown flashes of his impressive skillset with the Red Wings.
He's yet to score a goal, but the 22-year old Nyquist has 3 assists and a plus-1 rating in eight games -- including assists in two of his last three games.
"He's young and has lots of skill and fresh legs," Datsyuk said. "We don't need to match (skills). We need (to) help each other. He's (got) good skill and (he's) fresh and exciting ... what we needed. It's the end of the season. Everybody is getting tired and has lots of injuries. I think he helps us a lot."
At least that's what Nyquist is hoping to do.
"It's a great opportunity for me and that's what I want to be down the road," he said of getting a shot to play in the top-six forward group. "It's a good start to kind of get a feel for it and hopefully I'll take advantage of it tonight."
His previous eight NHL games have given Nyquist added confidence each time he now suits up for the Red Wings.
"It helps every game you play up here," he said. "You learn something new every game and it feels a lot better now than at the start of the year, especially playing a lot of minutes down in Grand Rapids. That helps a lot."
Should he start the game flanking Datsyuk, that means Nyquist could find himself on the ice at the same time as Capitals star Alex Ovechkin -- who has been known to abuse many opponents, let alone rookies.
Nyquist knows he'll have to be aware of who's on the ice for Washington and also that his opportunity to play with Datsyuk could be short if it doesn't pay dividends.
"We're hoping Nyquist can do some things, but obviously if we're in the first period and there's no magic or no chemistry, then the coach will make changes," Holland said.
DETROIT -- After not dressing for Sunday's game in Chicago, Washington Capitals goalie Tomas Vokoun was unable to go through an optional morning skate Monday at Joe Louis Arena.
He stretched and then came off the ice. Afterward, he told reporters it was more of a precautionary measure to prevent a nagging groin injury from getting worse.
"It wasn't good enough to skate, but it's better," Vokoun said. "I came back a little too early before and we just want to make sure now we don't make it worse. You always worry about it, but you never know. I'm going to try and get it as good as fast as possible."
The injury has bothered him for quite a while, but he re-aggravated it last Friday playing in Winnipeg.
"I kind of irritated it," Vokoun said. "I've had it for a longer time. It didn't happen last game. Obviously, with our job description, there's a lot of pressure on that certain (groin area). Like I said, I just want to make sure I don't take one step forward and three back."
Capitals coach Dale Hunter also called it "precautionary" and didn't reveal who would start Monday's game against the Detroit Red Wings. Signs seem to point to Michal Neuvirth getting his second straight start, however, after taking the loss in a 5-2 defeat Sunday in Chicago.
The other option is 22-year old Braden Holtby, whose only other NHL action this season was a Feb. 13 against San Jose, when he allowed five goals on 30 shots. Holtby worked with goalie coach Olie Kolzig during the sparsely-attended optional skate, while Neuvirth sat out.
Vokoun, meanwhile, seemed a little frustrated by his lingering injury.
"I've never had any experience with (this)," he said. "I've never had it. It's unfortunate and I can't control that stuff. We're working on it and as soon as I feel it's good enough to, you know, play ... then I'll play."
DETROIT -- Darren Helm knew something bad had happened in his left knee almost immediately after he hit the ice in the third period Saturday in San Jose.
After trying to get a big hit against San Jose Sharks forward Dominic Moore in the neutral zone near the Red Wings' bench, Helm's leg appeared to get tangled with Moore's and Helm crashed to the ice in pain.
An MRI done Monday morning in Detroit showed Helm is suffering from a Grade 2 sprain of the medial collateral ligament in his left knee and according to Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland, will miss 4-6 weeks..
"It's a sprain," Holland said. "You wait for the sprain to heal. This one just so happens to be on his knee. If you sprain your thumb, you don't do anything for it. You just wait for it to heal. This is the same thing.
"We just have to wait for it to heal."
He should be used to that refrain by now, with Detroit's list of walking wounded seemingly growing by the day. The good news is that several Red Wings appear to be on the mend, including defensemen Jonathan Ericsson (fractured wrist) and Jakub Kindl (oblique strain).
"The playoffs are three-and-a-half weeks away," Holland said. "I'm hoping Helm's a fast healer and he'll be ready sometime around the start of the playoffs. That's certainly the hope, but you won't know until you let some time go by. But certainly we're hoping sometime during the first round of the playoffs we'll get Helmer back. In the meantime, it's an opportunity for (Gustav Nyquist) to play and an opportunity for (Justin Abdelkader) to have a bigger role."
Abdelkader will fill in for Helm at center on the third line, which likely will start with Danny Cleary at right wing.
"We're grinding right now," Holland said of his team, which has won just once in the past seven games (1-5-1). "We weren't overly pleased with our effort in our games in California (last week). I thought we played hard in San Jose. We just have to keep grinding."
DETROIT -- One bit of good news from Monday's morning skate came from defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who participated in his first full morning skate since taking a slap shot off the outside of his skate Feb. 25 against Colorado. He left the lineup with a deep bone bruise in his ankle and has missed the last nine games -- which are three more than he's ever missed in any one of his 19 previous NHL seasons.
Lidstrom tried to get on the ice a couple of times last week during a road trip out West, but never lasted long, and eventually was sent home. On Monday, he wasn't near full speed but was at least able to complete the workout.
"That's encouraging compared to how it was on Wednesday morning in L.A., where if I had my skate on I couldn't really stand on my foot," Lidstrom said. "That's an improvement for sure, where I was able to skate out there and even pivot and do some turns."
His teammates were pretty happy to have him out there, as well.
"He's a guy you want in the lineup every night, especially our power play would like a little boost," Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. "Just seeing him on the ice, we know he's getting closer. Hopefully he'll be back soon. Until then, we all have to dig in and take care of business."
Lidstrom said he's still "day-to-day" with the injury, which has been X-rayed several times and hasn't shown any fractures -- including the latest one taken Friday when he got back to Detroit.
"It's still just a bone bruise that's taking time to heal," Lidstrom said. "I still look at it as day-to-day and hopefully it gets better every day. Hopefully (Monday's morning skate) will help me, too, and that it's not going to get worse from skating."
He'll find that out Tuesday, when Lidstrom is hoping to go through a full practice for the first time since getting hurt. The biggest issues have been swelling and pain once he puts his foot in the skate and laces it up, but the swelling has subsided a decent amount in the past couple weeks.
"It's slowly been getting better, but the big test is when you put your skate on and when you're skating," Lidstrom said. "That's when you put the most pressure on it and can test it out. I ca