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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 3:32 PM

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

Hawks recall Pirri, place Carcillo on IR

CHICAGO – The Chicago Blackhawks called up center prospect Brandon Pirri from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Wednesday and placed injured forward Daniel Carcillo on injured reserve to make room on the roster.

Pirri may go straight into the active lineup if rookie center Marcus Kruger cannot play after taking a big hit in the first period Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins and not returning after playing the rest of the first.

The 20-year old Pirri has played one game this season with the Hawks and finished with an assist in 15:43 of ice time in the season-opener Oct. 7 in Dallas. Pirri, Chicago’s second-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft (No. 59),  is the AHL’s seventh-leading scorer with 13 goals and 31 points in 28 games.

Carcillo has been out with an undisclosed upper-body injury believed to be a concussion since getting injured Dec. 14 in Minnesota.

Check back for more information after Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville meets with the media in Chicago on Wednesday afternoon. Pirri and Hawks captain Jonathan Toews will also speak with reporters at the United Center prior to Quenneville.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 11:46 AM

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

Lineup decisions looming for Blackhawks, Canadiens

CHICAGO – The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks both opted not to have a morning skate at United Center before facing each other Wednesday night.

That means questions about the playing status of Chicago players will have to wait until Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville meets with the media Wednesday afternoon. The first will pertain to rookie center Marcus Kruger, who was hit hard by Derek Engelland early in the first period Tuesday night in Pittsburgh and didn’t return to the ice.

Quenneville said after the 3-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins that Kruger was “OK,” but did not say whether he would be able to play against Montreal. Quenneville might also be asked about defenseman Brent Seabrook, who was seen skating slowly toward the Chicago bench late in the game Tuesday holding his arm. Seabrook also had to leave a game Sunday at United Center after a hit from behind by Calgary Flames forward Rene Bourque drove his head into the boards.

Quenneville said that Seabrook leaving that game was mostly a precaution, as the star blueliner has had three undisclosed upper-body injuries in the past that are believed to have been concussions. Another question for Quenneville will likely be about who starts in net for the Hawks.

Ray Emery has started six straight games, including Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, but Quenneville said after the morning skate Tuesday that it was “very likely” Corey Crawford would start against the Canadiens – which would be his first start since being pulled from a Dec. 5 game against the Phoenix Coyotes.

As for Montreal, the biggest lineup questions are on the blue line. Recently-named head coach Randy Cunneyworth shuffled up his top defense pairings Monday against the Boston Bruins by putting Raphael Diaz with Josh Gorges and sliding P.K. Subban next to Hal Gill.

Subban and Gorges had been playing together since the start of the season in October, but Gill and formed a pair for most of last season. Cunneyworth also said that Peter Budaj will get the start in net instead of Carey Price.

Here’s a look at the projected lineups:

CANADIENS

Max Pacioretty - David Desharnais - Erik Cole
Mike Cammalleri - Tomas Plekanec - Travis Moen
Andrei Kostitsyn - Lars Eller - Louis Leblanc
Mathieu Darche - Petteri Nokelainen - Mike Blunden

Josh Gorges - P.K. Subban
Hal Gill - Raphael Diaz
Tomas Kaberle - Chris Campoli

Peter Budaj
Carey Price

BLACKHAWKS

Andrew Brunette - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Sharp
Viktor Stalberg - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Jeremy Morin
John Scott - Jamal Mayers - Michael Frolik

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

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

Note: If Kruger is able to play, the Blackhawks lines will likely change. Kruger left the loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins after one period, which forced Quenneville to move star forward Patrick Kane w back to center of the second line between Stalberg and Hossa. Brunette and Sharp were also moved to the top line with Toews, while rookie Jeremy Morin -- who started that game on the top line -- was bumped down to the third line with Bickell and Bolland. Imposing 6-foot-8 defenseman John Scott, who can play some wing on the fourth line when needed, could also find his name in the lineup again after standing up for Kruger by fighting -- and punishing -- Pittsburgh's Derek Engelland for the hit, which the Hawks took exception to, despite not being penalized.
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Posted On Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 5:52 PM

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

Morin set to play against Flames

CHICAGO – Rather than easing Jeremy Morin into the lineup, the Chicago Blackhawks are putting the talented rookie forward in right away against the Calgary Flames on Sunday night at the United Center.

The 20-year old Morin was called up on Sunday morning from Rockford of the American Hockey League, where he'd played 22 games and scored 5 goals while tallying 10 assists – including one goal and eight helpers in his last nine games.

Morin is also coming off a three-game AHL suspension for an elbowing incident on Dec. 11 against Milwaukee – which is likely the reason he wasn't called up sooner following an upper-body injury to Hawks forward Daniel Carcillo on Wednesday in Minnesota.

"Organizationally, he's a player that we see having a good future with us and it gives him a chance to get back in the lineup," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday afternoon. "He's played well down in the minors this year. He's got some upside offensively. He's got some strength in the puck area, good instincts, good shot and I think defensively he's fine, too. We're looking forward to seeing him play."

Morin made his debut with Chicago last season by playing nine games with the Hawks and scoring two goals while adding one assist. However, Morin sustained a shoulder injury playing for the United States at the 2011 World Junior Championships and he went back to Rockford after helping Team USA win a bronze medal.

Not long after his return, Morin got a concussion on Jan. 15 and missed the rest of the season (41 games) plus sitting out all exhibition games and scrimmages during this year's training camp. The concussion happened after a hard hit caused him to hit his head on the ice. Quenneville said the time spent in the minors this season was necessary for Morin just to get back into the rhythm of a hockey season.

"I think you need time on ice and quality time on ice," Quenneville said. "(The AHL) is a good league and coming off the extended injury there, I think he's earning an opportunity based on how well he's played."

Quenneville wouldn't reveal where in the Hawks lineup Morin will fit in against the Flames, but the most likely spots would be one of the wings on the third line in place of either left wing Bryan Bickell or right wing Michael Frolik.

Morin might also slide into the left wing spot on the fourth line in place of 6-foot-8 defenseman John Scott, who's used on the left wing of that line from time to time.  Morin is just excited to get back into an NHL game, regardless of where he's placed.

"You don't know when you're going to get called up, but obviously I'm excited about the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it," said Morin, who was the key return piece in a blockbuster deal with the former Atlanta Thrashers the summer after Chicago won the 2010 Stanley Cup. "I was just excited to kind of be back in the swing of things (in Rockford) and be playing again every night and every weekend, getting back into it. I was most excited about that. I knew I had to prove I could play again before I got the chance (to rejoin the Hawks)."

As for the long period sitting out with the concussion, Morin said it was a tough ordeal and a learning experience.

"I'd never gone through something like that before," he said. "Going through it, you don't really know how much it takes coming back and the timing and everything that it takes. You don't know when it's going to come back. I didn't struggle in the beginning, but it was a little tougher than I thought coming back. I was just excited to finally be back (in Rockford)."

Now the excitement shifts to having another opportunity to show he can play in the NHL.

"Anytime you come up here you just want to play your hardest and prove that you can play at this level," said Morin, who helped the U.S. win the gold medal at the 2010 World Junior Championships. "That's what I'm going to try and do and just play my game. I've definitely been trying to pick up my play in the last couple weeks. I'm moving in the right direction and happy with my game right now."

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Posted On Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 3:21 PM

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

Chicago's stars carrying Hawks during hot streak

CHICAGO – The scary thing is that Patrick Kane is right about the Chicago Blackhawks, who head into a game on Sunday night against the Calgary Flames just one point back of the NHL's top team, the Minnesota Wild.

Kane thinks that despite a recent hot stretch, which has the Hawks sitting 6-0-1 in December and 8-1-1 in their last 10 games, things could actually be going better overall. There are still a few lapses from time to time, so they do have things to work on despite a torrid offensive stretch by star leaders like captain Jonathan Toews and second-line wingers Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa.

"I think everyone was real excited about our team coming into the year and kind of had that feel like (it was) a couple of years ago … the same kind of buildup," said Kane, who has eight goals and 23 assists with a plus-10 rating. "The best part about it is that we probably feel like we haven't even played our best yet. Things can always get better and we know we can get better, too. There's still a lot of season left."

How much better can it get for the likes of Toews, Sharp and Hossa though?

Sharp, who has 17 goals and 17 assists, has a career long eight-game point streak going (7G, 5A) – which is the NHL's longest active streak and tied for the longest in the League this season. He also notched his 10th multi-point game in Friday's win against the visiting Anaheim Ducks, which ranks tied for first on the team with Hossa's 10 and seventh in the League.

He's also among the League leaders in plus/minus rating (+15) and became the first Blackhawks player to ever score back-to-back game-winning goals in overtime.

Hossa, meanwhile, has a four-game point streak going and has tallied five goals and five assists in his last six games. He has scored 14 goals and added 20 assists in 31 games – including his 400th career goal on Dec. 8 against the New York Islanders – and leads Western Conference forwards in plus/minus rating (+17).

Toews hasn't been as hot lately, but went on a 13-game tear from Nov. 10 to Dec. 5 that saw him score 12 goals and tally 11 assists, while continuing to lead the league in faceoff win percentage. Kane has also been kind of cold over the past four games (one assist), but he's capable of breaking out at any time.

"Those three guys are playing great and it's nice to have that balance for sure," Kane said of Toews, Sharp and Hossa. "Sharpie and Hossa have been playing awesome the past couple games, but Toews was on fire there for a while. Hopefully it's my turn soon."
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Posted On Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 2:30 PM

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

Blackhawks penalty kill much improved

CHICAGO – They are still ranked a lowly 27th in the League killing penalties, but the Chicago Blackhawks know two things that make that number much more tolerable.

First off, they've killed off 19 straight power plays over a span of the last six games heading into Sunday night's home game against the Calgary Flames – winning five of those contests and losing one in a shootout. Secondly, they wouldn't be ranked so low had it not been for a pair of blowout losses to the Vancouver Canucks at home and Edmonton Oilers on the road.

In those two games combined, the Hawks allowed nine goals in 13 attempts – including five on six chances against the Canucks and four on seven against the Oilers. Otherwise, Chicago's penalty kill has been pretty solid – and downright hot of late. It also helps to be one of the NHL's least penalized teams.

"We're not taking a lot of penalties, first of all, and at key times we're making big kills," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday's practice. "We've got the good rotation with the forward groups and the (defensemen) are more aware of those plays around the net. (We're getting) big saves at big times, clears (and) pressuring. There's been more of an emphasis on not letting teams set up and get organized and keeping the heat on."

There has been more cohesion as a group lately, but it's also about a stepped-up effort when down a man or more.

"I think it's a matter of pride more than anything," forward Patrick Sharp said. "The numbers don't reflect the unit as a whole and there's always room for improvement. You see now, every time we try to kill off a penalty, the defensemen and forwards … everybody is working together and we're doing our best to pull it off."
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Posted On Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 1:40 PM

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

Potential Lineups for Flames-Blackhawks

Here's a look at how the lineups might look tonight for the Hawks and Flames:

FLAMES

Curtis Glencross - Olli Jokinen - Jarome Iginla
Alex Tanguay - Brendan Morrison - Rene Bourque
Blake Comeau - Mikael Backlund - Lee Stempniak
Tom Kostopoulos - Matt Stajan - Tim Jackman

Scott Hannan - Derek Smith
Jay Bouwmeester - Chris Butler
T.J. Brodie - Cory Sarich

Miikka Kiprusoff
Leland Irving

BLACKHAWKS

Viktor Stalberg - Jonathan Toews - Patrick Kane
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
John Scott - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette

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

Ray Emery
Corey Crawford
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Posted On Sunday, 12.18.2011 / 1:35 PM

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

Flames looking to avoid eighth loss at the UC

CHICAGO – The Calgary Flames are back in the Windy City for the second of two trips here this season and they're probably happy to get this one out of the way.

Calgary (14-14-4) will face the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday at the United Center night (7 p.m.), which has been a particularly vexing venue for the Flames of late. They haven't beaten the Chicago Blackhawks (20-8-4) here in a regular-season game since March 16, 2008 -- a span of seven straight losses in this building.

The seventh loss in that stretch came on Nov.11 in a 4-1 defeat in which Chicago scored the game's first two goals and last two goals with goalie Ray Emery stopping 24 of 25 Flames shots. Calgary turned it around a week later at home with a convincing 5-2 win against the Hawks, but now the Flames are back in what's become a personal house of horrors. Emery is also in net again for the Hawks – who've won four straight games, are 8-1-1 in their last 10 and 6-0-1 in the month of December.

"Obviously we haven't played well enough here," Calgary coach Brent Sutter said after the Flames' morning skate on Sunday. "We've had games where we've had a couple of good periods and (then) you have a bad period. When you're playing a team like Chicago, that has the talent level and skill level they have, you can't afford not to be a 60-minute team. We've got to play hard here."

If they don't, the Flames are most likely looking at an eighth straight loss at the Madhouse on Madison Street.

"Our will and our compete level has to be higher than theirs and just go out there and play the game like it needs to be played and give (us) a chance," Sutter said. "That's the thing here. In the past, we just haven't gotten that full 60 minutes here. Tonight we have to have that."

One of the guys in particular who Sutter wants to see it from is 22-year old Swedish center Mikael Backlund – who has scored just two goals and added one assist in 17 games since missing a month with a broken finger. Sutter sent a message to Backlund by making him a healthy scratch on Friday in a shootout loss on the road against the Florida Panthers, so this will be a chance to see if it got through.

"I'm looking for (Backlund) to have more intensity in his game," Sutter said. "He's a young guy that needs to continue to improve and progress and we need that emotion level in his game. That's what makes him a good player. When he has it, he can be a real good player for us. When that drops off, he's not at the level that we need him to be. I took him out for a reason and now he's going back in for a reason."

Backland, who will likely center the third line between Blake Comeau and Lee Stempniak, said he's looking forward to proving his worth.

"I didn't play very good in Tampa (on Thursday) and from the end of last season to this year I haven't been playing as good as I can," he said. "I've got to get back to that and find a way to do it and compete hard. (Sitting out) is nothing you want to do. I'm really excited to get back now and show them I'm good enough."

Physical forward Daniel Carcillo isn't likely to play for Chicago, as he continues to recover from an undisclosed upper body injury that happened on Wednesday against the Minnesota Wild. That means the Hawks will likely go with a very similar lineup to what they used to beat the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night at home.

If so, 6-foot-8, 270-pound defenseman John Scott could make another appearance at left wing on the fourth line with Jamal Mayers at center and Andrew Brunette on the right side. Chicago didn't have a morning skate on Sunday, so it's a bit of a guessing game as to what the Hawks' lines will look like.

However, they did call up highly-rated forward prospect Jeremy Morin from the Rockford IceHogs on Sunday morning and he could draw into the lineup right away -- anywhere from one of the wings on the third line to somewhere on the fourth.

That fourth line came up big against the Ducks in Chicago's last game by creating the game's first goal with some good work in the offensive zone. It was capped by the third marker of the season for Mayers – who is one of the Hawks' free-agent signees brought in last summer to add experience and grit.

That's exactly what he's doing now and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is pleased to see it.

"He's been real good for us," said Quenneville, who also coached Mayers with the St. Louis Blues. "One of the needs we'd talked about was just some abrasiveness (and) some toughness. He gives us that. He's got a good attitude, gives us some experience (and) good leadership skills. He's been a real good fit for us. He's played very well in a lot of ways. (He's) useful at faceoffs, toughness (and) kills penalties. He's been a nice addition."
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Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 4:31 PM

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

Hagman finding success with Boudreau

CHICAGO – Niklas Hagman just wasn’t working out with the Calgary Flames, so they released him earlier this season.

He was claimed by the Anaheim Ducks on re-entry waivers and hoped the change of scenery would serve him well. The Ducks then fired former coach Randy Carlysle and hired Bruce Boudreau, which meant even more change for Hagman – who’s now playing on the top line at left wing with center Ryan Getzlaf and right winger Corey Perry.

“For some reason, things didn’t work out in Calgary that well,” Hagman told NHL.com on Friday at United Center, before the Ducks face the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night. “That’s in the past. I take my fair share of blame for not making things work, but that’s in the past now. Coming to Anaheim was a fresh start. Then I got another fresh start when we changed the coach.”

The change to Boudreau has been good for Hagman so far. Since being moved up to the top line four games ago, he’s scored two goals – both on Wednesday in a win against the Phoenix Coyotes – and added an assist.

“After the second coaching change, I’ve gotten good quality minutes,” Hagman said. “It’s been nice to play offensive hockey again, because I’ve known all the time that I can play and I can score goals. There’s been some tough times, but hopefully now just try to keep on working and earning those minutes and trying to help the team whatever it takes.”

He also sounded relieved to have a different system to play in, which favors more of an offensive style.

“It’s really nice to play hockey like it’s kind of meant to be played … not just chipping it in and forechecking all the time,” Hagman said. “I’m trying to build a little confidence with the puck, too.”

Hagman has also seen time on the top power-play unit recently, which has made him even hungrier to produce and keep his current standing.

“I’ve just got to work even harder to keep my spot and earn those minutes,” he said. “If Coach decides something else, then I go somewhere else. But getting a chance to play with the guys on the top two lines here and getting a chance to play on the power play … I really want to work hard to do my share.”
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Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 4:23 PM

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

Boudreau sees comic book comparison for Beauchemin

CHICAGO – One of the guys who has stood for recently-named Anaheim Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau is defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who’s eating up ice time in large quantities since the coach’s arrival.

In fact, Boudreau compared Beauchemin to a comic book hero at Friday’s morning skate before the Ducks play the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center (8:30 p.m.).

“Beauchemin has played 30 minutes a game since I’ve been here and he’s been a solid work horse and a warrior,” Boudreau said. “He’s the guy that has stood out more than anybody. He doesn’t tire at all. The more minutes you get … he’s like the Hulk. I mean, the angrier he got the stronger he got. This is a little bit like (Beauchemin) in the more he plays, he seems to get more energy from it.”

Boudreau said he used to keep track of Beauchemin more when he was with the Toronto Maple Leafs and lost track of him a little after moving to the West coast. The ex-Capitals coach used the Incredible Hulk comparison with Mike Green during his tenure in Washington a couple of times.

“When I used to watch him in Toronto when he was playing, it seemed like he was all over the place and I didn’t know what we were getting, because you don’t see as many Anaheim games (on the East coast),” said Boudreau, who fired by the Washington Capitals just a couple of days before taking the Ducks job. “Here he’s been really steady and a great leader in the room and doing all the right things.”
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Posted On Friday, 12.16.2011 / 4:18 PM

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

Selanne eagerly anticipating return to Winnipeg

CHICAGO – He still has a game to play against the Chicago Blackhawks on Friday night before he can fully think about it, but 41-year old Teemu Selanne knows his return to Winnipeg on Saturday  is fast approaching.

Selanne broke into the League as a rookie in 1992-93 for the old Winnipeg Jets franchise and scored a mind-boggling 76 goals to set the rookie scoring record. He played three-plus seasons for the Jets and still thinks fondly of the people he met – and played in front of – there.

“It’s going to be very special,” Selanne said. “Obviously I have great memories from Winnipeg. I’m so happy for them. Great memories from there. It’s been a long time since I played there last, but I’m very happy I started my career there and the people are unbelievable. Hockey is so big there. If you’re a hockey player, they really make you feel special about what you’re doing. Fun place to play.”

Not quite as fun for opposing players, however.

Former Jet and current Phoenix Coyote Shane Doan found that out the hard way. He made his return to Winnipeg’s MTS Centre earlier this season and got an ovation before the game started – followed by boos every time he touched the puck.

“I heard that,” Selanne said, laughing. “I think that’s pretty funny.”

What’s not funny to Selanne is the 9-16-5 record the Ducks have after 30 games. He didn’t commit to returning to play this season until much deliberation over the summer and it’s needless to say this wasn’t exactly what he envisioned when he opted to come back.

“I really didn’t sign for this, but at the same time I really think this is the challenge for our group … myself and the leaders and everybody … to find a way to turn this around,” Selanne said. “Obviously that’s something new in my career, but there’s no complaining. I’ve still enjoyed coming to the rink every day and that’s why I’m still here. It’s still fun.”

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau has noticed that since taking over the team a couple of weeks ago and he’s found Selanne’s approach to be a lift.

“Teemu is everything you’d think he would be,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know him that well yet. What I do know is that he comes to the rink every day and plays hard, and he never has that down look – as if, ‘What am I doing here?’ I’ve never seen a guy at his age love hockey so much. We had the Christmas Party the other day and he was out there with the kids more than anybody and longer than anybody. He’s a refreshing hockey player.”
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Quote of the Day

I might have blacked out. I was pretty pumped.

— New Jersey Devils rookie goalie Keith Kinkaid on his first NHL win Friday against the Tampa Bay Lightning