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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 3:58 PM

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

Hawks happy with third defense pairing

Sean O'Donnell and Steve Montador have provided some steady play along the blue line as the third pairing for Chicago and the Blackhawks' depth on the back end is starting to take shape because of it.

O'Donnell, who just turned 40, is still in great shape and has proven to be a steady presence at both ends of the ice, while Montador's play has picked up considerably since the preseason ended.

"He's really progressed," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday's morning skate at United Center. "His training camp was ordinary and as soon as the regular season started his play picked up. Defensively, he's responsible and gives us some quickness coming out of our end. He's got a big shot off the point and looks to make plays as well. Overall that pair's been very steady for us, which is what we're looking for."

Montador has one assist and a plus-3 rating through Chicago's first six games, while O'Donnell has a pair of assists and is a plus-2.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 3:53 PM

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

Hawks find chemistry early, keeping tabs on Wings

CHICAGO – They haven't even played 10 games yet, so is it too early for the Chicago Blackhawks to take a peek at how the red hot Detroit Red Wings are doing?

"No, it's not," Hawks star forward Patrick Kane said following Chicago's morning skate Saturday, prior to playing the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center. "Starts are huge, especially in (the Western Conference). Last year, we didn't get off to a good start and it kind of cost us a little bit. This conference is so tough to get into the playoffs. It's definitely not too early to be looking over and seeing how they're doing and how other teams are doing in the West."

How are the Red Wings doing?

Well, they're a perfect 5-0-0 heading into a road game against the undefeated Washington Capitals on Saturday night – which ties Detroit's franchise record set in 1972.

The thing is, the Blackhawks are 4-1-1 themselves and right on the Red Wings' heels in the Central Division. Could this be an early foreshadowing of a nip-and-tuck division race between the two Original Six rivals?

The Hawks think so, and they have noticed how well Detroit has started off.

"You see them winning a lot of games and they're pretty dominant right now," Kane said. "It definitely makes you want to keep pace with them if not go past them. Detroit's always kind of been our (barometer) of how we're doing in the season and it'll probably stay that way this year."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville agreed.

"We played (Detroit) a couple times in the pre-season and you know with their personnel, they've got all the right ingredients and they know how to win and they're a good team and they're going to be a good team," Quenneville said. "You know they're going to be around, and it's going to be a competitive division, but we've still got to take care of our own business. I'm sure when we see them it will be an exciting game."

Especially if both teams remain close in the standings – last year, the Hawks were defending Stanley Cup champions and appeared to struggle with the short summer that accompanies the feat. They also had a lot of roster changes because of salary-cap problems and the new faces who were brought in took a while to settle into their roles.

As it turned out, the Hawks needed help just to make the playoff field as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. This year, Chicago again brought in a handful of new players -- but the new group seemingly fits right into what the Hawks' plans.

As a result, there seems to be more chemistry sooner and the Hawks' play on the ice is benefiting from it.

"Right now, you've got all your pieces in place," Quenneville said. "(Last year) everybody was initially looking for their place and it took too long for that group to maybe be comfortable in their roles or their areas where they were on the team. This year, it just seems like everybody is comfortable with where they're at."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 1:25 PM

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

Projected lineups for Avalanche, Blackhawks

Here are the projected lineups for Colorado and Chicago when they square off Saturday night at United Center:

COLORADO AVALANCHE

David Jones – Paul Statsny – Chuck Kobasew
Joakim LindstromMatt DucheneMilan Hejduk
Gabriel LandeskogRyan O'ReillyDaniel Winnik
Cody McLeod – T.J. Galiardi – Jay McClement

Erik JohnsonJan Hejda
Kyle Quincy – Shane O'Brien
Ryan WilsonRyan O'Byrne

Semyon Varlamov
Jean-Sebastien Giguere


CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS

Andrew BrunetteJonathan ToewsPatrick Sharp
Daniel CarcilloPatrick KaneMarian Hossa
Bryan BickellDave Bolland – Michal Frolik
Viktor StalbergMarcus KrugerJamal Mayers

Duncan KeithNick Leddy
Keith SeabrookNiklas Hjalmarsson
Sean O'DonnellSteve Montador

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Friday, 10.21.2011 / 1:43 PM

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

Lidstrom demanding more

When the captain says something is wrong, you fix it.

That's the tact Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock has taken with 41-year old captain and top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom, who made it known after last season that he didn't really like having his ice time reduced.

Lidstrom still led the Wings in ice time last year, with an average of 23:28 per game, but he didn't play much on the penalty kill and Babcock also tried to back off his usually heavy workload through the regular season.

However, Lidstrom wasn't a big fan of sitting more.

"Last year we backed him off a little bit and he told me in the spring he didn't like it, so we just fixed it," Babcock said following the Red Wings' morning skate at Joe Louis Arena. "He says he plays better when he's playing. Last year, we didn't penalty kill him near as much. This year we are. We've got a little different rotation, so this year we are. He's been excellent."

He's also leading the Wings in ice time yet again through the first four games, logging an average of 24:01 per game thus far. That could change a little because of the schedule. Only playing four games to this point has allowed the players to get plenty of rest, but also will require some taxing back-to-back games ahead.

"When you play night in and night out and you travel like we do in the West here, especially with the three-hour time change, that might be different as time goes on," Babcock said of Lidstrom leading in ice time. "Right now it hasn't been an issue."

Lidstrom concurred.

"I still take a lot of pride in playing a lot of minutes and playing against the top lines and still being on specialty teams as well," said Lidstrom, who will play in his 1,500th NHL game Saturday against the Washington Capitals. "That's something we talked about in the offseason, to get the minutes up a little bit more. (Babcock) asked if I was ready for it and could still do it, and I said, 'Oh yeah. I'm more than willing to play more minutes.' When you're used to it, I think it's harder to play less and stay in a good rhythm."
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Posted On Friday, 10.21.2011 / 12:32 PM

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

Projected lineups for Blue Jackets, Red Wings

Here's what the projected lineups could look like for Friday night's game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings at Joe Louis Arena:

BLUE JACKETS
RJ Umberger - Derick Brassard - Rick Nash
Vinny Prospal - Antoine Vermette - Alexandre Giroux
Maksim Mayorov - Samuel Pahlsson - Derek Dorsett
Cody Bass - Derek MacKenzie - Ryan Johansen

Fedor Tyutin - Radek Martinek
Grant Clitsome - Marc Methot
Kris Russell - Aaron Johnson

Steve Mason is expected to be the starting goalie with Allen York, an emergency recall from AHL Springfield, backing him up.

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

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

Jimmy Howard is expected to be the starting goalie with Ty Conklin backing him up.




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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 3:59 PM

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

Stalberg feeling better for Hawks

While Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville wasn't tipping his hand about which injured players would skate tonight against the Boston Bruins, there's a chance forward Viktor Stalberg will give it a go.

Stalberg has been out since suffering a sprained left knee in a collision with Detroit's Justin Abdelkader. He was having a great preseason before the injury, and hopes to pick up where he left off whenever he does get back into a game.

"It's feeling good," he said. "It's the way I want it to feel and I feel like I'll be ready to play (against the Bruins). I haven't played a game in a couple of weeks, so it play it simple and make it short shifts I guess, if I'm in."

At this morning's practice, he saw time at right wing on Patrick Kane's line, and at left wing on Marcus Kruger's line.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 3:56 PM

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

Kane: 2010 Hawks would top 2011 Bruins

Chicago Blackhawks center Patrick Kane was posed a hypothetical question after Saturday's morning skate: Who would win a Stanley Cup Final series between the 2010 champion Hawks and the 2011 champion Boston Bruins?

"I think we'd win," Kane said. "But it would be a good series. Tim Thomas was on fire, though, at the end of the series last year. It seems like every game they won they kind of blew out the Canucks. It would've been a good series."

The 2010 Cup Final certainly was a good one for Kane -- he scored the Cup-clinching goal in overtime of Game 6 against the Philadelphia Flyers.
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 3:54 PM

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

Seguin all grown up?

The way 19-year old Tyler Seguin has started this season -- he's tied with Brad Marchand for the team lead with 4 points -- begs the question of whether young stars like him have an advantage against the so-called "Stanley Cup Hangover" that's seemed to affect some of his older teammates.

Seguin said he doesn't really know the answer, since this past summer was his first official NHL offseason. So, he busted out a good one-liner instead.

"Well … I'm not 18 anymore, right?" he said.

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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 3:10 PM

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

Welcome to the Madhouse

Tyler Seguin is just 19, and in his second season, he hasn't visited all the buildings in the League.

Tonight will mark his first game in Chicago, and he's excited to see what the United Center -- aka the "Madhouse on Madison" -- is all about.

"There's only two or three buildings left I haven't played in and this is one of them," Seguin said. "I've heard amazing things about the atmosphere here. I'm definitely looking forward to that and I'm very excited."

Tempering that excitement, however, is the Bruins' difficult start. While Seguin is tied for the team scoring lead with 4 points and earned a promotion to center the team's first line tonight, he's more focused on getting the team straightened out from its 1-3-0 start.

"I feel very fortunate and lucky about what happened last year, but I don't think any of us wanted to start off with this record we have right now," said Seguin. "It's definitely time to turn it around."
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Posted On Saturday, 10.15.2011 / 3:06 PM

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

Seguin the man in the middle for Bruins

CHICAGO -- Those wondering if Tyler Seguin's recent move to center might stick for the long term might want to wait a bit.

The talented 19-year old will center the Boston Bruins' top line tonight, flanked by Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, when the defending Stanley Cup champions face the 2010 Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks here at the United Center (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

According to Bruins coach Claude Julien, this move is more like a sneak peek at what the future may hold for the second pick of the 2010 Entry Draft. Seguin has been playing right wing on the third line and is filling in for David Krejci -- who didn't make the trip because of a core injury -- on the top line.

"I think we all know right now that what we have at center, where he should fit, it's hard to move somebody out of that position," Julien said after Boston's morning skate. "He can be just as beneficial to us on the wing as he can be at center. I think down the road there's a better chance of seeing him there (center), but right now he's got a better chance at growing … and playing both positions, he'll understand it better."

Seguin played junior in his draft season with the Plymouth Whalers, and tied for the Ontario Hockey League in scoring with 106 points, so he knows how to play the position. However, the Bruins are stacked in the middle, with Krejci, Patrice Bergeron, Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell.

Julien also wants Seguin to go through more battles on the outside in order to make himself into a complete player before moving to center full time.

"He's got to be a guy that's got to win battles for pucks -- not physically, but by determination," Julien said. "Putting him on the wing sometimes means that he's got to do those things. So we know where he's better at, but I think he's actually pretty good at both (positions). That versatility is only going to make him a better player."

Seguin says he's fine with either spot.

"It definitely can't hurt me (playing center)," said Seguin, who has a goal and 3 assists in four games. "These first few games I've gotten some good ice time, so I'm just trying to take advantage of that. It's impossible to replace Krejci, so I'm just doing whatever I can. I play the wing, too, so I don't know if I have a more preferred position. I'm just doing the right thing wherever I'm at."

Playing in the middle, however, does give Seguin more of a chance to create plays.

"There's a little bit more room to operate and be more creative," Bruins forward Rich Peverley, who also has flipped between center and the wing, said. "He's a guy who sees the ice very well, but he's got a great shot -- so he puts himself in great situations playing at center. He's played well so far."
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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins