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Posted On Friday, 01.16.2015 / 1:00 PM

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

At the Rink: Jets at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks shouldn't be caught off-guard when they play the Winnipeg Jets at United Center on Friday.

After losing to them in Chicago in each of their first two games, including a 5-1 defeat Dec. 23, the Blackhawks ought to know just how improved the Jets are this season. Winnipeg, which pushed its point total to 54 with a 2-1 win at the Dallas Stars on Thursday, is four points behind the Blackhawks and St. Louis Blues in the Central Division and appears headed for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"They're an entirely different team, I think," said Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who is from Winnipeg. "We'll give them credit. They played well the two times we played them but we know we have to be a lot better than we've been in games against that team. The respect factor in this next one really has to be there."

That hasn't always been necessary.

Posted On Sunday, 01.11.2015 / 7:12 PM

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

At the Rink: Wild at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The biggest question for the Chicago Blackhawks going into a game against the Minnesota Wild at United Center on Sunday is simple.

How much gas do they have left to play their fifth game in eight days?

After defeating the Wild on Thursday and losing at the Edmonton Oilers on Friday to split a road back-to-back set, the Blackhawks are intent going into a four-day stretch without a game feeling good.

"The past three or four days have been tough on us, with the lack of sleep and traveling and all that, but coming into tonight we need to be ready," left wing Bryan Bickell said after the morning skate. "[The Wild had] a tough loss [Saturday], so they're in the same situation we are. We're going to bounce back and hopefully play good hockey."

Posted On Tuesday, 01.06.2015 / 2:33 PM

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

At the Rink: Avalanche at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Playing teams from their own division was something that vexed the Chicago Blackhawks last season, but this year it's been a different story.

Prior to hosting the Colorado Avalanche at United Center on Tuesday, another opponent from the Central Division, the Blackhawks hold a 10-4-0 record against their division. That's three wins short of their entire amount against the Central in 2013-14, when they went 13-13-3 and finished third.

It's an impressive turnaround effort through the season's first half, but even more so considering how stacked the division is with good teams. The Nashville Predators and Winnipeg Jets are in the thick of the race after neither made the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season.

"It's a tough division," right wing Patrick Kane said after the Blackhawks' morning skate. "You look at a lot of our teams, there's really no bad team in the division and on any given night an opponent can [win] its matchup. We try to pride ourselves on these games, because we know maybe that later in the year it's going to be more important."

Posted On Sunday, 01.04.2015 / 2:56 PM

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

At the Rink: Stars at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Teuvo Teravainen is ready to make another debut for the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center against the Dallas Stars.

The highly-touted rookie center will make his 2014-15 debut against Dallas on Sunday, centering the fourth line, after making his NHL debut against the Stars a year ago. Hopes remain high for Teravainen, 20, but the Blackhawks are trying to keep a lid on them for now.

Asked what he'd like to see from Teravainen, the 18th pick in the 2012 NHL Draft, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville kept his expectations simplistic.

"Just play, play the right way, [and] let things work out," Quenneville said. "We don’t expect anything other than that. As he gets into the game, we’ll see how he’s playing, how he’s handling it. If he’s doing well, we’ll probably give him more [ice time]."

Posted On Monday, 12.29.2014 / 2:06 PM

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

At the Rink: Predators at Blackhawks

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

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

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

Posted On Tuesday, 12.23.2014 / 2:02 PM

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

At the Rink: Jets at Blackhawks

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

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

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

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

Posted On Sunday, 12.21.2014 / 6:08 PM

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

At the Rink: Maple Leafs at Blackhawks

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

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

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

Posted On Tuesday, 12.16.2014 / 2:16 PM

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

At the Rink: Wild at Blackhawks

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

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

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

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

Posted On Sunday, 12.14.2014 / 2:56 PM

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

At the Rink: Flames at Blackhawks

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

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

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

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

Posted On Friday, 12.05.2014 / 2:20 PM

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

At the rink: Canadiens at Blackhawks

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

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

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

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I'm a hockey player and that's what I love to do. That is what I am here for. Everything else is just a side note.

— Oilers forward Connor McDavid on moving beyond the anticipation of his long-awaited arrival in the NHL