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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.

Posted On Wednesday, 12.03.2014 / 2:28 PM

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

At the Rink: Blues at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have another injury hurdle to clear with the announcement Wednesday that starting goaltender Corey Crawford will be sidelined for up to three weeks with an undisclosed lower-body injury.

Crawford, who didn't practice Tuesday, met with reporters after the Blackhawks' morning skate at United Center while wearing a walking boot on his left leg. He said the injury occurred as he was leaving a concert, but declined to reveal much more.

"I was at a concert the other day and was on the way out, and I missed a step," he said. "I didn't think it was that bad. I got up the next day and it was worse than I thought, so I'm pretty embarrassed about it and frustrated."

Posted On Sunday, 11.16.2014 / 5:47 PM

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

At the Rink: Stars at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- It's going to be a special night for Brad Richards on Saturday at United Center.

The Chicago Blackhawks veteran center will skate in his 1,000th NHL game and will do it against one of his former teams. The Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars, whom Richards spent parts of four seasons (2007-11) with.

"It's not the normal day," Richards said Sunday. "[There are] a lot of thoughts and memories with all the talk about it. It's amazing the amount of reflecting you do. A lot of people who've helped me are here in town, so to see them [Saturday] for dinner and to have them here [Sunday], it's pretty special and it's hard to believe, really. It flies by so quick; it's hard to believe."

Posted On Tuesday, 11.11.2014 / 2:48 PM

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

At the Rink: Lightning at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks and Tampa Bay Lightning say the game they'll play Tuesday at United Center will be a good early-season barometer.

The Blackhawks haven't strung more than two wins together in their first 15 games, but still garner a lot of respect from the Lightning, who've won six straight and sit atop the NHL standings with 23 points.

"To me, they're the benchmark," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after the morning skate. "There's a couple teams that I believe are elite and they're one of them."

Cooper brought up the first of two games the Lightning and Blackhawks played last season, when his team won 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 5, 2013 at United Center. Other than escaping with two points, it wasn't a particularly fond memory for Cooper or the Lightning.

Goalie Ben Bishop made 37 saves and was the main reason for the win in a game the Lightning were outshot 39-16.

Posted On Sunday, 11.09.2014 / 5:39 PM

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

At the Rink: Sharks at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- If there's one thing that upsets Joel Quenneville most, it's when his Chicago Blackhawks fail to capitalize in games that should end with points.

In the past, the Blackhawks coach refers to those games as "leaving meat on the table."

Heading into a game against the San Jose Sharks on Sunday at United Center, Quenneville's team has left behind far too many scraps.

Chicago has lost three straight games at home, the first two by 1-0 scores, and coughed up a 2-0 lead Friday in a 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals, who scored all three goals in the last 4:57 of the second period.

Posted On Friday, 11.07.2014 / 2:16 PM

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

At the Rink: Capitals at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Brooks Laich is expected to return from a shoulder injury Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center (8:30 p.m. ET, NHLN-US), and the veteran center is eager to help the Washington Capitals end their losing ways.

Laich was injured Oct. 18 against the Florida Panthers, and since that time the Capitals (4-5-3) are 1-5-1 and without a win in their previous five games.

"For three weeks I've been dying to get in the lineup," said Laich, who centered forwards Jason Chimera and Joel Ward during the Capitals morning skate. "Especially when you're losing, it's terrible to sit out and watch your team go through a tough patch. It's terrible to sit out anytime, but when you're going through a tough patch, it's even tougher to watch."

The game against Chicago is a prelude to the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which will be played Jan. 1, 2015 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

The Capitals, however, have more pressing concerns at the moment. They haven't won since Oct. 25 at the Calgary Flames, and first-year coach Barry Trotz has expressed frustration recently, calling for the Capitals to start "playing the right way."

Posted On Sunday, 11.02.2014 / 8:05 PM

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

At the Rink: Jets at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Winnipeg Jets don't want to settle for a solid four-game road trip by merely playing the Chicago Blackhawks tough Sunday night at United Center.

They want to finish the trip on a winning note.

After a 1-4-0 start to the season, the Jets are 4-1-1 in their past six games and 2-0-1 in the first three games of this road trip, including a 1-0 shootout win at the New York Rangers on Saturday. Trailing the Blackhawks by two points in the Central Division after the same amount of games, the Jets sense a big early-season opportunity is at hand.

"The block of three games we've played on the road already were pretty darn solid," Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said Sunday evening. "This is a big night for us. We're two points behind [the Blackhawks] in the standings and we had a tough start, so we've clawed our way back into feeling a little better about ourselves, and this is a real opportunity."

Posted On Tuesday, 10.28.2014 / 2:51 PM

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

At the Rink: Ducks at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- Ben Lovejoy's fractured finger, which he sustained Sunday in a fight, has presented the Anaheim Ducks with another lineup challenge to overcome.

Lovejoy had logged shifts on the top pairing next to Cam Fowler and provided a steady, stay-at-home defensive presence that allowed his partner to push things more offensively.

The question now is who will fill that role with Fowler for the next six-to-eight weeks, the length of time Lovejoy is expected to miss?

Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau wasn't giving any hints after Anaheim's morning skate Tuesday in Chicago, but said there will be high expectations for whichever player gets that assignment.

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We've got to find a way to win a game. He's played well in the minors, now he gets his opportunity. We tried [with Jonathan Bernier]. The way I look at it, you get opportunities and you make the most of it. That's what [James Reimer] did. Now another opportunity is here and Sparks ... you gotta grab it. Is he ready? We'll find out.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock to the Toronto Star on recalling goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL to start Monday in his NHL debut
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