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Posted On Wednesday, 10.15.2014 / 2:11 PM

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

At the Rink: Flames at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks have come into this season with a goal of shooting the puck more while on the power play, and through two games it's paid off.

Heading into a game Wednesday against the Calgary Flames at United Center (8 p.m. ET, SN), the Blackhawks are 2-for-9 in man-advantage situations and have scored a power-play goal in each of their first two games, both by forward Patrick Sharp off point shots.

Sharp, who finished second in the NHL with a career-high 313 shots last season, again is leading Chicago in that category with 13. Only now he and other point men on the power-play units appear to be launching shots from long range more often than recent seasons. It's part of the overall strategy created by new Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen, who heads up the power play in practices.

"We've talked a little bit about it," Sharp said. "I think it's just the philosophy of our power play. I mean, I've always been a player that has a lot of shots, whether it's 5-on-5 or on the power play. That's my job out there."

Posted On Saturday, 10.11.2014 / 2:50 PM

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

At the Rink: Sabres at Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- It was only one game and it went to a shootout, but the Chicago Blackhawks still used their top defensemen more than they probably wanted to Thursday at the Dallas Stars.

Duncan Keith played a game-high 29:40 in the 3-2 win, up about five minutes from what he's logged per game the past two seasons, while Niklas Hjalmarsson played 25:06 and Johnny Oduya soaked up 25:02.

Brent Seabrook played 23:50, about his usual amount, but coach Joel Quenneville backed off rookie Trevor van Riemsdyk (11:43) and David Rundblad (6:25), who are getting the first crack at filling the gap following the trade of Nick Leddy to the New York Islanders a week ago.

"That's on us, kind of, to get [the coaches'] trust and confidence to put us out there in some different situations, maybe, that in Game 1 maybe we don't have that trust built up that you only get from playing in games and showing them you can do it," said van Riemsdyk, who made his NHL debut against the Stars. "I think it would be best for everyone if we could take a couple minutes away from some of those guys and let them get a little extra rest, so they have a little more fuel in the tank. But it's on us to get that confidence built up [with] the coaches."

Posted On Monday, 06.02.2014 / 1:47 AM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks set up to contend for foreseeable future

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.

Posted On Sunday, 06.01.2014 / 8:12 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Versteeg back in Blackhawks lineup for Game 7

CHICAGO -- Chicago Blackhawks forward Kris Versteeg is back in the lineup for Game 7 of the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings.

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.

Posted On Sunday, 06.01.2014 / 2:19 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Kings' Williams looks to build on Game 7 track record

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.

Posted On Saturday, 05.31.2014 / 10:02 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks' comeback fueled by defense corps

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.

Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 7:13 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks say Shaw, Kruger good to go for Game 6

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.

Posted On Thursday, 05.29.2014 / 2:23 AM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Defense shake-up boosts Blackhawks to Game 5 win

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.

Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 2:28 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Blackhawks juggle lines, reunite Hossa, Toews

CHICAGO -- Once again, Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is juggling his forward lines to see if he can spark something against the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference Final.

The Kings lead 3-1 in the best-of-7 series heading into Game 5 on Wednesday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

During the morning skate Quenneville had right wing Marian Hossa back up with center Jonathan Toews and left wing Bryan Bickell on the top line, and right wing Patrick Kane with left wing Brandon Saad and center Andrew Shaw on the second line.

Posted On Wednesday, 05.28.2014 / 2:16 PM

By Brian Hedger - Correspondent / - Blackhawks-Kings series blog

Faceoffs remain cause of concern for Blackhawks

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks are going to climb back into this Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings, they have to start winning more faceoffs.

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."

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He's, believe it or not, actually one of my favorite guys, and I've ended up trading him twice. I appreciate what he's done. He was one year away from being an unrestricted free agent, and I felt with this opportunity, that it was a chance that we were able to get somebody for him in Nick Bonino and Adam Clendening.

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