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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 4:00 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hawks optimistic Hossa will return fine next season

CHICAGO -- After hearing the term "severe injury" used about Marian Hossa in the League's explanation video about the 25-game suspension for an illegal hit by Raffi Torres, there was cause to wonder if the injury could be long-term -- maybe even stretching into next season.

The 33-year old Hossa, a star forward for the Chicago Blackhawks, missed the final three games of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the Phoenix Coyotes because of an undisclosed upper-body injury after Torres clipped his head with his shoulder and sent him to the hospital. Hossa, who led the Hawks in scoring with 77 points (29 goals and 48 assists), left the hospital that night under his own power after being taken off the ice on a stretcher.

Chicago general manager Stan Bowman, however, said on Wednesday that he doesn't think Hossa's injury will linger into next season.

"[We're] very optimistic that he's going to be back," Bowman said. "We're here in April and training camp doesn't open until September. That's a lot of time to be rested and prepared and training in the offseason. So, we don't approach that any differently than a different injury."

Hossa briefly made an appearance at United Center on Wednesday during the team's locker clearout/player evaluation meetings, but didn't speak with reporters. As for his injury, it's starting to sound similar to other concussion-related issues that plagued several Blackhawks players -- including captain Jonathan Toews, who missed the last 22 games of the regular season before returning for the playoff series.

"We've had a lot of similar-type injuries with players in the past and it's too hard to predict a recovery time on these things," Bowman said. "There's no reason to think [Hossa is] any different than any other player that has that type of injury."

Toews, meanwhile, declined an invitation to play for Canada at the upcoming IIHF World Championships primarily because he doesn't want to risk a relapse of his concussion.

"I think for now the smart play is just to rest and make sure everything's clear and it's behind me," Toews said. "Obviously, I'd like to go represent Canada every chance I get, but right now it's not the smartest thing to do."

If Hossa is having similar injury issues as Toews, then his advice would be not to push returning to hockey-related activities too quickly and be honest with himself and doctors about how he's feeling.

Toews said he played "a handful" of games before speaking up about how he was feeling, which he said won't happen again should he feel that way again in the future.

"I think it's something I still need to look into to make sure it's a problem that I've dealt with and it's gone and it's not going to come back," Toews said. "It was definitely a learning experience going through two months being away from the guys and out of the locker room and having to deal with that sort of thing. It's not something I want to go through again, but I'll definitely be smarter about it next time."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Retirement an option for Brunette

CHICAGO -- Andrew Brunette signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks last summer for one main reason.

The 38-year old forward wanted to be part of a legitimate Stanley Cup contender and saw the young core group of stars in Chicago as his best opportunity. As it turned out, it was a frustrating season for Brunette and the Blackhawks, who were bounced from the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games by the Phoenix Coyotes in the Western Conference Quarterfinals.

Brunette, who hurt his right foot blocking a shot late in the season and played through the pain in the postseason, doesn't foresee the Blackhawks bringing him back, and the 16-year NHL veteran is contemplating retirement.

"I think they're going to go in a different direction, so I'm not going to be holding my breath thinking that they're going to call or hanging around by the phone," Brunette told reporters during Chicago's locker clean-out/player meetings day at United Center. "I haven't really thought about [the future]. It takes a few days to decompress and think about, kind of what happened and kind of re-assess when the mind clears and you're able to come up for air a little bit. We'll see as we go along."

Asked later about whether he was considering retirement, Brunette admitted it could be a possibility.

"It was a tough year and you don't want to leave this way, but there's times when the game tells you to leave and you don't have a decision," Brunette, who finished with 12 goals and 15 assists in 78 games, said. "We'll see. I'm not sure. I'm going to let it decompress, come up for air and make some kind of decision."

Brunette has 268 goals and 465 assists in 1,110 games with six different teams.
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:39 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes' sacrifice blocking shots paying off

CHICAGO -- Shane Doan grabbed a scoresheet following Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series and smiled.

After looking at the 'blocked shot' category for his Phoenix Coyotes, he held up a hand for a high five from defenseman Keith Yandle -- after informing his teammate they'd combined to stop 10 Chicago Blackhawks shots from even getting to goalie Mike Smith.

It was a good snapshot of the Coyotes' entire series against the Hawks, who've outshot them by a wide margin and still trail 3-2 after the previous five games were all decided in overtime.

"We talk all the time about [how] we have to do whatever it takes to win," Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. "And [we say] if the other team is shooting the puck a lot, we'd better be in the lanes as much as we can."

Mission accomplished on that front, so far.

Heading into Monday night's Game 6 at United Center, Phoenix has blocked 109 of Chicago's shots -- which ranks fourth most in the playoffs and is the most of any Western Conference team so far. Conversely, the Blackhawks have blocked just 53 shots -- but also faced far fewer pucks shot toward them.

Chicago is second overall in shots and first in the West with 202, while the Coyotes have launched just 139 shots at Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford -- the second-lowest amount among Western Conference teams, ahead of just Nashville.

That includes just 19 shots total in each of the past two games -- an overtime win in Game 4 followed by an OT loss in Game 5 at home Saturday night. The Coyotes might look to pick up the tempo at least a little bit for Game 6, as their offensive numbers in those last two games were even difficult for them to see.

"I think the whole game we played too conservatively," Yandle said of the Game 5 loss. "I don't know if we expected them to give us a win or it just to be handed to us, but I think the whole game we were a little behind the eight ball and I think tonight we've just got to push the pace a little more and forget about last game."

As long as they don't forget about getting in the shooting lanes defensively and sacrificing their bodies to stop shots, Tippett will be OK with that rationale.

"[Coyotes development coach] Dave King has a great saying and it's, 'Loose pucks and ice bags,' and if we didn't have ice bags on after the game we didn't play hard enough," Tippett said after the Coyotes morning skate. "That includes blocking shots."
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 3:10 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hossa visit provides Hawks with extra motivation

CHICAGO -- There is no shortage of motivations to pick from in this Western Conference Quarterfinal series for the Chicago Blackhawks.

There's the spot they put themselves, getting down 3-1 in the series and trying to overcome the odds of being eliminated when they face the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday in Game 6 (9 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN).

There's last season's first-round exit in overtime of Game 7 in Vancouver that's still a bitter memory. And then there's star teammate Marian Hossa, who will miss his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

Hossa, who was taken off the ice on a stretcher in Game 3 after an illegal hit by now-suspended Phoenix forward Raffi Torres, visited his teammates Monday for the first time since the incident happened.

Apparently, just seeing Hossa's face was all the motivation some players needed.

"He's our teammate and me ... I'm close with him," forward Michael Frolik said. "He's from Slovakia, so we are close friends. When it happened, we said in the room, 'We have to play for him,' and you don't want to see things like that. It maybe gets us closer and ... for sure, we're trying to win for him."

Viktor Stalberg took it a step further by saying the Hawks also want to win the series just to extend the playoffs and see if Hossa possibly could return from his injury to play again.

"You never want to see a guy go down like that," Stalberg said. "We'd certainly like to have him in the lineup. He's been our best player all season long. It definitely hurts us, but hopefully he's getting better and you never know, we might get him back at some point if we keep progressing. I think that's the ultimate goal ... to get him a chance to get back here."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said there is no news to report as far as Hossa's injury condition, but believed just getting back around the team was a positive for all parties.

While Hossa won't be returning anytime soon, Chicago will get rookie forward Andrew Shaw back for Game 6 after he served a three-game suspension for running into Phoenix goalie Mike Smith behind the net in Game 2.

Shaw said he doesn't think the incident will change the intensity that allows him to overcome a perceived size disadvantage to be a pest for opponents at both ends of the ice.

"I'm just going to play my game and not change a thing," Shaw said. "Those things happen once in a while. Accidents do happen, but I'm just going to stick to my game and do the best that I can do."

He's also thrilled to get what he called a "second chance at the playoffs" after watching the Hawks win Game 5 in Phoenix in overtime -- which gave him the opportunity to get back in his first postseason series.

"I'm so excited," Shaw said. "When [Toews] scored there in overtime, I was hooting and hollering all around the [locker room], just excited to get another chance to play in the playoffs."
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Posted On Monday, 04.23.2012 / 2:34 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Projected Game 6 lineups

CHICAGO -- Here is a look at how the Phoenix Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks might line up on Monday night at United Center for Game 6 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Chicago will get rookie Andrew Shaw back from a three-game suspension and Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he will draw into the lineup somewhere. However, at the morning skate Shaw wasn't among the top four lines and skated instead with Brandon Bollig and Jamal Mayers -- who are expected to be healthy scratches again.

Phoenix center Martin Hanzal, who's missed the last three games of the series with a lower-body injury, skated in the morning and will be a game-time decision for Coyotes coach Dave Tippett. Phoenix leads the series 3-2 and is looking to win the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoffs series since 1987.

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Daymond Langkow - Radim Vrbata
Lauri Korpikoski - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Marc-Antoine Pouliot - Kyle Chipchura - Gilbert Brule
Mikkel Boedker - Boyd Gordon - Taylor Pyatt

Keith Yandle - Derek Morris
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Michal Rozsival
Rostislav Klesla - Adrian Aucoin

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

BLACKHAWKS

Bryan Bickell - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Patrick Sharp - Patrick Kane - Andrew Shaw
Brendan Morrison - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Marcus Kruger - Jimmy Hayes

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Nick Leddy - Johnny Oduya
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sean O'Donnell

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 10:16 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Korpikoski returns to Coyotes' lineup

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Phoenix Coyotes had one of their wingers back in the lineup as Lauri Korpikoski returned for Game 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks after missing two games with a lower-body injury.
 
Korpikoski, who had 17 goals and 37 assists in the regular season, replaced enforcer Paul Bissonnette in the lineup.
 
The Coyotes lead the series 3-1 and will attempt to win their first playoff series since moving to Phoenix and the first for the franchise since 1987.
 
 

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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 5:51 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes hope to avoid slow start, being shorthanded

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – The Coyotes have a 3-1 lead in their playoff series with the Blackhawks despite giving up the first goal in three of the four games and losing a forward for the rest of the game three times.

Radim Vrbata was lost on his first shift in Game 1. Martin Hanzal went down early in Game 2. And in Game 4, Paul Bissonnette received a game misconduct for not tying down his jersey – which was pulled off in a fight with Chicago’s Brandon Bollig.
 
“It would help if we don’t lose a player in the first period every night,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. “When you are losing key players, it’s hard to get a rhythm and you are shuffling lines and it changes things. Keeping out whole team on the ice for the period would be a step in the right direction. In the last game (Marc-Andre) Pouliot and (Gilbert) Brule don’t get a lot of time early because they lose their linemate (Bissonnette) and we have to find some rhythm earlier.”
 
Tippett can laugh about the misconduct now.

"My original thought was ‘There is no way he doesn’t have it tied down, so it must have ripped, right?’" Tippett said. "But that wasn’t the case, so we’ll just leave it at that. It’s been addressed."
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 5:32 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Boo birds don't bother Coyotes' Smith

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – For two games in Chicago, Phoenix goalie Mike Smith was booed every time he touched the puck from Blackhawk fans who blamed him for Andrew Shaw’s three-game suspension after their collision last weekend in Glendale.
 
But if it was intended to get in his head, it didn’t work. Smith allowed just four goals in the two games, which the Coyotes won in overtime on a pair of Mikkel Boedker goals.
 
“I loved it,” Smith said. “They are passionate fans in Chicago and I wouldn’t expect anything less. If I wasn’t playing hockey I’d be doing the same thing – yelling a screaming at someone. It’s a fun atmosphere but I’m glad to be home.”

If the move was intended to intimidate a goalie that had only one career playoff start in his career before this series, “That was a swing and a miss. It helped me get right into the game,” he said.
 
Smith said he’s not expecting the fans to get on any of the Blackhawks.
 
“Just cheer for us,” he said. “I’m expecting a loud building. Our crowds in the playoffs have been unreal. We’re looking forward to it.”
 
Smith is 10-1-1 in his last 11 starts and has allowed two goals or less in eight of his last nine starts.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.21.2012 / 4:57 PM

By Jerry Brown -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Korpikoski could return for Coyotes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Coyotes winger Lauri Korpikoski took part in the morning skate Saturday and Phoenix coach said Dave Tippett will be a game-time decision for Game 5 against Chicago.
 
Center Martin Hanzal was on the ice but did not take part in the team skate. Tippett said he was doubtful to play in Game 5 after his injuries were re-evaluated on Friday. The Coyotes will also be without Raffi Torres who was slapped with a 25-game suspension by the league Saturday.
 
Korpikoski left Game 2 last Saturday with an apparent lower-body injury in the third period sustained in a collision with Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith. He did not play in Games 3 and 4 and did not return to the ice until Friday, when the team returned from Chicago.
 
“It was a good skate. I feel good so we’ll see,” Korpikoski said. “It’s been so painful to watch … I can’t do it. I just want to be out there. The toughest thing to do is watch and not be able to help. Chicago is a fun city but it was a good road trip for me. It took a year off my life.”
 
Mikkel Boedker, who took Korpikoski’s spot on the line with Taylor Pyatt and Boyd Gordon, had the winning goal in overtime in each of the last two games – leaving Tippett to joke that Korpikoski might have lost his spot.
 
“Tipp’s kind of playing some mind games with me,” Korpikoski said. “(Boedker’s) doing a good job. He scored some big goals.”
 
If Korpikoski plays, he would replace either Marc-Antoine Pouilot or Paul Bissonnette in the Phoenix lineup.
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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 3:40 PM

By Brian Hedger -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Blackhawks will mull switch to Emery for Game 5

CHICAGO -- Could the Chicago Blackhawks make the switch to Ray Emery in goal for Game 5 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series in Phoenix on Saturday night?

"We're talking about that," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday, shortly before he and his team departed for Phoenix. "We'll talk about our scenario, but I don't forsee making any announcements [before the game]."

Corey Crawford has started each of the first four games and lost three of them in overtime -- including a pivotal Game 4 at United Center 3-2 on Thursday night. Mikkel Boedker, in fact, beat Crawford in overtime in successive games for the Phoenix Coyotes -- who are on the brink of clinching the franchise's first Stanley Cup Playoffs series in 25 years.

Crawford got the majority of starts in the regular season, but lost the starting job for a couple of six-game stretches with some inconsistent play. Boedker's goal in OT, scored off a partial breakaway by stuffing the puck through the pads, was the only one of the three Crawford allowed that he had a chance to stop.

It just happened to come at the worst time of the game and gave the Coyotes a huge victory. Regardless, the Hawks say they're fine with either Crawford or Emery in net -- and they don't think Crawford should be hanging his head because of the OT losses.

"Goaltending is a position that seems to take most of the responsibility, especially in losing efforts," Hawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "But really, what you don't notice is those little efforts that he does on every play, every shift, and those stops that he's making to keep us in these tight games. Maybe he deserves a little more credit for that. So, we're standing behind him. He's worked as hard, if not harder, than anybody in this series. He deserves our full support, [and] we need to be better and more supportive in front of him."

Defenseman Duncan Keith had similar sentiments.

"Goaltending is a position somewhat like defensemen, who are the last line of defense," Keith said. "Well, the goaltender is the very last line of defense. They can be a hero one day and a goat the next day. Corey's played great all year long, and played great for us in the playoffs last year. He had his best game in the playoffs last year in Game 7 [against Vancouver], when we were facing elimination, so we've got a lot of confidence in him and in both of our goalies."
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