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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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Posted On Friday, 04.20.2012 / 2:18 PM

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

Hossa remains home as Hawks head to Phoenix

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa did not travel with his Chicago Blackhawks teammates for Saturday's Game 5 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series they trail 3-1 to the Phoenix Coyotes.

Hossa, who was knocked out of Game 3 in Chicago on Tuesday night by a hit from Raffi Torres, also missed Thursday night's Game 4 at United Center with what the team is calling an upper-body injury.

Hossa, who was Chicago's leader in points this season, apparently hasn't improved since he was released from the Northwestern Memorial Hospital late Tuesday night.

"He's the same [as he was on Thursday]," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Torres was suspended indefinitely for the hit pending an in-person hearing at the League offices in New York on Friday afternoon.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 2:28 PM

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

Projected Game 4 lineups

CHICAGO -- Injuries to key players for both the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes have forced coaches Joel Quenneville and Dave Tippett to mix and match their forward lines for Thursday night's Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series at the United Center.

They're likely to call on some new faces who just recently arrived from the minors, as well -- or junior hockey in the case of Chicago's Brandon Saad, who could find himself playing a role in the Blackhawks' top six group in place of injured Marian Hossa.

Here is a look at how both teams could line up when they take the ice at the Madhouse on Madison. Some of it, however, is just guesswork because neither team skated their forward line combinations during the morning skate sessions.

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

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

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

BLACKHAWKS
Brandon Saad - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Patrick Kane
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Michael Frolik
Andrew Brunette - Jamal Mayers - Brandon Bllig

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

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:58 PM

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

Coyotes again without services of Hanzal, Korpikoski

CHICAGO -- The Phoenix Coyotes will again be without two key forwards on Tuesday night at the United Center for Game 4 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

Center Martin Hanzal and forward Lauri Korpikoski will both miss their second straight game with undisclosed injuries -- meaning the Coyotes will again have to rely on their depth in an effort to extend their 2-1 lead in the series.

Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said the way the series has played out has confirmed his gut feeling that Phoenix has enough depth to last for a deeper run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"You hope you have that depth," Tippett said. "You don't know what you have until it actually gets thrown in there, so we're certainly getting tested right now. We've got some players that just finished up in Portland [of the Western Hockey League] and are with us now. They've been up and down a couple times this year throughout injuries, so hopefully that experience they got with our team will benfit us."

Phoenix just recently called up centers Marc-Antoine Pouliot and Alexandre Bolduc prior to Game 3 on Tuesday, so one or both could draw into the Coyotes' lineup somewhere. If they do, Tippett said he's comfortable with the kind of effort his team will get.

"They recognize this is going to be a very intense game," Tippett said. "Every play in the game is going to count and we expect them to jump in and do the job for us."

Hanzal (lower body) said he's feeling better and participated in the morning skate. He initially told reporters that he'd be a game-time decision, but Tippett pronounced him out not long afterward. Korpikoski (upper body) did not skate.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 1:52 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Frolik getting chance to contribute with Shaw out

CHICAGO -- Chemistry is as mysterious in hockey as it is in the laboratory.

But Chicago's Dave Bolland sees the right ingredients in the line he'll center with Bryan Bickell and Michael Frolik in Thursday's fourth game of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix.

That's understandable. Frolik, subbing for the suspended Andrew Shaw, scored one of Chicago's two goals in the 3-2 overtime loss in Game 3.

"Bicksie and Fro, we played together last year. This year we had some time together," Bolland said. "We all know what Fro's all about. He's fast, he's got a great shot, a little bit of that Martin Havlat in him, that speed going down the wing. Coming out of our own end, if I throw him the puck, I'm sure it's getting out of our zone."

On the outside, it appears Frolik's speed makes up for Shaw's grit. But Bolland believes Frolik can handle the tough stuff as well.

"He gets in the corner, gets dirty," Bolland said of Frolik, three inches taller and 18 pounds heavier than Shaw. "We use them the same way, but they're different players."

What Frolik wasn't during the season was productive. He scored only five goals and 15 points, and was a minus-10 in 63 games, the reason he was a healthy scratch in 17 of the last 33 regular-season games, and the first two games of the series. The last 10 regular-season scratches came after Shaw was recalled for good from Rockford.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.19.2012 / 12:54 PM

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

No change in Hossa's condition Thursday

CHICAGO -- Marian Hossa's physical condition has not changed since being released from a hospital emergency room Tuesday night.

The Chicago Blackhawks' star forward was knocked to the ice on a check in the neutral zone by Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres in Game 3 of a Western Conference Quarterfinal series at the United Center and taken off on a stretcher.

He left the hospital under his own power, but is said to have an upper body injury and will not play in Game 4 Thursday night. His prognosis for any further games is also unknown, as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is keeping information on it closely guarded.

"There's no change," Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate. "Spoke to him yesterday and he's feeling the same as the last two days. I'm not going to go any further with it than where we are today."
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:28 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Hawks ready to channel anger

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup Playoffs can be an exercise in anger management. The Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Phoenix and Chicago is becoming a graduate course in the subject.

Players and coaches on both sides tried to rein in their emotions Wednesday, less than a day after the Blackhawks' Marian Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Coyotes' Raffi Torres hit Hossa's chin with his shoulder early in Game 3 at the United Center.

Phoenix went on to win 3-2 on an overtime goal from Mikkel Boedker. Game 4 is Thursday.

Hossa, who was released from the hospital Tuesday night, will miss at least Game 4. Torres has been suspended indefinitely pending an in-person hearing at the League office on Friday.

A night after tempers ran high in the Blackhawks' locker room, they were a bit more measured on Wednesday. Chicago captain Jonathan Toews ruled out retaliation against a random Coyote.

"Getting into that garbage isn't going to win the series for us," Toews said.

Said defenseman Duncan Keith, "We've got to play hockey and play the right way."

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, who has to revamp a lineup that now is without Hossa and the suspended Andrew Shaw, wants his players to channel their emotions properly.

"I think retaliation in the best form is trying to win the hockey game," Quenneville said. "I think we want to channel a little positiveness to looking forward to the game and doing something about it."

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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:22 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Nearing unchartered territory for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- One more overtime game, and the Phoenix Coyotes go into uncharted territory. They've never played four overtime games in a playoff year, much less a playoff series, and that goes back to their identity as the original Winnipeg Jets.

Now they've played three in a row, winning twice, in the first three games of their series with Chicago.

Only once before did the Coyotes engage in overtime three times in a series. They lost two of three overtime games in a seven-game set with St. Louis in 1999, the Blues winning Game 7 in regulation. The franchise's only back-to-back overtime games before this series came in games 6 and 7 of the 1993 series against Vancouver. Teemu Selanne won Game 6 for the Jets, but the Canucks won Game 7.

This is more old hat for the Blackhawks. They played four overtime games, winning the first two and losing the last two, against Colorado in the second round of the 1996 playoffs.

The Hawks have even played three overtime games in a row before, doing so against the Minnesota North Stars in the second round of the 1985 playoffs. Including the last two games of last year's first round series with Vancouver, they've played five straight overtime games, a team record.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.18.2012 / 5:16 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Overtime a study in contrasts for two sides

CHICAGO -- The two schools of thought on how to play overtime were on display again in Game 3 of the Phoenix-Chicago Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

The Blackhawks were skating, trying to force the issue. The Coyotes played it tight, waiting for a break.

The Coyotes' method worked for the second time in three sudden-death sessions. Mikkel Boedker's shot, and Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford's admitted misplay, gave Game 3, and a 2-1 series lead, to the Coyotes.

That's how overtime has to be played, Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle said.

"In overtime, you're trying not to make mistakes," Yandle said. "One shot and it can be over. So you play tight defensively and cash in when you get the chance."

Getting those changes, whether in overtime or regulation, will be harder to find as the series progresses. Cement in the legs became common in the minutes jest before Boedker scored.

"The first couple of games, there's a lot of adrenaline," said Phoenix defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who played for the Hawks for two seasons. "As a series progresses, it starts taking its toll on players. And in overtime, you try to end it on every shift. That takes a toll."

Aucoin sees a long series.

"We're two different teams, but we're matched well," he said.

What he didn't have to mention was the hex the Coyotes have on the Hawks in the United Center. Phoenix is 3-0 on West Madison St. this season, winning both games in the regular season.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:56 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Smith skates, game-time decision for Coyotes

CHICAGO -- Phoenix goaltender Mike Smith took part in the Coyotes' light morning skate Tuesday, but there was no word from him or coach Dave Tippett on whether Smith or Jason LaBarbara would be in goal when Phoenix faced the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 3 of their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

"It's a game-time decision," Tippett said, extending that to center Martin Hanzal as well.

Smith's status went from his self-proclaimed "100 percent" to questionable when he was held out of the Coyotes' practice on Monday. 

Tippett, displeased with a string of questions about Smith, finally said, "We don't have to tell everybody why a player practices or not."

Smith, hit behind the net in a shoulder-to-chin check by Chicago's Andrew Shaw in Game 2, was not made available for comment. Shaw was suspended for three games on Tuesday afternoon.

If LaBarbara plays, the Coyotes will hardly miss a beat. His 3-9-3 regular season record is deceiving, with his 2.54 goals-against average more indicative of his play. In his only appearance against Chicago this season, he stopped 30 of 35 shots in a 5-2 loss to the Hawks on Oct. 18.

"I know LaBarbera's played well against the Hawks a few times in his career," Chicago center Patrick Sharp said. "I don't think it changes it too much, to be honest with you."

Hanzal (lower body) participated in the two-on-two drills, but left wing Lauri Korpikoski (upper body) is out, Tippett said. He was in workout clothes and didn't take part in the skate.

Shaw, who will be eligible to return for a potential Game 6 of the series, is expected to be replaced by Michael Frolik at right wing on the Hawks' third line.
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:52 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

For Blackhawks, local hotel is home away from home

CHICAGO -- Playoff rituals come in all shapes and sizes. One for the Chicago Blackhawks is staying on the road even while at home.

Rather than go home after Tuesday’s morning skate, they checked into a hotel, all part of the "One Goal" atmosphere in the locker room.

For Patrick Kane, that means he doesn't have to cook a pre-game meal.

"We've had success on the road, so you try to keep it that way," Kane said of the plan. "It's fine with a lot of players. If we're going home, we're taking a nap anyway and waking up and going to the rink. There's a nice pre-game meal, so that's a perk, I guess."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 2:40 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes look forward to raucous atmosphere at UC

CHICAGO -- Road teams have the advantage so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But a game hasn't been played in the United Center yet.

The building is loud, to be sure. But is it intimidating?

Phoenix forward Raffi Torres wouldn't go that far.

"It's a building where the fans know the game," Torres said. "It's pretty loud. They won a championship here. They're excited, as they should be. They've got a lot of fun players and keys to a winning team over there."

The capacity is just over 22,000, more than old Chicago Stadium held. That building was louder because there was cubic feet to fill with noise, but it's still ear-splitting when "The Star-Spangled Banner" is belted out.

"It's exciting," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said of the atmosphere. "Obviously, Chicago's got a great history, and it's fun to play in this building. The energy is awesome. The anthem is the biggest change (from other arenas). It's good for both teams."

The Hawks were 27-8-6 at home in the regular season, but Phoenix was 2-0 at the United Center, including 4-1 and 4-3 wins a week apart just after Thanksgiving.        
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.17.2012 / 1:58 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Projected Game 3 lineups

CHICAGO -- With Martin Hanzal and Mike Smith listed as a game-time decisions for Phoenix, here’s how the lineups project for Game 3 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between Chicago and Phoenix on Tuesday at the United Center:

COYOTES
Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Gilbert Brule
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Kyle Chipchura

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

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera

Justin Pogge is expected to dress and back up LaBarbera if Smith is unable to play.
 
BLACKHAWKS
Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Viktor Stalberg
Andrew Brunette - Patrick Kane - Marian Hossa
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw or Martin Frolik
Brandon Bollig - Marcis Kruger - Jamal Mayers

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook
Johnny Oduya - Nick Leddy
Niklas Hjalmarsson - Sami Lepisto

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:13 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Toews working through effects of long absence

CHICAGO - Jonathan Toews showed he had lost none of his touch when the Chicago Blackhawks center scored the first goal of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix on Thursday night. A flick of the wrist from a deep angle and goalie Mike Smith was fishing the puck out of the back of his net just 4:04 into Game 1.

But Toews, while mentally recovered from a concussion that caused him to miss the last 22 games of the regular season, is still feeling a bit creaky from the two-month layoff. Skating prior to returning brought his legs back, but not everything.

"For the most part, it's timing and speed; it's energy," Toews said Monday. "It's all those things, and it'll keep coming. I felt a did a few things better in the second game, whether it was faceoffs or chipping pucks out, options on the power play. Little things I improved on."

Toews played nearly 20 minutes (of nearly 70) in Game 1, and more than 17 minutes in Game 2, which also went halfway into the first overtime.

He's taking his usual role on the power play, was a combined plus-4 in the first two games, and appears to have not missed a beat. But he's a tough judge.

"I feel my game is slowly going to come together," Toews said. "It definitely wasn't all there the first two games, but I feel it'll keep improving."

Toews must be feeling well. He even half-cracked a smile when asked what the answer to keeping the momentum after scoring the game's first goal would entail.

"Probably trying to score the next one would be a solution to that," quipped Toews.

A funny line from Captain Serious in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? Go figure.


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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 6:10 PM

By Tim Cronin -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Bollig: First time for everything

CHICAGO -- A first NHL goal is a lifelong memory for any hockey player. It's that much sweeter when that first goal comes in the Stanley Cup Playoffs?

Check Brandon Bollig's blood-sugar level, then, for he scored goal No. 1 of his career in Game 2 of the Blackhawks' Western Conference Quarterfinal series with Phoenix.

"That it came in the playoffs and it tied the game up is an amazing feeling," Bollig said of scoring the Hawks' second goal in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win in Glendale, Ariz. "It was great to see the activity on my phone from people happy for me."

Bollig, an undrafted free agent signed by the Hawks two years ago, played 18 regular-season games and collected neither a goal nor an assist. Considered an enforcer, he plays that role well, but knows
he'll have to show more, or the next young kid who comes along will take his spot.

"Obviously what got me here was that physical side, that enforcer-type role, but yeah, I think what's going to make me stick is bringing more to the game than just that," he said. "That's what I'm trying to
prove."

Timely goals in playoff games will do that. For Bollig, just breathing before Game 1 was a triumph.

"Being a part of (the playoffs), I almost had to have the doc check my heart rate, it was so high," Bollig said. "It's definitely fun to be a part of games like that. You get a lot more amped up."

Whatever happens next, he'll have both the memory and evidence of it. The puck he got past Mike Smith will be mounted on a plaque for him.
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Posted On Monday, 04.16.2012 / 5:08 PM

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

Smith among players missing from Coyotes practice

Before the Coyotes and Blackhawks started their playoff series on Thursday, Phoenix coach Dave Tippett announced that his entire roster was healthy and ready to go for Game 1.

Four days and two games later, that picture had changed dramatically.

Goalie Mike Smith, center Martin Hanzal and left wing Lauri Korpikoski were all injured in Saturday's 4-3 overtime loss in Game 2 and all three did not practice with the team on Monday at the Ice Den in Scottsdale. Tippett wasn't interested in talking about their status for Tuesday night when the series resumes with Game 3 in Chicago.

"Our health is just fine. We have everyone under evaluation and that's where we're at. That's not a concern to us," Tippett said. When asked specifically about Smith, he said, "We're not talking about injuries. He's fine."

Smith was hit in the head by Chicago's Andrew Shaw in the second period of Game 2. He was attended to on the ice for several minutes but was able to stay in and finish the game. Shaw was given a major penalty for charging and a game misconduct, and will learn today at a hearing if he faces further discipline from NHL Director of Player Safety Brendan Shannahan.

If Smith can't play, the Coyotes will turn to backup Jason LaBarbera -- who played in only 19 games this season (3-9-3) and allowed five goals on 35 shots in a 5-2 loss to Chicago on Oct. 18 in Glendale. LaBarbera's last regular season win can Dec. 21 at Carolina -- he is 0-6-3 since.

Hanzal, who had the overtime game-winner for Phoenix in Game 1 on Saturday, appeared to suffer a lower-body injury in the first period of Game 2 and left the arena for further evaluation and treatment while the game continued. Hanzal plays between leading scorers Ray Whitney and Radim Vrbata on Phoenix's top line and is also a big part of the power play and penalty-kill units as well as checking opposing top lines.

Before Game 2, Phoenix captain Shane Doan called Hanzal "probably our most valuable forward." If Hanzal can't play, Antoine Vermette, who leads all scorers in the series with three goals and had a pair in Game 2, would center the top line with veterans Boyd Gordon and Daymond Langkow seeing increased ice time and face-off duty.
 
Korpikoski was injured early in the third period when he was checked along the boards during a Phoenix power play. Korpikoski is also a key member of the Coyotes, seeing time in the power play and a key penalty killer who leads the team with three shorthanded goals this season.
 
Gilbert Brule, who was a healthy scratch in Game 2, would be the likely replacement if Korpikoski can't go.

On Monday night, the Coyotes announced that forwards Alexandre Bolduc and Marc-Antoine Pouliot were recalled from Portland of the American Hockey League, along with goaltender Justin Pogge. Portland did not qualify for the Calder Cup Playoffs.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 10:18 PM

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

Hawks, Coyotes tweak lineups

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Both the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes tweaked their lineups for Game 2 of their Western Conference Quarterfinals series Saturday.
 
Chicago started defenseman Sami Lepisto in place of Sean O'Donnell, who was a minus-2 in Phoenix's 3-2 overtime win on Thursday night. The Coyotes made a change in their fourth line, with Kyle Chipchura subbing for Gilbert Brule to give the Coyotes a more defensive look.
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 4:33 PM

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

Blackhawks happy with PP despite results

GLENDALE, Ariz. – The Chicago Blackhawks' power play has been a disappointment all year and finished 0-for-10 to end the season. The Phoenix Coyotes ranked eighth in the NHL in the penalty kill this season and ended the season on a string of 25 straight penalty kills during a five-game winning streak.
 
But the Blackhawks felt they had some good chances during their four power plays in a 3-2 overtime loss Thursday in Game 1 to Phoenix. And they are hoping their special teams will help them get even as this Western Conference Quarterfinals series resumes tonight.
 
“All year our power play wasn’t good, but [in Game 1] we spent lots of time in their zone and we had good plays.” Chicago winger Marian Hossa said. “We just need to get an ugly goal and get it going.”
 
Hossa needs to get going as well. He hasn’t scored a goal since Mar. 20 at Columbus, a span of nine games.
 
The Blackhawks had two power-play chances in the third period when they took the play to Phoenix, but came up empty while trailing 2-1. Brent Seabrook saves them with a last-gasp goal with 14.2 second left in regulation to force overtime before Martin Hanzal won it for Phoenix.
 
“We had some decent looks. We had some pucks at the net and some second opportunities,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have to find a way to get those ugly goals that we had some chances on.”
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Posted On Saturday, 04.14.2012 / 2:26 PM

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

Vrbata will play for Coyotes in Game 2

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Radim Vrbata, Phoenix’s leader this season with 35 goals, took part in the morning skate Saturday and will play against Chicago in Game 2 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
 
“He’s going to play,” Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said.

 Vrbata was injured Thursday in the first shift of a 3-2 overtime win in Game 1 when he took a hard hit along the boards from Chicago’s Andrew Shaw. Vrbata went down hard and skated off the ice in a crouch.

But the man who was responsible for one out of every six Phoenix goals this season took part in the morning skate at Jobing.com Arena and is ready to go as the Coyotes seek to take a 2-0 lead in a playoff series for the first time since moving to Arizona in 1996.
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Posted On Friday, 04.13.2012 / 9:06 PM

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

Hawks have to make life tougher for Smith

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Chicago Blackhawks were aware they would be dealing with a talented and athletic goalie in Phoenix's Mike Smith during their Western Conference Quarterfinal series.

But after watching him make 43 saves and deftly handle their dump-in attempts in a 3-2 overtime loss to the Coyotes, making life tougher on Smith will be a priority for Game 2 on Saturday.

Smith turned lazy dump-ins by the Blackhawks into breakouts for his teammates. His defense kept the crease fairly clear and offered him a good look of most shots. And even on the two occasions when Smith lost his stick, Chicago was unable to get pucks to the net before he was able to regain his paddle.

"You have to be careful of giving him the puck because he's like an extra defenseman back there making plays," said forward Patrick Kane, who had seven of Chicago's 45 shots but came up empty. "We have to keep it away from him and make the defense play the puck."

That means more purposeful dump-ins - off the glass, hard-arounds that are difficult to handle of softer passes to the corners. Smith had 16 penalty minutes this season, the most of all NHL goalies by a wide margin, and can be coaxed out of position at times.

"Whether it's shots on net, second opportunities, keeping (the puck) out of his glove, putting it on the glass rims … he comes out and plays a lot of those pucks and we have to be more efficient and effective in those areas," Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. "We had some careless or not really a purpose behind some of our dumps. We have to make sure there is something behind it."

Making only his second career playoff start, Smith admitted to being jittery in the first period -- he gave up a soft goal to Chicago captain Jonathan Toews 4:04 into the game and was staying in his net more than normal. But as the game wore on and he settled down, Smith played the puck more and more and won his sixth straight start.

Smith has allowed only five goals in the last 237 shots he's seen, helping the Coyotes snap a five-game postseason losing streak -- all to the Detroit Red Wings -- dating back to Game 6 in 2010.

The Hawks know they can't make it easy for Smith to play the puck in Game 2.

"He's one of the top goalies in the League, and you have to keep the puck away from him," Chicago center Dave Bolland said. "We have to get bodies in front of him so he can't see that puck. It's a lot of little things that can cost you a game, but things that can help you win. I don't think we're that far away."

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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 5:20 PM

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

Blackhawks like experience of O'Donnell on blue line

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- In his 17th NHL season and closing in on his 41st birthday, Sean O'Donnell hasn't committed to this being his last NHL season.
 
But it could be, and Thursday he will play his 105th Stanley Cup Playoff game against one of the nine teams he's played for in his career, the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
O'Donnell played in 51 games this season and his role and ice time has been more muted. But a second Stanley Cup to bookend the one he raised in 2007 with Anaheim would be a great way to leave the stage. After sitting out the season finale against Detroit, he was tabbed to play alongside Niklas Hjalmarsson in Game 1.
 
"Unless you are an elite player, every game in this league is a tryout," said O'Donnell, who got the nod over rookie Dylan Olsen with Steve Montador still out with a concussion. "I think I've survived in this League for awhile playing a certain style. Just because it's the playoffs, I'm not going to change that. Keep it simple and do your job has worked real well."
 
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said it's that grit and experience -- on the road in the hostile atmosphere of the White Out in Arizona -- that led him to go with O'Donnell.

"Down the stretch he came in there and did a real nice job for us," he said. "We like his experience, we like his size and we like his thought process right off the bat."
 
Quenneville said he expected Montador to be on the ice as early as Thursday or perhaps this weekend, but said it was tough to say if he would be available in the series.
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 4:52 PM

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

Quenneville stayed calm in season's tumultous stretch

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Winning a Stanley Cup in a big city doesn't earn you much rope as a coach.
 
Less than two years removed from winning the first Cup since 1961 in Chicago, an 0-8-1 slump that spanned over three weeks in January and February led to rumblings that Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville's job might be in danger. But Chicago went 15-5-4 down the stretch and rolled up 101 points to safely land a playoff spot -- taking press off Quenneville that his players felt never should have been there.
 
"That was tough for the players to listen to," said winger Patrick Sharp, who had eight of his 33 goals in the stretch run. "Everyone has their opinion, and they have a right to voice it, but I know in our locker room there was no one asking for that or even he wasn't thinking about that.
 
"He's our leader. He's a guy we look to in every situation. He's got the experience. We won a Stanley Cup with him, and then you're hearing things that he might be fired?
 
"If that would have happened, all of us would have been upset with ourselves because we were the ones on the ice controlling the situation."
 
Sharp said Quenneville's calm demeanor during the skid, while fans and media stoked the fires, was a big reason why the players didn't panic as well.
 
"That's the thing that impressed us during the streak," Sharp said. "He didn't waver too much from his beliefs. We changed a few things, but he wasn't stressed out. He wasn't coming in with a beard like he hadn't shaved. He was getting his sleep. He was still the same old Joel -- just being patient and knowing we'd be a better team for it."
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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:50 PM

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

Projected Game 1 lineups

Here's how the lineups project for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinal series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes set for Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena:

BLACKHAWKS

Patrick Kane - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa
Patrick Sharp - Marcus Kruger - Viktor Stalberg
Bryan Bickell - Dave Bolland - Andrew Shaw
Brandon Bollig - Jamal Mayers - Andrew Brunette


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

Corey Crawford
Ray Emery

COYOTES

Ray Whitney - Martin Hanzal - Radim Vrbata
Mikkel Boedker - Antoine Vermette - Shane Doan
Taylor Pyatt - Boyd Gordon - Lauri Korpikoski
Raffi Torres - Daymond Langkow - Gilbert Brule

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

Mike Smith
Jason LaBarbera


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Posted On Thursday, 04.12.2012 / 3:11 PM

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

Toews returning to lineup for Game 1

Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews will return to the lineup Thursday night for Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Phoenix Coyotes the Blackhawks confirmed on their official Twitter feed Thursday.

Toews, the Blackhawks captain, hasn't played since Feb. 19 due to a concussion. He scored 29 goals and finished with 57 points and a plus-17 rating in 59 regular-season games this season.
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Posted On Wednesday, 04.11.2012 / 7:13 PM

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

Toews expects to play in Game 1

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Acknowledging that he would be surprised if he isn't on the ice Thursday night, Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews went through a symptom-free practice at Jobing.com Arena on Wednesday and expects to be ready to go for Game 1 against the Phoenix Coyotes.
 
Skating on a line between Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa, Toews took part in all phases of practice and had an extended chat with Chicago coach Joel Quenneville before meeting with reporters. Toews missed the final 22 games of the regular season because of a concussion, but has been back practicing with the team for a week.

"I feel good. I'm right there," Toews said. "It's another day when I feel like I'm better and better and getting back to where I want to be as far as playing."

Asked if he was surprised if he didn't play Thursday, Toews quickly answered, "Yeah." Upon reflection, he qualified the answer by saying, "That's the goal we've set, but we're going to make that decision tomorrow. We're sticking to that program."

Quenneville was pleased with what he saw from the line in practice and was targeting Thursday as his captain's return.

"That line looks fine together," he said. "Their upside's going to be high-end, puck possession, lots of ability. For sure we'll get clarification tomorrow, but we're optimistic."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 5:02 PM

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

Blackhawks not overlooking Coyotes' skill

CHICAGO -- The easy thing to do with this series is simply line up all the stars the Chicago Blackhawks have, put them next to the numerous "lunch box" types the Phoenix Coyotes utilize and favor the guys from the Windy City.

However, the Blackhawks are not on board with that kind of logic.

Not only did they beat Phoenix just one time in four games played this season, but the Hawks also found out too many times for their liking what can happen when the defensively-sound Coyotes are allowed to build an early lead.

"It's the same old answers you'll hear from now until the Stanley Cup is raised," Hawks star forward Patrick Sharp told NHL.com this week. "You want to score first. You want to play with a lead in games. You want to play with a lead in the series. You want to try and steal a win in their building. That's all very important, especially when you're talking about a team like Phoenix, that's so well-coached and so well-disciplined."

Yet, the thing that often gets overlooked is the fact the Coyotes can score goals too. Ray Whitney finished with 24 goals and 53 assists to lead the team in scoring with 77 points, while Radim Vrbata led the way in scoring goals with 35 markers to go with 27 assists for a 62-point season.

Shane Doan also scored more than 20 goals (22 to be exact) and seven other 'Yotes put up double figures in that category.

"They know how to shut games down and just play that patient style, but they also have the ability to put the puck in the net," Sharp said. "We've got a big task ahead of us. You think of their team as a well-coached, patient, defensive-minded team, but they've got some players over there who have the ability to put up big numbers. [Vrbata] had one of the most underrated seasons I've seen in a while. Keith Yandle on the back end has had a couple of good seasons in a row. You can name a number of guys who are good. You can go in there thinking it's going to be a slow game, but they can put the puck in with the best of them."

Blackhawks center Dave Bolland, whose job on the third line will be to disrupt the Phoenix scorers, agreed with Sharp's assessment.

"We've got to be ready for them," Bolland said. "They've kind of had our number this year and we've got to be ready for whatever they throw at us."

Along those same lines, Chicago coach Joel Quenneville is already cautioning his team not to let up just because it looks as if star captain and top center Jonathan Toews might return for this series from a concussion that kept him out the final 22 games of the regular season.

"I don't think we have the luxury to say, 'Oh, Johnny's back ... we can rely [on him] and relax and Johnny's going to take over here,'" Quenneville said. "I don't think we're that kind of team anyways. I just think that everybody's got to continue [doing] what got us through the end of the year and turn it up a bit."

If Toews does play, he will center a line with Patrick Kane at left wing and Marian Hossa on the right side -- which has the potential to be a threat to score each time they go over the boards. Still, the second line of Patrick Sharp, Marcus Kruger and Viktor Stalberg was the top group down the final stretch of the regular season and Bolland's third line was almost as effective.

Quenneville said his team needs to keep all of its lines rolling, especially now.

"[It's] playoff hockey," he said. "The intensity's going to get ratcheted up a bit and I think we've all got to bring it. [Toews] has got to be excited as well, but don't feel comfortable knowing that Johnny's going to return. There's going to be that much more demand on everybody that we're expecting more come playoff time."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 4:53 PM

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

Surprising rookie season complete, Shaw excited for playoffs

CHICAGO -- When practice is held away from United Center at the facility located just down West Madison St., Chicago Blackhawks rookie Andrew Shaw doesn't have a stall inside the dressing room.

So, he sits on a folding chair in the middle of the room to get undressed and do interviews. In several ways, it's perfect for Shaw -- who was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Draft and scrapped his way into the League basically by putting himself squarely in the middle of everything on the ice.

Shaw scored 12 goals and added 11 assists in 37 games as a rookie by mainly hanging around the "dirty" areas of the ice in the offensive zone and by finding a home defensively on Chicago's third line -- which is the Hawks' main checking line assigned to pester opposing stars.

Now, Shaw can't wait to get into the action in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance.

"I'm so excited," the 5-foot-10, 180 pound Shaw said Tuesday. "They say it's a lot more energetic game and that's my game -- hard hitting. I just can't wait to get out there in front of their crowd and our crowd and get some wins. Hopefully I'm not as nervous as I was my first [NHL] game, but I'm pretty excited and can't wait to get started."

He doesn't plan on changing his approach, either. Despite the intensity of playoff games often meaning even harder whacks in the back for "net-front presence" forwards like Shaw, the diminutive-but-hard-nosed rookie said he's ready for it.

"They'll hurt, but I'll grind it out," he said of the crosschecks likely coming his way. "Hopefully standing there rewards me."

Standing in front of the net, however, won't help him grow a better playoff beard. The 20-year old Shaw's reportedly been working on his playoff beard for a couple of weeks already and barely has a whisker showing on his face.

"I haven't been able to grow a playoff beard yet," Shaw said, laughing. "It's kind of embarrassing when you're playing juniors and you're 19 or 20 years old and 16-year olds are growing bigger beards than you, but I'll see what I can get going. I don't know what it is. My brothers both have big beards. My younger brother has a bigger beard than me. It just hasn't hit me yet."
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Posted On Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 4:01 PM

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

No setbacks for Toews, Game 1 status still uncertain

CHICAGO -- His status is status quo, which is good news for Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews.

Toews, who missed the final 22 games of the regular season after sustaining a concussion, practiced for the second straight day as the center of the top line in Chicago's final home practice before flying to Arizona to start the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Thursday against the Phoenix Coyotes.

"Same as [Monday]," Toews said, when asked how he was feeling following Tusday's practice at Johnny's Ice House West, near United Center. "[I'm] just waiting until gametime time on Thursday. I feel good. I’ve been making improvements and working on little things every single day, so that’s going to be the routine for the next little while."

Neither Toews nor the Blackhawks have officially said the 24-year-old star will play in Game 1 on Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena, but the feeling around the team since Monday is that he will.

"Compared with a couple of weeks ago, it’s night and day," Toews said of the symptoms he's dealt with since leaving the lineup. "[I've] made huge progress and if I didn’t I wouldn’t be sitting here talking. It’s been going good the past week. [I'm] just taking as good a care of myself as I can. It’s great when you see a difference every single day. Finally, those things I’m doing are paying off and I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I guess."

Toews did say he's still experiencing some dizziness on the ice, but attributed it more to physical conditioning than the concussion. He also said it's tough to weigh his long-term health -- especially after he's done playing hockey -- with the present situation.

"As a young hockey player, you have a certain level of invincibility," said Toews, who's had at least one prior concussion in his NHL career. "You don't really think that far down the road. You're thinking about
the here and now, getting back in the room and on the ice to be part of the mix and help your teammates."

Toews cited the uncertainty of how, exactly, concussion-related injuries and symptoms affect the brain in the long run as one of the issues he's been mulling over the past few weeks.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Toews has cleared every protocol that's been put in place for a player to return from such an injury and that it's now up to Toews to make the call as to when he's healthy enough to play.

"I think those hurdles will be crossed before he even begins," Quenneville said. "I think he's made some real consistent progress recently and that's where we're comfortable with where he's at. Each and every day, he feels even better and that gives him reassurance and us confidence that when he's ready, he will be ready to play. We're hopeful and looking forward to that."

It's not an easy decision to make, but the more Toews talks about it, the more it sounds like he'll be in uniform Thursday night against the Coyotes.

"It's tough to see where this is an injury that maybe does have long-term effects ... who really knows?" Toews said. "But you've got to be careful and do what you think is right. It's tough to see where ... it's a case that's debatable. You could talk about it all day, but no one really knows if things like that happen because of an injury like this. Every case is different and no one can tell you what to do. You've got to be smart about it and do what you think is right."

Meanwhile, his teammates say that getting their captain back will be a welcome sight whenever it happens.

Toews said he's not going do too much whenever he gets back into the lineup, anticipating some rust in his game after the long layoff, but at least one of his teammates is leery of setting the bar too low.

"I don't expect that," Hawks star forward Patrick Sharp said. "I've been out for long stretches and come back. Now's the time when I felt a little nervous, leading up to the game ... but Johnny's played in a number of big games in his career already. I anticipate him to come back and pick up where he left off."
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Posted On Sunday, 04.08.2012 / 1:00 PM

By NHL.com Staff -  /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Blackhawks series blog

Coyotes, Blackhawks set to open series Thursday

Fresh off winning the first division title in their franchise's history, the Phoenix Coyotes will open their playoff campaign against Chicago Thursday night at Jobing.com Arena.

The Coyotes and Blackhawks will face off in Game 1 at 10 ET. The Game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network in the U.S. and TSN in Canada.
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Quote of the Day

When we started our journey we made a commitment to our fans to be relevant and to see the Chicago Blackhawks become the best professional hockey organization. There are not two finer symbols of that than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. The commitment we have made to these incredible young men is equal to the commitment they have made to our team, our fans, our entire organization and the city of Chicago.

— Chicago Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz on signing Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to contract extensions