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Teams set for NCAA Men's Frozen Four at United Center

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

The 2017 NCAA Division I Men's Ice Hockey Championship semifinals, also known as the Men's Frozen Four, will be held at the United Center and feature Denver University, the University of Minnesota Duluth, Harvard University and the University of Notre Dame, which is also the host team. Harvard and Minnesota Duluth will face off at 5 p.m. CT on Thursday, April 6, at the United Center, followed by Denver and Notre Dame at 8:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are available for purchase at NCAA.com/FrozenFour or by visiting the United Center box office.

The Chicago Blackhawks will have two draft picks competing in the tournament. Notre Dame defenseman Dennis Gilbert was a 2015 Draft selection (third round, 91st overall) and Denver defenseman Blake Hillman was a 2016 Draft selection (sixth round, 173rd overall). Additionally, seven players competing in the tournament are from Illinois: Notre Dame's Tory Dello (Crystal Lake), Jack Jenkins (Lake Bluff) and Bobby Nardella (Rosemont); Harvard's Adam Baughman (Chicago) and Michael Floodstrand (Hinsdale); and Denver's Erich Fear (Winnetka) and Greg Ogard (Wilmette).

This marks the first time the Frozen Four has been held at the United Center. The tournament will take place April 6 & 8, 2017. The Frozen Four is the culmination of the NCAA's 16-team tournament to determine the collegiate national champion. The tournament, which began in 1948, has branded its semi-final and final games as the Frozen Four since 1999. The single-elimination tournament was expanded to its current 16-team format in 2003.

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Game notes: March 27 at Tampa Bay Lightning

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

LAST GAME
The Panthers defeated the Blackhawks 7-0 on Saturday night at the BB&T Center. Chicago is now 18-8-2 against the Eastern Conference this season. Corey Crawford made 21 saves before being replaced by Scott Darling. Darling allowed three goals on six shots.

VS. LIGHTNING
Chicago owns a 17-12-5-5 all-time record against Tampa Bay, including a 5-6-3-4 mark on the road. Tonight's contest marks the second and final regular-season matchup between the clubs. The Lightning defeated the Blackhawks 5-2 on Jan. 24 at the United Center. It was Chicago's first regulation loss (78-1-5) when leading after two periods since the 2014- 15 season. The Blackhawks defeated the Lightning in six games during the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. Duncan Keith took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after registering 21 points (3G, 18A) and averaging 31:07 of ice time.

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Game notes: March 25 at Florida Panthers

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

LAST GAME
The Blackhawks defeated the Stars 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night at the United Center, improving to 4-0-1 in a shootout this year. Chicago has posted an 18-3-1 record since the start of February to lead the NHL in wins (18) and points (37) during that span. The Blackhawks picked up victories in all five matchups with the Stars this year, outscoring Dallas 18-11. Chicago's 25 wins on home ice rank fourth in the NHL. Patrick Kane recorded a goal in the first period and added a tally in the shootout, Marian Hossa recorded a goal and Artemi Panarin netted the game-deciding goal in the shootout. Corey Crawford turned aside 42 of 44 shots on goal in Thursday's victory over the Stars, improving to 30-15-3 on the season.

VS. PANTHERS
Chicago holds a 21-8-3-2 all-time record against Florida, including a 10- 4-1-1 mark on the road. The Blackhawks own a 17-3-2-2 record over their last 24 matchups with the Panthers. Tonight's contest concludes the two-game regular-season series between the clubs. The Blackhawks defeated the Panthers 2-1 in a shootout on Nov. 29. Richard Panik (1G), Marcus Kruger (1A) and Dennis Rasmussen (1A) have each registered a point vs. the Panthers this year.

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Blackhawks agree to extension with Kero

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that they have agreed to terms on a two-year contract extension with forward Tanner Kero (KAIR-oh), which runs through the end of the 2018-19 National Hockey League season.

Kero has posted five goals and seven assists in 38 games with the Blackhawks this season. He began the 2016-17 campaign with the American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs where he led the club with 20 points (7G, 13A) before being recalled on Dec. 22, 2016. The Hancock, Mich., native recorded a career-high three points (2G, 1A), including his first career multi-goal game, on Jan. 17 at Colorado. Kero is one of seven rookies to suit up for Chicago this season.

The 24-year-old has split time with the Blackhawks and IceHogs over the previous two seasons after being signed by the organization as a free agent on April 2, 2015. In 55 career games with the Blackhawks, Kero has registered six goals and nine assists. He has also compiled 64 points (32G, 32A) in 94 contests with Rockford.

Prior to turning pro, Kero spent four seasons at Michigan Tech where he accumulated 111 points (55G, 56A) in 153 games. A 2015 Hobey Baker nominee, Kero was named the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Player of the Year during his senior campaign after pacing the Huskies with collegiate career-highs in points (46), goals (20) and assists (26).

The Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the United Center. The game can be seen on CSN, streamed live online at CSNChicago.com (CSNChicago.com/BlackhawksStream) and the NBC Sports App, and heard on WGN Radio and Univision America (WRTO 1200 AM).

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Prospect Profile: Dylan Sikura

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

No prospect has made bigger strides in his development as forward Dylan Sikura, who was selected in the sixth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Over three seasons at Northeastern, he's shown concrete improvements year after year, ranging from building up his physical game to finding his scoring touch, a trajectory that has impressed the Blackhawks brass. Below is his profile, one of eight featured in the March/April issue of Blackhawks Magazine, on sale now.

Maybe no one expected a sixth-round draft pick with a beanpole build like Dylan Sikura to shine quite so brightly in one of the toughest conferences in college hockey, but there he was at the end of the Hockey East regular season with 53 points to his name, second-most on a volatile Northeastern offense and a standout on one of the most dynamic lines in the NCAA. That total included two hat tricks, 18 multi-point outings and three point streaks of six or more games.

The 21-year-old has always played creatively, setting up plays with precise passing, but this year he's found confidence in his shot, becoming a 20-goal scorer for the first time since Triple A.

"He's playing so well, he's so confident and he's getting so many chances, and if you can get him to shoot more he's going to get a lot of goals," Development Coach Derek Plante said. "He's kind of realizing that -- it was a focus going into the season -- and he becomes more of a threat if he can shoot more. It's paying off, obviously."

Although Sikura is somewhat of a late bloomer, physically speaking, three years in a college hockey environment have helped him get stronger, and in turn he has unlocked new parts of his game while continuing to be a top-notch playmaker. He was drafted as a center, but has the speed and vision to stick at wing, where he's played for the majority of his collegiate career.

"It's going to depend on who the other guys are around him," Plante explained. "It's great that he can play both, but I think he's been more comfortable playing the wing because he's done that the most. Sometimes it pays off to have bigger, stronger guys down the middle, but it's not to say he can't do that."

Whether he'll turn pro this summer or return to Northeastern for his senior campaign remains to be seen, but the growth that Sikura has shown over the last three seasons makes him one of the most improved and intriguing prospects in the system.

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Blackhawks playoff tickets on sale Monday, March 27

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

The Chicago Blackhawks announced today that single-game tickets for the first two rounds of the potential 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs home contests will go on sale to the general public on Monday, March 27, at 12:00 p.m. The tickets will be available exclusively at ticketmaster.com or by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.

Each customer will be limited to four tickets. Refunds for any un-played playoff games will be available at the point of purchase. In that event, the credit card used to purchase tickets by fans using the internet or phone will be automatically credited, less any applicable processing fee.

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Game notes: March 23 vs. Dallas Stars

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

LAST GAME
The Canucks defeated the Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Tuesday night at the United Center, snapping Chicago's five-game winning streak. The overtime result gave Chicago 100 points in the standings this year, the fourth consecutive year the team has reached that mark. Ryan Hartman (2), Marian Hossa and Richard Panik each registered goals for the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford allowed four goals on 10 shots before being replaced by Scott Darling in the third period. Darling made four saves and took the loss.

VS. STARS
Chicago holds a 136-102-31-3 all-time record against Dallas, including a 78- 41-15-0 mark at the United Center. Tonight's contest concludes the five-game regular-season series between the Central Division rivals. The Blackhawks own a 4-0-0 mark against the Stars this season, including victories on Nov. 5 (3-2), Nov. 6 (4-3 OT), Dec. 11 (3-1) and Feb. 4 (5-3). Crawford picked up his 202nd career NHL victory on Feb. 4 at Dallas, passing Ed Belfour for third in Blackhawks history.

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Prospect Profile: Luc Snuggerud

by Emerald Gao / Digital Content Coordinator

Defenseman Luc Snuggerud has seen his stock rise steadily ever since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NHL Draft. Over three years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, he's developed into an impactful two-way defender and a leader, and he made his professional debut last weekend with the American Hockey League's Rockford IceHogs. Below is his profile, one of eight featured in the March/April issue of Blackhawks Magazine, on sale now.

If there's one type of player a hockey organization can never have enough of, it's the mobile defenseman who can be useful in all three zones. Snuggerud, who recently finished his junior campaign at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before signing a pro contract, certainly looks like a potential two-way standout after a couple of massive seasons.

"Luc was going to step into a leadership role and be the go-to guy on the back end, and he's really embraced that," said Director of Player Development Mark Eaton, a longtime NHL defenseman himself. "The pressure has been on him, but he has handled it extremely well and been able to take his game to another level."

One of the first guys over the boards in all situations this season, the 2014 fifth-round pick was a major contributor offensively, quarterbacking the top-ranked power play in the NCHC. At the end of his season, Snuggerud led all NCAA defensemen with 11 goals; seven of them came with the man advantage, also tops among collegiate blueliners.

"One of the things he does really well is get his shot through to the net," Eaton said. "His one-timer is good, and he gets some good pace on his shot. But he also knows when to jump into holes and, most importantly, he does it without risk or putting himself in a bad position. His game is really suited to be that complete two-way defenseman who defends well and can make a good first pass and use his speed to join the rush in an offensive capacity."

There's no doubt that Snuggerud has put in the work to improve his game over the last three years, and that dedication will serve him well after turning pro, Eaton says. "Of all our prospects, he has such a pro mindset. He takes care of himself as well as anyone -- the off-ice routine, the nutrition -- and it's paid dividends for him on the ice."

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Blackhawks Magazine Excerpt: Homegrown

by Bob Verdi / Team Historian

The following is excerpted from the March/April 2017 issue of Blackhawks Magazine, featuring local product Ryan Hartman. Pick up a copy at the next Blackhawks home game, or by calling the Blackhawks Store at 312-759-0079.

How important is it for a young guy like you to be on a team with so many other young guys? The other day at practice, you were sitting between Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz.

Right. That's another great thing about being part of this team. Most of the veterans, they have families and other lives. But us single guys, we like to hang out and do things. Vinnie (Hinostroza) and Schmaltzy, we do stuff together. Lunch, dinner, whatever. We're really close. Schmaltzy is walking my dog right now while we're doing this interview.

Dog?

Riley, a white German shepherd. Got it when I was in Rockford. My girlfriend and I were at the mall one day, just looking around. I always had a dog at home when I was a kid. Anyway, we just wandered into this store and saw this cute little pup. The lady there lifts it up and lets me hold it. "Go play with it in the back if you want." And that's it. It's part of the plan. They know it's all over when you hold it. You're taking that dog home with you. I called my mom, Kim, and told her I bought a dog. She says, "We have a family dog at home, take it for a week if you want a dog." I didn't want to call my dad, Craig. No way.

He's going to say, "You're trying to concentrate so you can make it to the National Hockey League, and you bought a dog?"

Exactly. About a week after I bought Riley, we're going on the road with Rockford. So now I had to call my dad and break the news. I bought a dog, Dad. I asked him if he would look after my dog. He said, "You did what? No you didn't." So I dropped the dog off with my parents, and they fell in love with Riley too.

Dogs are amazing.

They really are. Think it about. You are their entire life. You provide a dog shelter, food, water, attention. And in return, they give you unconditional love and loyalty and protection. If I take a shower, Riley will spread out and lie down right by the bathroom door to make sure I'm OK. An unbelievable watchdog. A real friend. No judgment, no grudges.

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Game notes: March 21 vs. Vancouver Canucks

by Chicago Blackhawks Media Relations / chicagoblackhawks.com

LAST GAME
The Blackhawks defeated the Avalanche 6-3 on Sunday night after recording five unanswered goals in the third period, picking up their fifth consecutive win. It was Chicago's highest offensive output in a single period this season, topping the four goals they recorded in the third period on Nov. 1 vs. Calgary. Per Elias, Chicago's three markers in 34 seconds were the third-quickest trio of goals scored in franchise history, behind 21 seconds (March 23, 1952 at NYR) and 30 seconds (Oct. 15, 1983 at TOR). Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews (2), Richard Panik and Artemi Panarin each recorded goals for Chicago. Scott Darling turned aside 22 of 25 shots to improve to 18-5-2 this season. He shares the league lead with a .931 save percentage and ranks third with a 2.12 goals-against average. Darling has picked up victories in eight of his last nine appearances.

VS. CANUCKS
Chicago holds an 87-67-22-9 all-time record against Vancouver, including a 56-23-7-5 mark at the United Center. Tonight's contest concludes the three-game regular-season series between the clubs. The Blackhawks own a 2-0-0 record vs. the Canucks this season, collecting victories on Nov. 19 (4-3) and Jan. 22 (4-2). Corey Crawford became the fourth Blackhawks goaltender (Tony Esposito, Glenn Hall and Ed Belfour) to record 200 career wins on Jan. 22. Jonathan Toews paces Chicago with four points (1G, 3A) vs. VAN this season. Marian Hossa registered a goal on Jan. 22 against the Canucks, becoming the 27th player to record 400 points (178G, 22A) in a Blackhawks sweater.

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