The Blackhawks have been working a lot of late nights in recent games, but all of that overtime is paying off.
Out of the team’s six games this month, five have gone past the end of regulation, including Wednesday night's 4-3 win against the first-place Minnesota Wild. However, the team has taken 11 of a possible 12 points, and is becoming more used to playing with the game on the line.
“We’ve definitely grown accustomed to playing in those situations,” Patrick Kane said after Thursday’s practice. “Sometimes practice makes perfect. It seems like every game is going to be like that, whether it’s really close, if it’s overtime or a shootout. I don’t know how many we’ve played this season, but it’s quite a high number. We’re used to it now, and it probably bodes well for tighter games down the stretch.”
Of the five overtime games in December, two have been against conference opponents that are in or close to a top-eight seed in the West, and Head Coach Joel Quenneville says that having tough games against strong opponents will only benefit the Blackhawks in the long run.
“When games are on the line, important minutes, you test guys to see how they handle those situations,” he said. “Finding ways to score or prevent goals during big shifts are important, and you monitor those. When games are on the line like they have been recently, it’s a good test.”
“When you have so many [tight games], you get used to it a little bit,” Kane agreed. “No one’s really nervous – it’s not like we’re giving up a lot in overtime, and we have a lot of chances. You become so accustomed in those situations that it helps a little bit.
“We knew yesterday was going to be a really close game – two top teams in the West,” he added. “It’s tough to give them a point, especially when you’re up 2-0 and 3-2. But [overtime] didn’t really seem to bother us; everyone was excited about it and the shootout, and we prevailed.”
Emery set for matchup with Ducks: Quenneville told media members after practice that netminder Ray Emery will start in goal when the team faces Anaheim Friday at the United Center. Emery was in net for the Blackhawks’ win in St. Paul Wednesday, making 27 saves and two more in the shootout. Friday’s game will mark his fourth consecutive start.
While Emery has been the Blackhawks starting netminder recently, Quenneville said that Corey Crawford will get an opportunity to get back in net.
“I think in this situation, [we’ve told] Corey, ‘Keep working on your game, be positive and be supportive.’ It gives him more time to get excited about getting back in the net. At the same time, he’s spending some time working and doing everything he can to position himself and stay in.”
News and notes: Daniel Carcillo sat out of practice Thursday and Quenneville said that the winger is “questionable” for tomorrow’s game due to an upper body injury. Quenneville added that the injury is not considered to be serious.