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Central Division notebook

Artem Anisimov key cog for Blackhawks; Chris Stewart of Wild pays it forward

by Dan Rosen @DRosenNHL / NHL.com Senior Writer

Artem Anisimov has one more goal than Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane combined this season. That might explain why the Chicago Blackhawks are a middle-of-the-pack offensive team.

But Anisimov's goals have led to wins. He scored the game-winner in each of Chicago's past three victories, so no one is complaining.

"He's doing everything right, right now," Toews said.

Anisimov has 13 goals in 30 games, putting him on pace for a 35 goals. Kane has eight goals, and Toews has four heading into the Blackhawks game against the New York Islanders at Barclays Center on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; MSG+, CSN-CH, NHL.TV).

Anisimov is nine shy of matching his NHL career high of 22 goals, which he set in 81 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2013-14 season. He scored 20 last season, his first with Chicago. Those are the only two times he's reached 20 goals in his seven NHL seasons.

Video: CHI@NYR: Anisimov, Campbell give Blackhawks lead

"I play with good players, and they find me," Anisimov said, referring to linemates Kane and Artemi Panarin. "I have scored three or four goals when the guys pass it to me and I just have to put it into an empty net."

True on some occasions, but there's more to it than that.

Anisimov is scoring because he's going to the areas where forwards find goals. He has scored 12 of his 13 goals from inside the hash marks. The other goal was off a wrist shot into an empty net.

He has scored from a standing position in front of the crease, by crashing toward the net to find rebounds and from creating space for himself by bouncing off defensemen. His positioning is a big reason why he has scored on 25 percent of his shots (13 of 52).

"He drives the net, goes to the net hard, and he's good around the net," Kane said. "He's one of those guys that if he gets a chance, more likely than not it's going to go in the net. He's very patient, poised, and when you get those chances, you see him score a lot of those."

Kane theorized that part of the reason Anisimov finds space in front of the net is because the defense makes the mistake of forgetting about him.

"Maybe sometimes the defenders are more worried about what we (Kane and Panarin) are doing on the outside, and he's just standing there," Kane said.

Video: WPG@CHI: Panarin tallies off of Kane's cross-ice pass

There's truth to that, but again, it's more complex. Anisimov has to keep up with Panarin and Kane, skate with them and play off of them. He has to create space for them to work. At times, he has to be the defensive conscience of the line. And, he has to win faceoffs.

He's getting better at that last part.

Anisimov has won 44.5 percent of his draws this season after winning 44.2 percent last season. It's not significant progress or a great percentage, but he's been taking more faceoffs of late, particularly because Toews missed nine straight games with a back injury before returning Tuesday, and he's been winning more.

He averaged 14.8 faceoffs per game and won 43.9 percent of them in his first 20 games. He has averaged 17.6 faceoffs per game and won 45.4 percent in the past 10 games.

"I just want to be around 50 percent," Anisimov said. "I'm working on it."

Anisimov has worked more this season on the art of winning faceoffs than he did previously, focusing on body position, timing and quickness. He has studied his opponents and worked with development coach Yanic Perreault on the finer points of winning a faceoff.

"He's better," Kane said. "He seems like he's pretty good to me. I don't know if that's because when he wins them he wins them clean, or what, but I think he's gotten better on the draw, and that's helped."

Anisimov said he studies Toews, who is one of the best at the faceoff dot in the League.

"He's so quick there on the dot, and his movement is so sharp," Anisimov said. "It's like, poof, and the puck is already behind him."

Can he do that?

"Not yet," Anisimov said smiling.

He's trying, but even if he never gets to 50 percent, it won't be a problem if he keeps scoring goals.

"He's seeing the results because he's earning it and working for it," Toews said.

 

Chris Stewart lending a hand for HOPE

Minnesota Wild forward Chris Stewart has vivid childhood memories of community outreach programs showing up on his doorstep in Toronto with Christmas presents for him and his six siblings because his family didn't have much and welcomed the needed assistance.

Stewart has tried to pay it forward since he started receiving an NHL player's salary eight years ago, and this year he's continuing his charitable efforts around the holiday season by teaming up with HOPE 4 Youth's HOPE Place in Coon Rapids, Minnesota, a northern suburb of Minneapolis, to bring gifts to the dozen homeless adults who are living there.

Stewart and his wife, Holley, will deliver the gifts Friday. HOPE 4 Youth is a nonprofit designed to assist adults ages 18-23 by providing them with shelter and training.

"We definitely came from nothing, and there were times on Christmas where we didn't have the most presents and stuff like that, so this definitely hits home for me," Stewart said. "I'm in a position now to help, and it's something my parents instilled in me that when you can help out, you should do the right things, especially over the holidays."

Stewart said the residents at HOPE Place needed a new washer and dryer, so he bought it for them. He also got in contact with EA Sports, which donated an Xbox for a new game room. Stewart said he also will be bringing new alarm clocks and stocking stuffers.

In total, he said it's costing him a couple thousand dollars.

"It's definitely humbling," Stewart said. "It's just good to help all the kids who have been dealt a bad hand, knowing that they can forget about that for one second and just enjoy the day. It's inspirational."

Video: MIN@TOR: Stewart beats the defense and goes five-hole

 

Stat pack

Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk has allowed seven goals on 146 shots (.952 save percentage) during Minnesota's five-game winning streak. … Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling has allowed three goals on 117 shots (.974 save percentage) in the past four games, helping Chicago go 3-0-1. … The Dallas Stars are 4-1-0 in their past five games at American Airlines Center, where they play their next four. They are 8-4-2 and 87.2 percent on the penalty kill at home this season, compared to 4-9-4 and 68.8 percent (last in NHL) on the road. … The St. Louis Blues are 7-1-0 when Jaden Schwartz scores a goal this season and 54-17-1 in his career. He has 11 goals this season, second on St. Louis behind Vladimir Tarasenko's 14.

 

Games to watch

Minnesota Wild at Nashville Predators (Dec. 15, 8 p.m. ET; FS-TN, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV) -- The Wild put their five-game winning streak on the line against the Predators, who are coming off a 6-3 come-from-behind win against the Blues.

Chicago Blackhawks at St. Louis Blues (Dec. 17, 8 p.m. ET; FS-MW, CSN-CH, NHL.TV) -- This will be the third game of the season between the Central Division rivals and the last before they take the rivalry outside in the 2017 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Busch Stadium on Jan. 2. The Blues have earned three out of a possible four points in the first two games.

San Jose Sharks at Chicago Blackhawks (Dec. 18, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, WGN, CSN-CA, NHL.TV) -- This will be the second game of the season between the past two Western Conference champions. San Jose defeated Chicago 2-1 at SAP Center on Nov. 23.

St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars (Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m. ET; FS-SW, FS-MW, NHL.TV) -- The Stars are trying to get some traction and climb up the standings. They defeated the Blues 6-2 and lost 4-3 in overtime already this season.

Winnipeg Jets at Chicago Blackhawks (Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m. ET; CSN-CH, TSN3, NHL.TV) -- The Jets will try to continue their dominance of the Blackhawks this season. They defeated them 4-0 on Nov. 15 and 2-1 on Dec. 4. Winnipeg has had six goal-scorers, and Connor Hellebuyck has made saves on 52 of 53 shots in the two g

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