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Hawks have personnel, but not seeing PP results

by Brian Hedger
CHICAGO -- Looking at all the stars on their roster, it would be easy to assume the Chicago Blackhawks have a dangerous power play.

Each time they get the man advantage, coach Joel Quenneville rolls out a combination of highly-skilled star forwards like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa and Andrew Brunette plus talented defensemen like Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook -- not to mention up-and-coming youngster Nick Leddy.

After 10 games, however, the results are a bit perplexing.

Heading into Monday night's home game against the Nashville Predators (8:30 p.m.), Chicago's power play is ranked 27th in the League and has converted just four of 38 power-play opportunities into goals (10.5 percent) -- including an 0-for-5 performance in a 5-2 win this past Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.


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Even more stunning is the fact Chicago's League-best penalty-kill units have produced three shorthanded goals already while the power play has actually been on the ice for a pair of goals against.

To be fair, the Hawks did have three power-play goals disallowed for various infractions against Columbus. Still, sitting near the bottom of the League on the man-advantage is not where they want to stay.

"You look at last game and I think we had three goals called back on the power play, so I think it's getting there," Kane said after Chicago's Monday morning skate at the United Center. "Everybody's talking about it, but I think we've got to catch some breaks. Your first priority on a power play is you want to get shots, but we've got some different plays and some different set-ups. Sometimes the most important thing is just getting it on net and creating havoc when you get it there."

That's exactly what they did in the last game against the Blue Jackets and it nearly paid off several times.

"The power play was good last game and probably as good as we've seen it all year," Quenneville said. "We had three denied goals and one double post and generated some good looks and different looks, as well. I think it all started because we started shooting the puck. That opened things up as we went along."

While a bit perplexing, the Hawks' struggles with the man-advantage have become a fairly big issue after just 10 games. Luckily for them, a top-ranked penalty-kill and a strong 6-2-2 start have eased the scrutiny. Meanwhile, they're just trying not to let their power-play dry spell seep into other areas.

"We can't let that move into the rest of our game," Toews said. "Eventually we'll figure it out and the power play will give us that energy and that boost that we need. Whether we score or not, to be in (the opponent's) end tires their team out, tires some of their top players out and we need to use it to our advantage that way, too."

Toews, like the rest of his teammates, couldn't believe how many power-play goals were taken off the board against Columbus. It's starting to feel like one of those "anything that can go wrong will go wrong" kind of situations.

"That seems to be the name of the game right now with our power play," Toews said following that game. "Even when things are clicking, something backfires somehow. But you can't worry about that. It's out of our control. We'll just keep playing."

It might help if they keep shooting the puck more. Chicago has gotten 38 power plays but has put just 53 shots on goal. By comparison, the San Jose Sharks have put 27 more shots on goal (80) in five less power plays and scored four more man-advantage goals for a success rate of 22.4 percent.

Quenneville liked what he saw in the last game, but wants his PP units to keep firing the puck.

"It's trending that way," he said. "That's what we're talking about. Our zone time hasn't been as high as we'd like, but at the same time, when we are in there the best play right now is just to pound away and go off of that."

Quenneville has also tweaked the makeup of the units lately, moving Sharp from one of the points back to left wing and giving Leddy more time on the blue line. He also used third-liners Dave Bolland and Bryan Bickell on the power play against the Blue Jackets while searching for more production.

It won't be any easier on Monday against the defensive-oriented Predators, who have a pair of star defensemen in Shea Weber and Ryan Suter plus the cat-quick 6-foot-5, 209-pound Pekka Rinne (and his .930 save percentage) in goal.

"It's 10 games in and there's still a lot of hockey left to be played," Keith said. "But we know (the power play) needs to be better and it's not good enough. We're working on it to get it better. Last game we moved it around real well and had chances. Unfortunately we had some bad bounces go against us with some disallowed goals, but it was a good sign of things to come and hopefully we'll keep that momentum and use it tonight."
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