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February 2013 Archives

Blackhawks wary of Blues' potent power play

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The Blackhawks own the league's second-best penalty-killing unit. The St. Louis Blues own the league's best power play. But Hawks coach Joel Quenneville has a way to avoid the immovable object-irresistible force matchup.

"Let's prevent their power play looks by staying out of the box," Quenneville said after Thursday's morning skate at Scottrade Center.

That's been a problem lately for the Hawks, who have managed to keep their 19-game point streak alive despite a recent spate of third-period penalties. The Hawks' penalty-killing unit, led by Marcus Kruger and Michael Frolik, have done a masterful job of limiting the damage those penalties have caused. But the Blues are scoring at a 30.6-percent clip (19-of-62) on the power play.

"They put a good power play unit out there, they have a lot of different options and a lot of different weaponry on top," Quenneville said.

With offensive-minded defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk (one goal, 14 assists) and Alex Pietrangelo (three goals, nine assists) on the blue line, the Hawks are wary.

"Their 'D' are very active in the rush," Quenneville said. "They come, they're coming. It's almost like a five-man attack. [Pietrangelo] has really come on the scene the last year as a top defenseman in our league. But you don't just notice him offensively, you notice him one defense, as well. He's dangerous and we have to have an awareness of him on the ice."

For the Blues, who are missing forwards Andy McDonald, Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko, the concern is the Hawks' depth and relentlessness. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the key is to playing the Hawks is to play "60 minutes."

"Play 40, you're dead," he said. "We played 30, it wasn't good enough. You've got to play 60, got to play 60 the right way, then see where it goes. Because that's the reason they're winning, they play more minutes than other teams. Maybe the game's up for grabs in the third period, but in the third period against Edmonton, they always have the puck. If you always have the puck, you're going to win a lot of hockey games. They just play more minutes than any team in the West right now. I would say L.A. is starting to catch up, probably Anaheim's right there. But they're the team that plays more minutes, more quality minutes than anybody in the West right now.

Dave Bolland will miss his third straight game with an unspecified upper-body injury when the Blackhawks visit the St. Louis Blues on Thursday. Bolland was at Johnny's IceHouse West on Wednesday morning, but did not participate in the team's practice, and will not be on the trip.

"Bolly's progressing, hopefully he gets on the ice in the next couple of days," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "He's improving every day."

That means usual fourth-liner Marcus Kruger will again be centering the Hawks' second line. Kruger said Wednesday that nothing changes even though he's between Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp instead of Michael Frolik and Jamal Mayers.

"It's great to play with those kinds of players like Kaner and Sharpie, that's exciting," Kruger said. "But for me it doesn't change a thing really. I have to try to play there same game as I did. That's the key to being successful."

Defenseman Steve Montador, who hasn't played since suffering a concussion last March, again practiced with the team. He's still not on the active roster, but he's been skating regularly with the Hawks and with Rostislav Olesz (knee) when the team doesn't skate.

Given how well newcomers Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank have played in that sixth defenseman role, it'll be interesting to see if and how Montador fits in the lineup once he's cleared to play. Montador still has three years remaining on the four-year, $11-million deal he signed before last season.

Quenneville said he wasn't concerned about Montador's role.

"No, we like decisions like that, where we've got some depth," he said. "We feel organizationally, this year is as deep as we've been. And he gives us another option on the back end. But we've been very pleased with how our defense has played to date. We'll see."

Quenneville also said Corey Crawford will get the start in net against the Blues. The Hawks have a home game against Columbus the following day, so Ray Emery likely will get the call.

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Blackhawks are 13-0-3 on the season, yet tonight might be the first time they send out their strongest 18-skater lineup of the season.

Marian Hossa passed his concussion tests and will play tonight. And Daniel Carcillo, who's been out since suffering a leg injury in the season-opener, returns to the lineup as the Hawks try to break the NHL record for longest point streak to start a season.

Corey Crawford was at the morning skate Friday, as well, though he'll back up Ray Emery tonight (Henrik Karlsson saw some action during the skate, but will be sent back to Rockford later today).

Even defenseman Steve Montador returned to practice for the first time all season, though he still has some hurdles to clear before he can actually play.

"Good to see everybody back," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said.

Hossa said he feels good after getting hit in the back of the head by Vancouver's Jannik Hansen on Tuesday night. Hansen was suspended one game for the hit.

"I should be ready to go," Hossa said after Friday's skate. "Obviously, I felt good. I passed the test I did on the computer, so I should be fine. I feel good. If I had a little doubt, I wouldn't go, I wouldn't play, I wouldn't practice. Everything's clear."

Quenneville said the Hawks took extra precautions with Hossa, considering the concussion he sustained last April in the playoffs. Hossa wasn't cleared from that one until mid-November.

"He's got to make sure he's comfortable and we're comfortable with him playing," Quenneville said. "We always look at the history -- there's some hurdles, and tests you've got to make sure you face and pass. And organizationally, he's ready to go and he's cleared."

As for Carcillo, he lost his spot on the top line because of the strong play of rookie Brandon Saad, who took over alongside Jonathan Toews and Hossa after Carcillo's injury. Carcillo joins MIchael Frolik and Marcus Kruger on a suddenly very intriguing fourth line.

Carcillo -- who tore his ACL last season -- was cleared last week, and has been eagerly waiting for his chance.

"When you miss as much time as I have in the last two years, you really realize how much you love this game and love being around the guys in the room," he said. "It puts everything into perspective. We have a short lifespan. I'm definitely taking it day by day and living in the moment, for sure."

Hansen suspended one game for hit on Blackhawks' Hossa

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The NHL suspended Vancouver's Jannik Hansen one game for the blow to Marian Hossa's head that knocked the Hawks star out of Tuesday's game early in the third period. The league cited the "reckless" and "careless" nature of the hit, but also the fact that Hansen had never been suspended before in making its decision.

Hossa was trying to grab the puck out of the air when he was hit from behind by Hansen.

"While it might be true that Hansen initially reaches up to play the puck in the air, he changes the position of his arm and delivers a sharp, careless forearm to the back of Hossa's head," league discipline czar Brendan Shanahan said.

He also pointed out that Hossa's hand remained open the whole time, while Hansen closed his into a fist. The suspension will cost Hansen $7,297.30.

The Blackhawks were off on Wednesday, so there will be no official update on Hossa's condition until Thursday's practice at Johnny's IceHouse West.

Brent Seabrook out for tonight's Blackhawks-Canucks game

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The Blackhawks will be trying to tie the longest point streak to start an NHL season tonight when they host the rival Vancouver Canucks. But they'll have to go for 16 straight without defenseman Brent Seabrook.

Seabrook, who was hit in the groin with a shot during the first period of Sunday's game against the Kings, is "day to day," according to coach Joel Quenneville. When a reporter asked Quenneville if Seabrook had been hit in the ribs, Quenneville said, "Uh, somewhere."

Seabrook, who had a goal and an assist in the game, left the ice after blocking the shot, but returned for the second period and played 19 more shifts over the final two periods, playing nearly 22 minutes in all.

Quenneville didn't say who would take Seabrook's place alongside Duncan Keith on the Hawks' top defensive pairing, but he did say it was "not likely" that he'd break up the strong second pairing of Johnny Oduya and Niklas Hjalmarsson. That leaves Nick Leddy, Michal Rozsival and Sheldon Brookbank as candidates.

toews.jpgIf not for the black eye and fat lip on Jonathan Toews' face, Blackhawks winger Patrick Sharp still might not believe his captain picked a fight with Sharks captain Joe Thornton during Friday night's victory at the United Center.

"Either that, or he's putting his girlfriend's makeup on to look like a tough guy." Sharp joked. "He's got a black eye, a fat lip -- it's a new look for him. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fight last night. It was entertaining. It's going to be funny to see him walking around with a black eye."

For Toews, it was no laughing matter. Thornton had been a thorn in his side for years, the agitation reaching a tipping point last Feb. 10, when Thornton rabbit-punched Toews a few games before he was sidelined with a concussion.

He reiterated Saturday that he was glad he fought Thornton.

"I'm not ever going to make anything personal like that, I know it's not," Toews said. "But when there is a lot of stuff going on, whether it's after the whistle, or during the game, I want to go out there and play my game. If I have someone on me all the time, I guess that's what I have to do -- just stand up for myself. That's all I was thinking about last night."

It was Toews' third career fight. It won't happen often, but he said he'll do it when he feels it's necessary.

"There are times where you have to assert yourself and stand up for yourself," he said. "I think that's all it was. You're not going to see me do that very often, and I haven't in my career, but it is part of the game. You want to buy your time and space and your respect out on the ice. That's something you have to do to prove you deserve it, I guess."

Patrick Kane said "those two had it out for each other for some reason," and was glad to see Toews take matters into his own hands. Kane, meanwhile, will leave the fighting to his captain, thank you very much.

"He's got into three, I'm three behind him," Kane said. "I don't know if I can just pick someone and fight, that's not really a good thing."

Then Kane looked at his hands.

"Don't want to mess these things up too bad," he said.

Blackhawks skate with disabled veterans at Soldier Field

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warriors.jpgViktor Stalberg swooped around the back of the net and threaded a perfect centering pass to the low slot, where the puck was deftly chipped in over a sprawling Ray Emery for a goal. The Blackhawks celebrated wildly.

Emery did, too. After all, it's not every day a soldier skating on two prosthetic legs scores a goal on an NHL goaltender in the middle of Soldier Field.

The Hawks gained a little practice and a lot of perspective Saturday morning during a 40-minute skate with the USA Warriors, a team composed of disabled veterans, at Soldier Field. The Warriors -- with whom the Hawks skated a couple of years ago on their home ice in Washington after the team visited Walter Reed military medical center -- were slated to play an exhibition Saturday night before a college doubleheader takes over the stadium on Sunday.

"It definitely gives you some perspective, when sometimes things aren't going well at the rink or in your personal life, just to take a look at what some of these guys have sacrificed and what they're going through," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said.

Warriors captain Mark Little, a 29-year-old from Fairfax, Va., who lost both his legs in 2007 when his humvee was hit with an IED in southern Baghdad, said the experience (his second with the Hawks now) left him "pretty much speechless."

"People say we're heroes or what have you, [but] we hardly see ourselves that way," Little said. "We're just lucky to still be here; a lot of our brothers and sisters aren't. We're so fortunate that we get these experiences. The middle of Soldier Field -- can't say more about it. Soldier Field, and that's what we are, we're all soldiers, out here playing hockey, the sport we love."

Little said most of the Warriors have a background in hockey, but some join the team after their military service. "This is our therapy," he said.

"We're all alpha males, alpha females," he said. "That's why we joined the military. What do we like? We like the teamwork, the camaraderie, we like competition, we like something that's physical. Hockey's all of that. We're on the battlefield, but instead of a desert, it's ice."

Both sides found the experience humbling -- and fun.

"It's definitely really special for us," said Hawks captain Jonathan Toews, sporting a black eye and a fat lip from his fight with San Jose's Joe Thornton on Friday night. "We look up to them, we appreciate everything they've done for us. To us, they're the real heroes. To share the ice and have them out for practice with us today is a pretty huge honor for the guys."

Corey Crawford (upper-body injury) was not on the ice on Saturday, and will not play Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said there was "no change" in Crawford's condition. Emery will get his second straight start. Daniel Carcillo (knee) is getting closer to returning, but won't play Sunday, either.

Blackhawks' Corey Crawford "day to day" with injury

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Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford missed today's morning skate and will not dress for tonight's game against the San Jose Sharks as he recovers from what coach Joel Quenneville termed an "upper-body" injury. Quenneville declined to go into specifics, only saying that Crawford was "day to day."

"He didn't feel great after practice [on Thursday]," Quenneville said.

When asked if Crawford could return for Sunday afternoon's game against the Los Angeles Kings, Quenneville only said, "We'll see."

Crawford was hit hard by Bobby Ryan with 2:20 left in the third period of Tuesday night's game against the Anaheim Ducks -- Brent Seabrook shoved Ryan, whose knee hit Crawford in the head -- but practiced on Thursday. Quenneville didn't say when the injury occurred.

"I don't know if it's that [hit] or practice," he said. "I don't know if it's a defining blow."

With Crawford out, Ray Emery will get the start. Quenneville actually announced Emery as the starter following Thursday's practice.

"He's the guy," Emery said of Crawford. "When I get in there, I want there not to be a letdown. I want to make them comfortable with giving him time off. Whenever I get called upon, I've just got to be ready to go."

The Hawks also called up goalie Henrik Karlsson from Rockford. The 6-foot-6 Karlsson was acquired last month from the Calgary Flames for a seventh-round draft pick. Karlsson has 26 career NHL games under his belt over the last two seasons.

"Obviously, it's always a little bit weird when a guy got injured," Karlsson said of his opportunity. "But obviously it's here I want to be."

Karlsson played at the United Center two seasons ago, when he replaced an ineffective Miikka Kiprusoff. Karlsson gave up one goal on 10 shots in the relief effort.

"I'm a pretty big guy, so I try to play a modern style of goaltending -- try to block as many shots as possible, be square to the puck as much as possible," he said.

Said Emery: "He's a huge guy. We played against him, saw him a little bit. He's a big body and gets in the way a lot. Good tender."

At 8-2-1, the Anaheim Ducks have surprised a lot of people during the first quarter of the NHL season.

Sheldon Brookbank is not one of them.

"I always knew that there was a lot of underachieving going on in Anaheim, for whatever reason," said Brookbank, a Blackhawks defenseman who spent the last four seasons with the Ducks. "That's always been one of the things about the Ducks -- they start off slow, and we were always playing catchup while I was there. I think they kind of got ahead of it this year. Nobody ever really wants to play the Ducks in the playoffs. They beat you a lot of different ways with their size, skill and goaltending -- they have a lot of things going for them. I definitely wasn't surprised."

He was, however, disappointed to be a scratch tonight against his former teammates. Michal Rozsival will be in the lineup instead for the second straight game.

Brookbank called the Ducks "a motivated team this year." Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said the Ducks were eager to use tonight's game against the league-leading Hawks as a chance to see just how good they are.

"You always want to beat a team that's undefeated," Boudreau said. "You always think of it as quite a challenge. They're by and far right now the best team in the league, so it's a test for our team, who's still trying to find a measuring stick for us for where we fit, because nobody picked us to be anywhere. Our record's fairly good, but are we playing good? Are we meeting teams on bad nights, on back-to-backs? So you see a team that didn't play last night that's at home for the first time, it should be a really good measuring stick for our team."

Blackhawks' Daniel Carcillo nearing his return

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The Blackhawks are getting close to being fully healthy, and coach Joel Quenneville is getting close to a difficult decision.

Winger Daniel Carcillo, who injured his knee in the first game of the season at Los Angeles, started skating last week and was on the ice along with Steve Montador (concussion) and Rotislav Olesz (knee) prior to Tuesday's morning skate. Quenneville said Carcillo could return to actual Hawks practices as soon as this week.

"He's doing good," Quenneville said. "He skated today. We had three guys skate prior to practice and they're all progressing."

Carcillo was projected to miss a month when he was hurt on Jan. 19, and his rehab has been on schedule. That means he could be available to play as soon as next week. Carcillo was playing on the top line alongside Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa when he was hurt -- in his first game back since tearing the ACL in his other knee last January -- but rookie Brandon Saad has stepped into that role and performed very well.

Quenneville has been reluctant to change much of anything during the Hawks' 10-0-2 start, but he's not concerned about where Carcillo will fit in the lineup.

"No, we love those kinds of decisions and we welcome tough ones," Quenneville said. "The depth is something we went into the start of the season [knowing] you're going to get tested and challenged. Today we looked relatively healthy, but we'll see. Danny had a great game his first game back. Hopefully he'll be at that same pace when he gets back."

Ray Emery gets the start tonight for Blackhawks

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Ray Emery, four days removed from a spectacular 45-save performance at Calgary, will be back in the net tonight for the Blackhawks when they play Phoenix.

"Ray's coming off a tremendous game," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said after today's morning skate. "He played here last time and we won. We think he deserves a chance to get back in."

Emery actually struggled here on Jan. 20, in the Hawks' second game of the season. He gave up four goals on 29 shots, and struggled corralling the puck. Fortunately for him, Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith had the same struggles, and gave up six goals, allowing the Hawks to pull out the victory.

Quenneville said there's no great master plan for scheduling his goalies.

"We don't go too far in advance, but I'm sure the performance the other night made it easier," he said.

As for Smith, after giving up 10 goals in his first two games, he's given up just one in his last two -- narrow victories over Dallas and Minnesota. After a 1-4 start, Phoenix has gotten a point in every game during a 3-0-2 stretch.

"Obviously, the first couple games were a little shaky on my part," Smith said. "The team, we didn't play like we were capable of. We were all getting a little bit of the lockout legs out, and I think we've played a lot better as of late. Our D has been unbelievable the last four or five games. We've played a lot better. We've been pretty impressive, actually. My game's felt like it's coming around, too. All those things make for a pretty tough team to play against."

Coyotes' Raffi Torres says he's a changed man

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(Here's the main story on the Blackhawks' first game against Raffi Torres since his concussive hit on Marian Hossa.)

Raffi Torres says he's a changed man, that he's found religion in the wake of his 25-game suspension for an illegal hit on Marian Hossa in last year's playoffs.

"We have to protect the top players in the league, and if it's going to take me thinking a little bit out there instead of running around with my head cut off, that's what it's going to take," he said. "At the end of the day, I need to keep playing. This is what I want to do. And if I want to keep playing in this league, I'm going to have change the way [I play]."

The Coyotes agitator has only played two games since his suspension ended, and he's still just trying to get his conditioning and timing back, so it's too early to tell how much he's changed. But Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has been working with Torres on adapting his style better to the rules of the NHL.

"We talked a lot, looked at a lot of video and a lot of situations that we think we can help him out," Tippett said. "He's a real competitive, good player. He's just had some reckless in his game, and not just the one in the playoffs last year, but before that. So we've tried to show him instances where he's gone out of his way to deliver a hit that, if we take those out of his game, he can still be a very competitive player without the recklessness."

Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith said that Torres is a better player than he's given credit for.

"I don't know if I noticed a change," Smith said. "He's definitely gotten faster, stronger and it seems like he's working very hard to work on the skills of the game. The skills are there. He's a quick player and he's got a very good shot. He brings a physical aspect to it. He's kind of an all-around player. He brings a lot of energy to our team, and you need a guy like that in the lineup."

Smith, for one, isn't expecting too much drama Thursday night in the second meeting between the two teams since the Torres hit, and the first with Torres on the ice.

"You can build it up as much as you want, but I think Raffi's just worried about playing his game. It is what it is. It was a long time ago now. Raffi's an important part of this team. We're a better team with him in the lineup. It should make for an interesting game."

Adam Burish didn't hesitate when asked whose ear he'd been in tonight against his old Blackhawks teammates.

"Well, Sharp's always at the top of my list," the Sharks winger and noted agitator said. "Kane's a close second."

Hawks captain Jonathan Toews was happy to hear that.

"Sharp should be a given, right?" he said with a smile. "I'm excited to play against Bur. It's always kind of entertaining to watch him. He's as entertaining on the ice as he is off the ice, if that's even possible. Glad to see him doing well here."

Burish, a member of the Hawks' 2010 Stanley Cup championship team, signed with San Jose after spending the last two seasons with Dallas. He hasn't registered a point yet, but has played in all nine games for the Sharks, who are one point behind the No. 1 Hawks in the league standings.

By coming to San Jose, he joined Antti Niemi, who backstopped that Cup run as a rookie in Chicago. Also on the Sharks is former Hawks forward Martin Havlat, as well as Evanston-native Tommy Wingels

"This is a good team, it's a fun team to be a part of," Burish said. "A team that's real high on skill. So it's been a fun change. The weather's great, there's no snow here like you guys are dealing with in Chicago. So that's nice."

Burish said the offensive-minded Sharks remind him of the Hawks.

"You give them too many chances and they're going to kill you, and that's how it is here, too," he said. "The skill level's high, just like it was in Chicago. You see guys making plays that you shake your head at, just like you'd see Kane do or Sharp do. If a team gives us too many chances, they're going to pay. So it's a lot like it was in Chicago."

This will be the sixth time Burish has dressed for a game against his old teammates. And Hawks center Dave Bolland knows the drill by now.

"We just tune him out now," Bolland said. "We just don't even listen to him anymore."

When Blackhawks center Dave Bolland obliterated his stick along the bench before limping off the ice and into the dressing room in Vancouver on Friday night, he feared his season might be over.

"I don't think it would have been that bad if it was an 82-game year, but with 48 games, if anything would be broken it could mean the whole season," Bolland said, explaining his reaction.

Turns out nothing was broken, and it was "just a bad bruise" on his lower leg. Bolland, who sat out against Calgary on Saturday night, was back on the ice for Monday's practice at HP Pavilion here in San Jose, and is "likely" going to be back in the lineup Tuesday night against the Sharks, who enter tonight's game in Anaheim one point behind the Hawks for No. 1 in the league.

"We'll see," Bolland said with a wry smile. "That's what the boss says, right?"

Bolland, as the Hawks' checking-line center, has traditionally gotten plenty of ice time against the Sharks' dynamic top line of Joe Thornton (14 points), Patrick Marleau (league-high nine goals -- all of them in the first five games) and Joe Pavelski. Now that he's centering the second line with Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp, Bolland's role could be different.

"We'll see," Quenneville said. "Could be a number of lines who want to play against them tomorrow. We haven't worried about too many matchups this year -- just a group of five, and whoever you're playing against. I'm sure everyone will get a taste of [the top line], and we'll see how it works out."

Also returning to the lineup at San Jose will be goaltender Corey Crawford. Backup Ray Emery was otherworldly in his 45-save (plus three shootout stops) performance in a 3-2 shootout win over Calgary. Quenneville said "there's a good chance" Emery will get another start at Phoenix on Thursday. Emery beat the Coyotes 6-4 in a relatively shaky performance in the second game of the season.

"It was an outstanding performance," Quenneville said of Emery's gem in Calgary. "It was fun to watch. But then again, it wasn't that much fun."

When Dave Bolland collapsed to the ice in agony in the third period Friday night in Vancouver, then smashed his stick against the boards while still on his knees before being helped off into the dressing room with an apparent leg injury, it looked like a worst-case scenario for the Blackhawks center.

But Bolland's injury isn't as serious as it first appeared, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. Bolland is out tonight against Calgary, but is "day to day," and will accompany the team to San Jose rather than head home to Chicago, according to Quenneville.

"He's going to be all right," Quenneville said. "You're always concerned about the worst, but he's not doing too bad today."

Bolland had three goals in eight games and looked very comfortable between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane, finally appearing to fill the Hawks' longtime need of a viable second-line center. If he were to miss significant time, it would have been a tough blow to the Hawks' depth.

Quenneville wouldn't put a number on how many games Bolland would miss, and said it's possible the Hawks could call somebody up from Rockford in the meantime. But for tonight's game, Andrew Shaw will move up from the third line to the second -- where he set up Patrick Kane's game-tying goal after Bolland's injury against the Canucks -- and fourth-line center Marcus Kruger will move to Shaw's normal spot. Jamal Mayers likely will center the fourth line between Michael Frolik and Brandon Bollig.

"We'll talk about that after the game, but we've got enough guys tonight," Quenneville said. "We could bring somebody in [afterward]."

Also, Quenneville said Ray Emery will start in goal, as expected. Emery hasn't played since the second game of the season, a 6-4 win at Phoenix.

It had been more than 10 long months since the Blackhawks and Canucks last met, when Duncan Keith elbowed Daniel Sedin in the head at the United Center. An entire postseason, offseason and lockout all had happened in the meantime.

But Vancouver hadn't forgotten. Not its fans. Not its players. Not its media.

"Is that still an issue?" Hawks winger Patrick Kane said when immediately asked about it after Friday's morning skate. "Seem like that was a long time ago. I don't think anyone's really thought about that in here."

Well, plenty of people have thought about it in Vancouver.

"Anytime you make a cheap shot on one of our best players, you leave a sour taste in some guys' mouths," said Canucks winger Dale Weise.

As if this rivalry -- one that Hawks center and noted Sedin agitator Dave Bolland called the best in the NHL -- needed any more juice to it.

"It's a great rivalry," Weise said. "We're not going to forget what happened last year, but obviously we've got to go out and play the game. It's a big two points."

As for Keith, he stood before the horde of cameras and microphones and repeatedly said he was just focused on the game, and not on what the Canucks might have in store for him. He was suspended five games for the elbow on Sedin on March 21, a hit that gave Sedin a concussion and knocked him out for a month -- including the first three games of top-seeded Vancouver's five-game playoff loss to the Kings.

Keith insisted he wasn't a dirty player, essentially saying he got caught up in the intensity of the game.

"For the most part, I'm a pretty honest player," he said. "Obviously, I got suspended and was punished for that. So it's something I wasn't very proud of. For me, it's in the past."

Keith's clean track record -- Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo called him "a great guy ... who you would rather have on your team than play against" -- made the revenge angle trickier for Vancouver.

"Say if [Daniel] Carcillo was the guy who did it, obviously I think he's a guy that would stand up for himself; you'd have a fight and it'd be over with," Weise said. "It's a different story with a guy like Keith. He's a top-end player, he's not a guy that's going to get involved in an altercation. So there's not much you can do."

There's also, of course, the risk of taking foolish penalties in the name of revenge, and giving the Blackhawks power play -- which is scoring at a 24.1 percent clip this season -- too many opportunities. Kane said he was hoping that's exactly what would happen in the game. Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said the team had discussed playing disciplined leading up to this game.

"Everyone's aware of it," he said. "It's a big game for us. If you're going to run around and do things other than play hockey, it's going to be a tough game for us."

It's just the latest chapter to one of the most heated rivalries in the league, one born out of three straight intense playoff meetings, and one that's been simmering -- in Western Canada, at least -- for the last 10 months.

The way the Hawks see it, that just makes it all the more fun.

"I was just telling [rookie Brandon Saad], it's his first game against Vancouver, how fun of a rivalry it is, with the rink being packed," Kane said. "It just feels like hockey."


About the blogger

Mark Lazerus was honored nationally by the Associated Press Sports Editors for three straight years at the Post-Tribune, was named one of the top three columnists in Indiana for three straight years and has won more than 20 statewide writing awards. He has covered Notre Dame for Sun-Times Media, and now covers the Blackhawks.



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