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April 2013 Archives

Less than a half hour before Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, the Minnesota Wild were dealt a huge blow when starting goaltender Nicklas Backstrom was injured during warmups, apparently while reaching for a rebound. He had to be helped off the ice and down the tunnel to the dressing room.

That means Josh Harding will get the start for the Wild. Harding played in just five games this season, going 1-1-0 with a 3.24 goals-against average and a .863 save percentage. He started against the Blackhawks on Jan. 30 and gave up two goals on four shots in seven minutes before getting the hook.

Backstrom played 42 of 48 games this season for the Wild, going 24-15-3 with a 2.48 GAA and .909 save percentage.

Every single player in the Blackhawks lineup (other than backup goaltender Henrik Karlsson) for Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals had played in a Stanley Cup playoff game before.

Nine members of the Minnesota Wild hadn't.

"It's probably an emotional level that I've never been to in my life before," Wild center Kyle Brodziak said before the game. "That's going to be my challenge -- being able to put the emotions aside and keep my focus."

Even behind the bench, the experience disparity was jarring. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was coaching his 140th playoff game. Minnesota's Mike Yeo was coaching his first (though he was an assistant coach when the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup in 2009).

Yeo hoped that the Wild's mad scramble to get into the postseason as the eighth seed, which included a do-or-die road game at Colorado to close out the season, helped mentally prepare his team for the heightened pressure of the playoffs.

"Dealing with those emotions, we'd like to think should help us," he said. "The fact that we've had to perform under pressure and deal with those emotions, we think that should help."

One of the Wild's key players, 19-year-old rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin, said he was excited, but nervous.

"I'm nervous before every game," he said. "It's a good thing to be nervous. It means you're ready."

Kane, Saad bring back the Blackhawks playoff mullet

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The mullet is back. And it has a new friend.

Patrick Kane, whose "business in the front, party in the back" hairstyle became a fan favorite during the Blackhawks' run to the 2010 Stanley Cup, decided to regrow the mullet for the 2013 playoffs. And he convinced rookie Brandon Saad to do it, too.

"His looks pretty good," Kane said. "I think it's fun, and it's good for a laugh or two. It's something that's been a little bit of a tradition since we started in the playoffs. I've had some fun with it, and I think a lot of people that follow the Blackhawks have had some fun with it, too. That's all it's really for."

When they got their haircuts on Monday, Saad went first. Besides the short cut up front and the long hair in the back, Saad got two old-school lines carved into his temples. Kane then got three.

"I've got to earn my stripes," Saad said.

Kane said he was glad to have company this time.

"I don't know if I would have done it [by myself]," he said. "I mean, I probably would have done it either way, but it's kind of fun to have a young rookie along to do it with you. He's had a great year, too. So hopefully it's something he can enjoy it for a couple months."

Not everyone's a fan.

"I think it's terrible," Jamal Mayers, who shaves his head, said. "I think he's trying to handicap himself."

Meanwhile, Brandon Bollig shaved his head, and Johnny Oduya shaved down the sides of his hair into a sort of faux-hawk.

Kane grew the first playoff mullet because he couldn't grow a real playoff beard. Saad, meanwhile, is planning to do both.

"I'll do the beard," he said. "Clean shaved yesterday, but hopefully I'll be growing it for a couple months here."

No word yet on whether Joel Quenneville will grow out his famed mustache into a Fu Manchu, or try for Rollie Fingers-style handlebars.

Blackhawks enter playoffs with something to prove

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The Blackhawks set an NHL record with a 21-0-3 start. They won the Presidents' Trophy as the league's best team. They won the Jennings Trophy as the league's stingiest team. They wildly exceeded any reasonable expectations.

And none of it means anything anymore.

"It's fresh, it's a clean slate," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're all in the same boat."

Indeed, when the puck drops Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals between the Hawks and the Minnesota Wild, the regular season already will be a distant memory.

"Obviously, a lot gets made of that sort of thing in the regular season," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "Some good stories there, and we're certainly proud of those accomplishments. But the guys in the room, we've never brought that stuff up once. It's always all been about the playoffs and trying to elevate our game now. This is where it counts."

The Hawks will be without center Dave Bolland (groin) and backup goaltender Ray Emery (lower-body injury) for Game 1. Henrik Karlsson will back up Corey Crawford. Quenneville said both Bolland and Emery are "day to day."

"We're hopeful that they're going to be on the ice real soon," he said. "We expect them on the ice real soon."

Much of the talk in the dressing room following Monday's practice -- during which the power play was a focus -- centered around the disappointment of two straight first-round playoff exits since the Hawks won the Stanley Cup in 2010, and how the frustration has driven them. And after a regular season which saw them lose just seven games in regulation, expectations couldn't be higher.

"Everybody's got something to prove," Quenneville said. "When you look at the season we had, and the success we had, the expectations are in place -- whether they're expectations from our fans, from our organization, from one another. I think that's a healthy situation. We should be going into the playoffs knowing anything can happen, and we're very respectful for our opponent. You look at their lines and their lineup, it's a dangerous team. But we're going to be concentrating on what we have to do, and we should all be motivated to continue on what we accomplished this season."

Blackhawks-Wild series schedule released

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The NHL announced the schedule for the first four games of the Blackhawks-Wild first-round Stanley Cup playoffs series.

  • Game 1: Tuesday at 7, United Center (CSN, NBC Sports Network)
  • Game 2: Friday at, 8:30 p.m. United Center (CSN, NBC Sports Network).
  • Game 3: Sunday at 2 p.m., Xcel Energy Center (NBC)
  • Game 4: Tuesday, May 7 at 8:30 p.m., Xcel Energy Center (CSN, NBC Sports Network)
  • *Game 5: Thursday, May 9, TBD, United Center (CSN)
  • *Game 6: Saturday, May 11, TBD, XCel Energy Center (CSN)
  • *Game 7: Sunday, May 12, TBD United Center (CSN)

* If necessary

For the Blackhawks, the result of Saturday night's season-finale in St. Louis wasn't nearly the most important one of the night.

"We mentioned having a TV on the bench," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville joked before the game.

And by the time the Hawks -- with eight rookies and a few usual scratches in the lineup as the top stars got the night off -- started the third period, down 3-0, the real news of the day was already out. The Hawks will face the Minnesota Wild in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, likely beginning Wednesday at the United Center.

The Wild staved off the Colorado Avalanche 2-1, rendering Columbus' dramatic victory over Nashville moot. The Detroit Red Wings beat the Dallas Stars to take the seventh seed. They'll face the Anaheim Ducks in the first round.

The Hawks are 2-0-1 against the Wild this season. Minnesota handed the Hawks their first loss of the season, 3-2 in a shootout, on Jan. 30. On March 5 at the United Center, Bryan Bickell scored two of the Hawks' four first-period goals in a 5-3 victory. And on April 9 in St. Paul, Marian Hossa had the lone goal and Ray Emery made it stand up in a 1-0 shutout.

Saturday night's season finale at St. Louis meant absolutely nothing to the Blackhawks, but it meant an awful lot to the Blues, who were fighting for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

So the fifth-place Kings and sixth-place Sharks -- both of which entered Saturday within striking distance of fourth -- couldn't have been thrilled to see Hawks coach Joel Quenneville leave nearly all of his top players in Chicago, or start a goaltender, Carter Hutton, making his NHL debut.

Too bad, Quenneville said.

"We're worried about our own business," Quenneville said before the game. "And I think we've got to give some credit to the lineup that's playing tonight. Hopefully they surprise everybody."

Among those Quenneville left home were Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, Brandon Saad, Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Viktor Stalberg and Marcus Kruger. Among those inserted into the lineup were AHL scoring champion Brandon Pirri, Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, Drew LeBlanc, Ben Smith, Ryan Stanton, Shawn LaLonde and Adam Clendening.

The Sharks didn't complain.

"They've earned the right to do whatever they want to do with their team," Sharks coach Todd McLellan told the San Jose Mercury News.

Added Sharks defenseman Brad Stuart: "You can't control that kind of stuff. If we were in that same position, we might be doing the same thing."

Quenneville said the decision was made because of timing -- with the Hawks at the end of a busy stretch that included a four-day Western Canada trip and six games in nine days -- and not to protect his top players from the physical, antagonizing play of the Blues. In the teams' last meeting, at the Scottrade Center on April 14, Blues center David Backes was all over Toews throughout the game, trying to goad him into a fight and then actually sending him to the dressing room briefly with a knee injury.

Quenneville expected a spirited effort from the IceHog-laden lineup, as the young players -- all of whom have played with the Hawks, other than Hutton and Stanton -- surely looked at the game as a one-game audition both for next season, and for the playoffs should injuries occur and replacements be necessary.

"It's a great opportunity," Quenneville said. "Some of these guys, they deserve to play. It's not like they're not familiar with how we play. It's a chance to see them, as well. As we go along here, guys can show us what they can do, because they're not that far away from helping us."

Handzus could be Blackhawks' new second-line center

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Before Michal Handzus fired a perfect stretch pass -- blue line to blue line -- right on the tape of a streaking Patrick Kane for a breakaway goal in the second period Wednesday night in Edmonton, Handzus took the puck right off of an onrushing Taylor Hall's stick.

He also might have taken Dave Bolland's job in the process.

With Bolland still out with a groin injury, Handzus split time with rookie Drew LeBlanc as the Blackhawks' second-line center in Edmonton, skating between Patrick Sharp and Kane. And Joel Quenneville liked what he saw.

"I think last game we found out on the trial situation that Handzus played pretty good with those guys, and it gives us another option as we go along here," Quenneville said "Sometimes you find things out, sometimes it works over the short term, and sometimes hopefully it goes a little longer. On a need basis, guys take advantage of opportunities."

The 36-year-old Handzus, a 14-year NHL veteran, had mostly been playing with the third and fourth lines since he was acquired from San Jose on April 1, before the trade deadline. After posting just one goal and one assist in 28 games with the Sharks, he's got a goal and five assists in 10 games with the Hawks. He's also won 57.3 percent of his faceoffs (Bolland has won 46.1 percent of his draws this season).

Bolland has played in 35 games this season, dealing with various injuries. Sharp will be playing in just his 28th game Friday night against Calgary.

"We've had our fair share of injuries it seems like on that line this year," Kane said. "I thought myself, Handzus and Sharp played really well the other night together, and had some chemistry. So hopefully we can do that again tonight."

And possibly beyond. Bolland -- who made his name as a third-line irritant, particularly in postseason play -- has struggled at times on the second line this season, especially after Sharp suffered his shoulder injury on March 6. He's got seven goals and seven assists but a minus-7 rating (the only Hawks regular who's a minus). But Quenneville has expressed his confidence in Bolland all season. But if he feels Handzus is a better fit there, he won't hesitate to make the change permanent.

"Sometimes those decisions are made for us based on our play," Quenneville said. "Whether we need changes or not."

NOTEWORTHY: Ray Emery (lower-body injury) and Bolland won't make the trip to St. Louis for Saturday's season finale. ... Defenseman Ryan Stanton was called up from Rockford (whose season ended last week) on Friday, but won't play tonight. Eight other players from Rockford -- forwards Jimmy Hayes, Jeremy Morin, Brandon Pirri and Ben Smith; defensemen Adam Clendening, Shawn Lalonde and Steve Montador; and goaltender Henrik Karlsson -- were all called up after Friday's morning skate.
Quenneville said he plans to play his regular lineup tonight, but will rest some guys Saturday in St. Louis.

Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery leaves game early

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Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery left Wednesday night's game at Edmonton with about 6:11 left in the first period after apparently suffering an injury. Corey Crawford replaced him.

Emery dressed as Crawford's backup on Monday night in Vancouver, but missed the previous two games with an unspecified lower-body injury. Carter Hutton, called up from Rockford when Emery was first hurt, has been traveling with the Hawks, and under NHL rules can be used in an emergency situation.

Duncan Keith said he had "no intent" on Monday night during a testy exchange with a female reporter in Vancouver. He didn't offer a direct apology, instead saying that he respects all reporters, male and female.

"Over the years, people that have dealt with me know I respect the reporters, and I respect everybody's jobs and what they do," Keith said Wednesday morning in Edmonton. "Sometimes especially after a loss, I can be fired up. I don't like to lose. I get frustrated when I lose. Call me a sore loser, maybe. I think that's part of it, that after a tough loss, I was frustrated from losing, and to me that's all it was."

During the exchange, Karen Thomson of TEAM-1040 in Vancouver asked Keith a few times whether he thought he deserved a penalty for his two-handed stick swing as Daniel Sedin broke in on Corey Crawford for a breakaway (the referee actually had his hand raised, but the delayed call was wiped out by Sedin's goal).

"Well, it looked like maybe there was a penalty that went undetected, you seemed a bit frustrated," Thomson said.

"Oh, no, I don't think there was anything," Keith responded. "I think he scored a nice goal and the ref was right there. That's what the ref saw. We should get you as a ref maybe, eh?"

"Yeah, maybe," Thomson said.

"First female referee?" Keith replied.

"I can't skate, though," Thomson answered.

"Can't play probably either, right?" Keith said.

Thomson said "No" and laughed.

"But you're thinking the game like you know it?" Keith said. "Yeah, see ya."

The comments set off a firestorm on social media.

"I guess it did get a lot of attention, obviously," Keith said Wednesday to a throng of reporters. "Everybody's here right now. But for me, I've moved on."

Thomson, in a tweet on Tuesday, said: "Hockey is an emotional game and things are often said in the heat of the moment. I think this is what happened last night. I've moved on."

When asked if he needed to apologize or call Thomson, Keith said: "There was no intent from my point. I respect everybody, I respect everybody's job and I've dealt with a lot of different people over the years. Sometimes I get fired up, I don't like to lose. And sometimes I can be -- I get frustrated after a loss and that's, to me, where it was at. That's the story."

NOTEWORTHY: Patrick Sharp will be back in the lineup tonight against Edmonton, and Ray Emery will start in goal. Drew LeBlanc, the Hobey Baker Award winner out of St. Cloud State, will make his NHL debut, centering Sharp and Patrick Kane. Joel Quenneville was optimistic that Dave Bolland (groin) will be back in time for the playoffs next week.

Here's the full audio of Duncan Keith's postgame media session. The exchange in question begins at the 1:26 mark:

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith got into a testy exchange with a Vancouver radio reporter following Monday's loss to the Canucks. The reporter thought Keith should have been penalized for a two-handed stick swipe he took as Daniel Sedin finished his breakaway in the second period for the Canucks' third goal. Here's the complete exchange, which sparked a lot of discussion in Vancouver on Monday night:

Reporter: Can you talk about what happened after the Daniel Sedin goal?

Keith: Which one was that one?

Reporter: Third goal.

Keith: Third one? Um, we scored one goal after that, I think. And then the game ended 3-1.

Reporter: Right after the goal when you were on the ice, right after he scored.

Keith: They scored. I went off the ice and took a minus. I don't know, what are you talking about?

Reporter: Just checking.

Keith: What did you see?

Reporter: Well, it looked like maybe there was a penalty that went undetected. You seemed a bit frustrated.

Keith: Oh, no, I don't think there was anything. I think he scored a nice goal and the ref was right there. That's what the ref saw. We should get you as a ref maybe, eh?

Reporter: Yeah, maybe.

Keith: First female referee?

Reporter: I can't skate, though.

Keith: Can't play probably either, right?

Reporter: No (laughing).

Keith: But you're thinking the game like you know it? Yeah, see ya.

Karen Thomson, the reporter from 1040-AM Vancouver, tweeted after the game: "So I think my exchange with Duncan Keith is renewing the #Canucks #Blackhawks rivalry! Lol #heldmyown."

On Tuesday morning, she followed that up with this: "Hockey is an emotional game and things are often said in the heat of the moment. I think this is what happened last night. I've moved on."

The Blackhawks and the Vancouver Canucks don't bond over much -- other than their mutual dislike for each other -- but the Canucks know exactly what faces the Hawks in the first round of the playoffs, and just how tough it might be.

Vancouver won the Presidents' Trophy -- which the Hawks are on the verge of clinching -- each of the past two seasons. Two years ago, they made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final before losing to the Boston Bruins. But last year, they were bounced by the eight-seeded Los Angeles Kings in five games.

"It's very difficult," Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider said. "Sometimes those teams have been battling for their lives just to get into the playoffs, and they're in that mode and they're hard to play against."

But Schneider raved about the talent and leadership on the Hawks roster, and said he doesn't think they'll have any trouble turning it back on again in the playoffs after a relatively pressure-free final couple of weeks of the regular season.

"I don't think they've really turned anything off right now," Schneider said. "They seem to be going better than any team in the league right now. Thew personnel they have in that room, I don't think will allow them to cruise into the playoffs. I'm sure they're going to go full throttle."

Canucks forward Chris Higgins agreed.

"They have so many veterans in that room, guys that have won the Stanley Cup," he said. "The way they're playing, I don't think they're going to have any letdowns."

ROSTER UPDATE: Patrick Sharp (shoulder) missed his fifth straight game on Monday. But Joel Quenneville said it was "highly likely" he'd return Wednesday at Edmonton. ... Ray Emery (lower-body) was back in uniform as Corey Crawford's backup after missing two straight games. ... Michal Rozsival is questionable with an upper-body injury, though he did practice. ... Michal Handzus is a likely scratch tonight after getting in a lot of extra work during the morning skate. ... Brandon Bollig and Daniel Carcillo are both likely in the lineup tonight.

Blackhawks' Hossa nominated for Masterton Trophy

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There were times when Marian Hossa wondered if he'd ever make it back from the severe concussion he suffered during last season's playoffs, when Phoenix's Raffi Torres left his feet and delivered a crushing elbow to Hossa's head. Times when his head just wouldn't clear, when the headaches just wouldn't fade.

"Especially the beginning, it was really, really difficult," the Blackhawks winger said. "You start thinking, 'What if this, what if that' in the future. But thank God everything went pretty good. I took lots of time off and after that, I started training, and I think it was the right decision."

It took nearly seven months for Hossa to be cleared, shortly before Thanksgiving. For his tireless work to get back on the ice in the face of severe injury, and for his charity work both in Chicago and his native Slovakia, Hossa has been nominated by the Chicago chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy. The Masterton is awarded for perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to the sport of hockey. Each team in the league has one nominee.

"Hossa's Heroes" works with children both in Chicago and Slovakia, providing community service and educational support, as well as youth hockey equipment for children whose families can't afford it.

"I love to help out," he said. "Everything's so expensive. It's a hard time for parents, not just in Slovakia... to put money into sports."

Blackhawks Stanley Cup Playoff tickets on sale now

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In case you needed another reminder -- tickets to rounds 1 and 2 of the Blackhawks Stanley Cup playoffs went on sale at noon today.

Get them now if they're not gone already.

Sharp out, Bolland back in for Blackhawks vs. Blues

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Patrick Sharp's return to the lineup lasted two games.

After missing 14 games with a shoulder injury, Sharp played in the last two Blackhawks games, wins over Minnesota and Detroit. But he didn't make the trip to St. Louis for today's game against the Blues, and is doubtful for Monday's home game against the Dallas Stars.

Hawks coach Joel Quenneville demurred when asked if it was the same shoulder that was injured March 6, only saying Sharp was "day to day" with an "upper-body injury." Quenneville didn't think it was a serious injury.

"No, he should be fine," he said.

Center Dave Bolland will be back in the lineup today after missing four straight games with a lower-leg injury.

As for St. Cloud State center Drew LeBlanc, who was signed by the Hawks on Friday, the same night he won the Hobey Baker Award as college hockey's top player, he won't be in the lineup today, but Quenneville said he might see some action in the Hawks' final seven games.

"He gets a chance to be on the ice with us and we'll get to see him," Quenneville said. "He could play some games. Organizationally, they picked up him and we're happy to have him so we'll see how it goes. Our guys get to see him. He's got some skill and he's got some real patience with the puck and he's a nice point-producer this year as well in the middle."

Athletes and coaches like to say they treat every game the same, but there are always showdowns that feel a little different, a little heightened, a little more important. And games against the Detroit Red Wings have always meant a little more to the Blackhawks, just as they have to the well-lubricated fans in the 300 level of the United Center.

"You can feel it going into games, you can feel the buzz in the crowd during games -- the animosity, not just from the players, you can sense it from the fans," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "They even have their chants that represent that."

Indeed, Friday night's game (the 725th meeting all-time between the teams) won't be the last time "De-troit Sucks!" echoes through the Madhouse, but unless the two teams meet in the playoffs -- a distinct first-round possibility -- it was the last time it happened during a game between division and conference rivals. The Red Wings are headed to the Eastern Conference next season as part of the NHL's sweeping realignment.

And love them or hate them (OK, hate them), they'll surely be missed in Chicago.

"I don't mind the new realignment that the league decided to go with, but the one thing that does suck is not playing the Red Wings a number of times," Hawks winger Patrick Sharp said. "I think the fans will always appreciate the rivalry, and when we do see them it'll be a special game. I like going to Detroit and playing in their building, I like it when they come here. They're fun games to play in."

Sharp actually hopes absence makes the hate grow fonder.

"Sometimes, when you play a team six or eight times in a season, people think that builds a rivalry, but sometimes it kills them because you see the same faces over and over," he said. "Seeing these guys once or twice a year, you'll get fired up for those games, the fans will too, and maybe that'll spark things."

The new realignment will have every Western Conference team play every Eastern Conference team twice each season, once in each city.

"We're going to play them next year, we'll still have a home and home," Detroit defenseman Brendan Smith said. "I don't think you can ever lose a rivalry. It'll just be heightened when we do play them."

And if the season ended today, the Hawks and Red Wings would meet in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs -- a fitting conclusion to their tenure as conference rivals.

"It would be a lot of fun," Smith said. "I think everybody in the hockey world would love that. It'd be a lot of fun for us and a lot of fun for everybody."

Crawford back in, Bolland still out for Blackhawks

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Crawford back in net
Corey Crawford will return to the Blackhawks goal on Friday against the Detroit Red Wings for the first time in eight days, and he's anxious to finally get back out there. Not because he feels he's lost his spot as the Hawks' No. 1 goalie, not because he feels he needs to keep pace with Ray Emery, who has three shutouts in his last five starts.

"I just want to play because it's fun to play," Crawford said. "I enjoy playing."

The Hawks continued to downplay any notion of a goaltender controversy on Thursday and continued to play up the pleasant "problem" of having two guys playing at an elite level.

"These guys, they want to be THE guy," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "But at the same time, they know when they're not the guy, it's all about the team."

Crawford said the competition has benefitted both players, and that neither is concerned or hurting for confidence with less than three weeks to go before the playoffs begin.

"We feed off each other," he said. "We have a great relationship off the ice. We're definitely pushing each other to be at our best, and so far it's been great for both of us, and the team's winning. ... Ray's been playing great. It's a team game and we want to win. There's definitely nothing wrong when the team's winning. I've just got to work hard and be prepared when I get the call."

Quenneville has said that he'd like to have one goalie establish himself as the No. 1 in time for the playoffs. But the idea of a postseason platoon hasn't been taken off the table just yet.

"You never know," Crawford said. "We've done a great job of it this year. Who knows? But the whole year we've gone game y game, and we haven't gotten ahead of ourselves. So why do that now?"

Bolland close to returning
Hawks center Dave Bolland was back on the ice for Thursday's practice at Johnny's IceHouse West, but he won't be in the lineup on Friday. Quenneville said he hoped Bolland could be back for Sunday's game at St. Louis.

Bolland took a slap shot from Nashville's Shea Weber off the lower leg last Monday. He returned the following game, and reaggravated the injury.

"It was about a 102-mph shot, goes by pretty quick," Bolland said. "Just aggravated it again. Things like that are always a pain in the ass. You feel like your'e ready, and then it sort of aggravates it a little bit."

Bolland's not taking his time, despite the Hawks' lofty position in the standings.

"I want to rush back, I want to play," he said. "It's never fun sitting out and watching games or getting skated out there."

Wish granted
Nine-year-old James Ensign of Barrington, who has battled leukemia, skated with the Hawks as part of the Make-A-Wish charity. He scored on Crawford during the shootout portion of practice, then worked on faceoffs with Jonathan Toews and Jamal Mayers.

If you liked Mark Lazerus' story on the "Sweet Science" of hockey fighting, then you'll love some of these classics:

Let's look at that Keith Magnuson vs. Dave Schultz fight again:

How about Daniel Carcillo before he came to the Hawks:

Then there's this classic:

If Joel Quenneville has indeed decided that Corey Crawford is his No. 1 goaltender, as both he and Ray Emery suggested last week, he has a funny way of showing it.

Emery will start in net tonight as the Blackhawks visit the Minnesota Wild. It will be Emery's third straight start after a weekend home-and-home sweep of the Nashville Predators.

"It gives him a little bit more, based on how he's playing," Quenneville said. "It gives him a chance to get some consecutive games and see how he handles it.'

Crawford likely will start Friday at home against the Detroit Red Wings. It'll be his first start in more than a week, but Quenneville said he's not concerned about Crawford's confidence.

Quenneville continued to say he has the utmost confidence in both of his goaltenders. But with less than three weeks left in the regular season, he'll likely have to settle on one soon.

"We've got 10 games left," he said. "Both guys, I'm sure, will be playing as we go along here. It's a good situation where we're comfortable with both guys. Both guys have been playing well. We'll see how it goes."

Patrick Sharp -- who has missed 14 straight games since suffering a shoulder injury on March 6 -- will return to the lineup tonight for the Blackhawks when they face the Minnesota Wild.

"I'm not too anxious, more excited," the left winger said after Tuesday's morning skate at the XCel Energy Center. "I want to get out there. I'm back and it feels good to join the team. It's always tough when you sit out for a long period of time, those first couple of shifts seem a little faster than they normally are. But we have a great team and I'm just happy to kind of fit in again."

The initial diagnosis was for Sharp to miss three to four weeks. It's been five, as Hawks coach Joel Quenneville was extra cautious given the team's front-running status. Sharp has been on the ice for more than three weeks. So he's particularly eager to get out there.

"It was frustrating because I could skate and shoot pretty good at two weeks," Sharp said. "And it took two or three more to actually be able to take contact and do some other things to allow me to play. Then you go out there and your'e skating with the coaches and trainers and you can shoot pucks and skate good and you feel like you can play, but there's so much more that goes into it. So that was the frustrating part. But as far as the doctors' time frame, we're right where we need to be."

Sharp has been back at practice and taking contact for more than a week, so he's not concerned about taking that first hit tonight.

"I don't have much tension," he said. "I'm not worried about it. The team's done a good job of preparing me to come back and play physically. Mentally, that's up to me to get past the injury and just know I'm confident and ready to go."

Linemate Patrick Kane was happy to have him back.

"Sharpie's a guy that can boost pretty much the whole lineup, from 5-on-5 play to power play to the penalty kill to 4-on-4. He plays in every situation, so he's going to be a huge boost, for sure."

With 10 games left in the season, and the Hawks already having clinched a playoff berth, Sharp's goal is the same as the team's -- to get better each game and try to peak for the playoffs. After more than a month off, Sharp will have the advantage of fresh legs -- and genuine excitement to be back on the ice.

"I'm hungry and fresh, ready to get out there," he said. "You miss one game and you're itching to get back in the lineup. I'm not even sure the number I've missed, but enough is enough. I'm excited to be back and happy to be with the guys again."

Bolland, Sharp out for Blackhawks vs. Predators

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The Blackhawks will be without both Patrick Sharp and Dave Bolland when they visit the Nashville Predators on Saturday. Neither made the trip.

Sharp continues to wait for clearance to return from a shoulder injury suffered on March 6. The Hawks said Bolland has a lower-body injury. Bolland took a Shea Weber shot off the foot in Monday's win over Nashville. He tried to return, but had to leave the game. He did play the full game, including overtime, against St. Louis on Thursday.

Saturday's game is the front end of a home-and-home with the Predators, who visit the United Center again on Sunday.

Hossa in, Sharp still out for Blackhawks vs. Blues

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The Blackhawks only made a minor-league deal in the hours leading up to Wednesday's trade deadline, but they will be adding a 430-goal scorer to their lineup for Thursday's game against St. Louis.

Marian Hossa, who has missed seven straight games with an apparent shoulder injury, will play against the Blues.

"I felt good [at practice Wednesday], so there's no reason to wait longer," said Hossa, who skated in his usual spot at right wing alongside Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews.

Patrick Sharp, however, will miss his 12th straight game with a shoulder injury. He said he's still "very close," but has yet to be cleared to play.

"Trust me, it sucks sitting there watching games," Sharp said. "I want to be out there and as soon as I'm allowed to, I'll be playing."

Dave Bolland, who hurt his foot blocking a Shea Weber shot on Monday, was back on the ice Wednesday and will be in the lineup Thursday, Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. Patrick Kane was sick and missed practice, but Quenneville expects him to play.

Blackhawks make another minor-league deal

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The Blackhawks made another minor-league trade on Wednesday, a few hours before the 2 p.m. trade deadline, sending tough guy Rob Flick from the AHL Rockford IceHogs to the Boston Bruins for minor-league center Maxime Sauve.

Sauve has 10 goals and 13 assists in 52 games for the Providence Bruins. He played one NHL game last season. He was a second-round pick by Boston in 2008.

Flick had three goals, two assists and 97 penalty minutes in 51 games with the IceHogs this season. He had seven goals and six assists last season. He was a fourth-round pick in 2010.

It was the first trade of the day in the NHL, as most teams made their big moves on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, the Hawks dealt Rockford forward Philppe Paradis to the Lightning for the rights to Cornell junior defenseman Kirill Gotovets.

Hawks swing minor deal, opening up a roster spot

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There's been a flurry of activity around the NHL the day before Wednesday's 2 p.m. trade deadline -- Jaromir Jagr to Boston and Ryan Clowe to the Rangers among the bigger moves -- but the Blackhawks have stood relatively pat. It doesn't mean they're done quite yet, though.

After adding veteran center Michal Handzus on Monday, the Hawks dealt Rockford forward Philppe Paradis to the Lightning on Tuesday for the rights to Cornell junior defenseman Kirill Gotovets. That opens up a roster spot within the organization for another player should the Hawks make a move before the deadline -- the Hawks now have 49 players under contract. The maximum is 50.

Gotovets, 21, has two goals and 13 assists, along with a plus-22 rating in 80 games over three seasons at Cornell. Paradis, a former first-round pick of the Carolina Hurricanes, had one goal and seven assists in 36 games with the IceHogs this season.

Blackhawks send Hayes, Morin back to Rockford

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The Blackhawks reassigned Jimmy Hayes and Jeremy Morin to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs on Tuesday morning, likely clearing the way for Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa to return to the active roster.

Sharp has been out with a shoulder injury since March 6, and Hayes has taken his spot on the left wing on the second line. Hossa has been out with an apparent shoulder injury since March 18. Michael Frolik has been skating on the top line in his absence, and Morin was called up Friday night and played the last two games on Frolik's usual spot on the fourth line.

Blackhawks trade for Michal Handzus

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The Blackhawks have acquired center Michal Handzus from the San Jose Sharks, a source has confirmed. TSN in Canada is reporting that the Hawks only surrendered a fourth-round draft pick in order to get the 36-year-old veteran.

Handzus, who played eight games for the Hawks in the 2006-07 season, has just one goal and one assist this year -- both coming against the Hawks on Feb. 5 -- in 28 games. What he does bring is size and faceoff skills. He's won 55.6 percent of his draws this season, a facet of the game the Hawks have struggled with this season (other than Jonathan Toews). And at 6-4, 218 pounds, he provides the Hawks with some much-needed size up front. He's spent much of his career as a regular on power play units, with 38 career power play goals and 81 power play assists.

To make room for Handzus on the roster, the Hawks sent Brandon Bollig down to Rockford of the AHL.

If it were May 1, or June 1, and not April 1, Patrick Sharp wouldn't be sitting out tonight.

"It's still not where it needs to be to play," the Blackhawks winger said of his injured shoulder. "But if it was Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I'm sure I'd be out there. When it's ready to go, I'm going to play. I'm not going to miss games just to be cautious. I want to be out there and play whether our team's winning or losing."

That said, the Hawks clearly are being cautious with both Sharp and Hossa, neither of whom will play tonight in the first of three meetings this week against the Nashville Predators. Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said both "could play" Thursday against the Blues, but that he was playing it safe.

"They're real close," he said. "The fact we got a couple extra days here [we can be] more than cautious. More than ready, when they come back, is kind of what we're looking at."


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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