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Jonathan Toews Jersey

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WINNIPEG, Manitoba — As the Blackhawks search for solutions in the midst of another dreadful month, Jonathan Toews knows one thing that would help.

More tips and deflections in front of the net.

“If you watch the playoffs or you watch the tough games of the year, where teams are really competing, playing that playoff-style hockey to try to get points and sneak into the playoffs, it’s how you score goals,” Toews said this week. “You’ve got to have guys to the net, you’ve got to get shots, you’ve got to get tips, rebounds, second efforts.”

Any mention of the subject lights a fire in the captain’s eyes. It’s an aspect of offense that has always come naturally for him, and he remains very good at it, leading the Hawks with 11 shots on goal through tips and deflections.

But for the rest of the team, it’s a major weakness. Brandon Saad is second with nine such shots on goal; David Kampf has eight; no one else has more than five.

In fact, the Hawks rank last in the NHL in percentage of shots on goal that have come off tips and deflections at just 5.1 percent.

When Toews hears that, he perks up even more.

“That’s a big a reason why I keep beating this, [because] we’ve got to generate way more in that area if we want to score five-on-five,” he said. “It’s pretty clear to see.”

Toews challenged the entire locker room before Sunday’s game against the Wild to improve in that category, asking the forwards to get to dirty areas with their head up and the defensemen to focus on getting point shots through cleanly to their intended tip men.

And it worked. The Hawks generated two goals off deflections, just their eighth and ninth such goals this season, when Connor Murphy unleashed sneaky wristers from the blue line. One glanced off Kampf’s stick and in; the other hit either Saad or Dominik Kubalik, or perhaps both, and became the winning goal.

“It seemed like guys were actually fighting over that space in front of the net to try to get it,” Murphy said Sunday. “It almost seemed like that last one tipped off [Kubalik] and Saader. They were battling for that one.”

Yet on Wednesday against the Avalanche and Thursday against the Jets, the Hawks reverted to their old ways and produced little commotion in front of Pavel Francouz and Connor Hellebuyck. Only one of their combined 64 shots on goal in the two contests came off tips and deflections.

“We don’t give ourselves an opportunity to get a bounce,” coach Jeremy Colliton said Wednesday. “[The Avalanche’s] first goal, they had someone at the net, they got a puck through, it’s in. You leave a lot on the table offensively when you’re not doing those things.”

Those games are indicative of how the season has gone. Despite ranking 16th in shooting percentage off tips and deflections, the Hawks are 26th in goals that come from tips and deflections.

Toews hopes they can finally change that soon.

“If we want to score more goals, we’re not going to get it from the perimeter, beating goalies with clean shots,” he said. “Nice to see our forwards get the puck to shooting areas for our defensemen, and nice to see our defensemen finding lanes, and then thirdly, nice to see guys getting sticks on pucks and going to the net and not letting goaltenders see the puck. That’s going to be huge for us.”

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Patrick Kane had a four-point night and the Blackhawks won 4-1 against the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday.

Keeping with the theme, here are four takeaways:

1. Kane singlehandedly led the team to a win

Kane dominated the game in Winnipeg. He played a key role in setting up three Hawks’ goals and executed one himself to grab his 44th point (19 goals, 25 assists) of the season.

Kane, double shifting in the third period, made a play to keep a puck in the offensive zone and spring Dominik Kubalik on a mini breakaway to score 39 seconds into the final frame, making it 2-0 Hawks for his second assist of the game.

He later skated the puck to open ice near the slot and passed it to Erik Gustaffson for a power-play goal, putting the Hawks up 3-1 at 10:58 of the third.

Kane scored stick side from the left circle at 16:39 of the third, making it 4-1 for the final score.

“Thought we had a great start,” Kane said. “Kind of identified the way we want to play. They had a push in the second, obviously we didn’t have a great period, but Robin made some great saves, we hung in there, in a good position 1-0 going into the third. Obviously we get a quick goal and score on the power play, get an insurance marker after that. It’s a good feeling in here.”

2. The Hawks came out strong in the first period

Alex Nylander kicked things off by scoring 59 seconds into the game. Dylan Strome chipped the puck off the boards from the defensive zone, finding Patrick Kane who fed the puck to Nylander to go up 1-0.

The Hawks dominated the first half of the opening frame, dictating the pace and controlling the puck, mostly in the Jets’ zone. Chicago was able to withstand a push from Winnipeg in the second half of the first period with Robin Lehner making some clutch, high-quality saves. Lehner finished the first stopping all 16 Jets’ shots he faced.

3. Hawks were able to weather the storm

The Hawks were outshot 11-0 in the first 10 minutes of the second period and didn’t get a shot on net until 12:32 in. Shots were 14-3 in favor of the Jets at the end of the second, with Chicago still able to hold a 1-0 lead.

4. Another tough injury hurts the Hawks

Brandon Saad left the game with a right ankle injury after taking a hit from Luca Sbisa at 11:38 of the second and needed help getting off the ice. Saad has 19 points (11 goals, eight assists) this season.

The Hawks have had a tough go with injuries lately. Andrew Shaw and Drake Caggiula are still in concussion protocol and today the team announced Brent Seabrook didn’t travel to Winnipeg to undergo “further medical evaluation”. Duncan Keith played his second game back Thursday after missing nine with a groin injury. Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton expects Saad to be out a couple of weeks.

“It’s a little bit of adversity,” Kane said of Saad’s injury. “He’s been great for us all year pretty much. He’s a guy that can push the pace, make a lot of plays by himself, he’s a really good skater obviously, a powerful skater where he can beat defense.”

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Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook didn’t travel to Winnipeg with the team for Thursday’s game after participating in the morning skate and being a healthy scratch on Wednesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

“Defenseman Brent Seabrook did not travel with the team to Winnipeg (undergoing further medical evaluation),” Hawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a release on Thursday a few hours prior to game time.

Seabrook’s healthy scratch on Wednesday was his third of the season in 35 games. The alternate captain and three-time Stanley Cup champ has four-and-a-half years remaining on his contract with a $6.875 million cap hit. The Hawks also play the Avalanche again in Denver on Saturday.

Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said the most recent scratch was to get younger D men like Dennis Gilbert and Adam Boqvist more reps.

Blackhawks veteran defenseman Duncan Keith, who made his return to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the previous nine-game with a groin injury, said it was tough not see his former defensive parter in the game.

“Yeah it is (tough),” Keith said. “I thought he had been playing well. When we’re in the D zone a long time, we could break down every little play. Tough to pin it on one guy out there when there’s five guys.

“I don’t know, I watched the games, I thought he was doing well. I like playing with ‘Boky (Boqvist) out there, and I think Gilbert’s been playing good. But I don’t know. I like playing with Brent, too, when I’m out there.

“He’s always in good positioning, he allows me to play my game that I can get up. I feel my best when I’m being involved in the attack and helping push the play, being up the ice. And when I’ve got that guy that I know is gonna be back as a safety valve, that is comforting for me to know that I can be up on the play and try to help push that pace and keep some pucks in the zone. I don’t want to have to back out every time and play defense.”

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Connor Murphy is making one part of coach Jeremy Colliton’s job — creating and maintaining the Blackhawks’ defensive pairs — very easy.

No matter whom Colliton puts with Murphy, the broad-shouldered, wide-smiled defenseman magically transforms the pairing into a consistent, reliable shutdown duo.

Olli Maatta is the latest beneficiary.

After the Hawks’ 3-0 victory Tuesday against the Stars — a shutout thanks in part to Murphy and Maatta locking down Dallas’ explosive first line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Joe Pavelski — Colliton gave the duo a great review.

“They took the [toughest] matchup, for the most part, and they were good,” Colliton said. “They were clean with the puck when they needed to be. You can’t just defend — you get the puck back, then we’ve got to get out.

“They’re two big bodies, and they’re playing against big bodies, and they did a really good job.”

In the last two games, Murphy-Maatta had shot, shot-on-goal and scoring-chance ratios all above 50 percent despite consistently playing against the Stars’ best forwards.

Thanks to the pairing’s effectiveness, the Hawks allowed only one goal in the home-and-home set against the Stars, who had won 12 of their last 14 games.

Murphy alone equaled that scoring total with his 180-foot empty-net goal, sealing the win Tuesday. It might not have required as much offensive instinct as his first goal of the season (last week against the Hurricanes), but it was certainly well deserved, giving Murphy a little dose of good luck and a box-score reward in exchange for suffering through two groin injuries already this season.

“I have to tip the rink guys for funneling the ice,” he joked afterward. “I think they’ve been digging out a trench for that one.”

When he has been healthy, Murphy has developed nothing less than a Midas touch when it comes to making the Hawks’ haphazard pairings turn golden.

Last season, he made his pairing with Carl Dahlstrom seem like a legitimate shutdown duo for a while — yet Dahlstrom is now nothing more than a healthy scratch for the Jets.

Earlier this season, he made Duncan Keith look like he was back in his prime, forming a dominant No. 1 pairing with the 36-year-old.

Now he has revived Maatta, whose early success alongside Brent Seabrook had long faded.

Murphy’s defensive statistics have become miles better than anyone else in the Hawks’ defensive core. He’s allowing only 51.6 shots per 60 minutes — everyone else is between 56 and 70. He’s allowing only 24.0 scoring chances per 60 minutes — everyone else is between 28 and 34. Same for shots on goal, expected goals and so forth.

With that constant supply of stifling defense, it’s no wonder Murphy provides such a stabilizing effect on the unit overall.

But Maatta merits some credit, too. The former Penguin boasts the second-lowest scoring-chance-against rate on the team and has been excellent since his return to Pittsburgh on Nov. 9 with a 50.7 Corsi rating in the nine games since after limping to a 42.2 rating before then.

Together, the Ohio native and Finland native are growing into a responsible defensive duo that Colliton can rely on. They clearly showed that Tuesday.

“Exiting [the defensive zone], we were skating a lot to try to move it back to the [neutral zone], and that helped us from having too long a shift in our own end,” Murphy said. “We were making more confident plays with the puck. When you skate and talk and use outlets, I think it makes your life a lot easier.”

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Another night and another awful showing by the Blackhawks team defense, and this time, Robin Lehner let the team hear about it. Pat Boyle, Adam Burish and Scott King discuss the Blackhawks’ ugly loss to the Coyotes and whether there should be some more line mixing happening soon. Plus, head athletic trainer Mike Gapski took part in his 2500th game with the Blackhawks and he sat down with Pat Foley 1-on-1 to re-live his 33 years with the organization.

1:13 – The odd-man rushes are piling up against this defense

5:54 – Is the power play getting going kinda maybe a little bit?

7:43 – Should Jeremy Colliton mix up the lines once again?

9:20 – The Kirby Dach playing-time dilemma

13:45 – Celebrating Mike Gapski’s 2500 games with the Blackhawks

17:00 – Pat Foley’s 1-on-1 interview with Mike Gapski

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

Dominik Kubalik Jersey

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Dominik Kubalik is a logical fit on the wing with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad. He’s an accurate, shoot-first finisher who can bury the chances that Toews and Saad, two elite puck-movers, regularly create but so often can’t translate into goals themselves.

So the fact that Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton waited two months — stubbornly forcing a square peg, Alex Nylander, into a round hole even after Nylander’s early chemistry had long since evaporated — before trying Kubalik in that role was perplexing.

On Sunday against the Coyotes, Colliton finally did so — and the early results were promising.

“They just told me to be open, because both of them like to play with the puck, and especially in the corners,” Kubalik said Monday. “I’m just trying to be in the slot or in front of the net to give them the opportunity to shoot [or pass] it.

“I was just trying to fit in, and I think it was right.”

The switch resulted in the best night the Hawks’ official first line has experienced in weeks. The Toews-Saad-Kubalik line accounted for both of the Hawks’ five-on-five goals in an eventual 4-3 shootout loss — the first a goal by Toews off a feed by defenseman Calvin de Haan, the second a tip-in by Kubalik of a shot by defenseman Connor Murphy after Toews won a faceoff in the offensive zone. The first line also dominated possession throughout the night, finishing with a lopsided 11-5 advantage in scoring chances.

For Kubalik, who began his rookie season brilliantly alongside Saad and David Kampf but endured a rocky November, a game like that had been a long time coming.

“I’m trying to do my best, but I know that during this season [there have] already been a couple up-and-downs, when I didn’t play the right way,” he said. “Especially without the puck, I’ve got to still work on it. So [I’m] really happy I get the opportunity to play with those two guys.”

Colliton has been hard on Kubalik for his defensive work ethic and his consistency from shift to shift, and although he admitted after practice Monday that Kubalik was “really skating and making confident plays” against the Coyotes, he implied he still hasn’t seen the 24-year-old Czech winger reach the desired level of consistency.

Kubalik will likely never be a defensive specialist, but improved off-puck play could nonetheless give him more opportunities to showcase his skills with the puck.

“I’m trying to use my strength, and that’s my speed and my shot,” he said. “But you need to have the puck to use it, so I’m just trying to be the quickest possible to get the puck on my tape again.”

Even before Kubalik reaches his peak potential, he already seems like a good option for the first-line wing. Since the start of training camp, that final top-six spot has been a hole in this lineup; Kane, Toews, Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome and Saad are all clear top-six scorers, but there’s no obvious sixth guy on the roster. Colliton tried Nylander, Andrew Shaw and Kirby Dach, but none stuck.

Kubalik could buck that trend. His skills, combined with Toews’ and Saad’s, cover all the bases.

And even if Colliton isn’t fully convinced yet, his lineup decisions Sunday showed he’s open to the idea.

“Different guys are going to get the opportunity [to fill that spot] based on how they’re playing, and that’s just part of the process we’re going through,” Colliton said. “We have a lot of young players who have the potential to break through and do that for us. It’s just a race to try to make that happen.”

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DENVER — After a lopsided home loss Wednesday to the Avalanche, defenseman Duncan Keith called for the Blackhawks to start playing ‘‘pissed off’’ hockey.

In the two games since, with a vintage Keith at the forefront, the Hawks have followed his lead.

The Hawks roared back with four third-period goals Saturday to stun the Avalanche 5-3, a drastic reversal from the three blowout losses they had suffered against them since Nov. 29.

‘‘That’s what it’s going to take to turn it around,’’ Keith said. ‘‘It’s not going to be anything else other than the guys in the room. And I thought we had a good game from start to finish.’’

The Hawks controlled the second period and produced a whopping 16 scoring chances in those 20 minutes, but they trailed 3-1. Despite the Hawks’ strong work ethic in the wake of their equally determined road performance Thursday in Winnipeg, being swept in the season series seemed inevitable.

But that wasn’t the feeling in the locker room.

‘‘We came here in the intermission and just knew we were going to come back,’’ said goalie Robin Lehner, who finished with 28 saves. ‘‘We came out patient, we didn’t take any unnecessary risks, we stuck with it, we got a goal to gain momentum and here we go.’’

It was a goal by Patrick Kane with 8:38 left that provided that momentum; a goal by rookie Kirby Dach — his first in 17 games — 28 seconds later that tied the score; a snipe by Dominik Kubalik off a brilliant setup by Kane that gave the Hawks a late lead; and another 180-foot empty-netter by Connor Murphy that sealed the result.

Keith, meanwhile, was the rock through it all, handling his 26 minutes, 24 seconds like a 10-years-younger man and controlling play on every shift.

None of those things is particularly surprising, given the flashes of potential the Hawks have demonstrated this season.

But the fact they came all together is something new and encouraging. The Hawks’ light, which appearing to be on its final flame a few days ago, now has some new life.

‘‘We do have a lot of character in our group, and we have shown that we’re not going to quit,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said. ‘‘But the next step for us is to bring it all the time, not just when our backs are completely against the wall. That’s how we’re going to finally break through.’’

Sikura benched quickly

Forward Dylan Sikura re-entered the Hawks’ lineup for the first time in six games, spent the first period on the top line with Kubalik and captain Jonathan Toews, then was thrust back into Colliton’s doghouse.

Kane was inserted into Sikura’s spot — which had been Brandon Saad’s spot in recent weeks until his ankle injury Thursday — at the start of the second period, and Sikura took only three more shifts the rest of the game.

Injury updates

The Hawks put Saad on injured reserve. Colliton said the two-week timeline given immediately after the injury occurred Thursday against the Jets is ‘‘still relatively the same,’’ but he’s not counting on him returning exactly then because ‘‘it’s just so far away.’’

Defenseman Calvin de Haan is thought to be seeking multiple medical opinions on his options for fixing his right shoulder. But a surgery similar to the one he had in May with the Hurricanes seems likely, and that would require a four- to six-month recovery.

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When Blackhawks defenseman Dennis Gilbert skated after Jason Demers, hitting him into the boards, challenging him to fight and beating the doors off him in the second period with Chicago leading 3-2, he was sticking up for a teammate and trying to give the Hawks some life, but it cost them a puck in their own net.

So was it the right move?

“It is if we kill it,” Blackhawks head coach Jeremy Colliton said of the Hawks being forced to kill Gilbert’s instigator penalty. “And I think it sends a good message to the rest of the players that we’re in this together and we’re going to take care of each other.

“But I would have liked us to react better the rest of the game after that and that’s what we should do to protect each other. I thought that the penalty kill, we were looking for goals at times and when we had the chance to get the puck 200 feet down the ice, we didn’t always do that. And I’m not against scoring goals, but let’s be smart about it. It cost us.”

Gilbert was responding to Demers’ hit on Alex DeBrincat in front of the Coyotes’ bench near center ice that caused DeBrincat to fall hard into the wall.

“Well, I think it was [a] pretty blatant [penalty] that was missed,” Hawks defenseman Calvin de Haan said. “Alex’s head went right off the boards. I don’t know how they didn’t call that one. But good on Dennis to step up and sometimes it takes a big set of cajones to do that.

“He tried to get a spark for us and I think trying to stick up for your teammates is still part of the game, especially on a hit like that. Kudos to him and I think it was a key time in the game for us and he tried to turn the tables for us.”

Gilbert received the instigator for going after Demers, which resulted in a Coyotes’ power-play goal from Carl Soderberg. It was Gilbert’s second fight in two games.

“I think it fires us up,” DeBrincat said. “I think he’s protecting me. I think he obviously thought it was a dirty hit and takes control of the play.

“I think it makes a good play for me. I like that he does that. Obviously, at the same time we get a penalty out of it which is not always the best.

“I think our bench can roll with that and try to kill that off. Unfortunately, we didn’t. Any other penalty we can probably kill off from that one.”

Sticking up for a teammate in that fashion goes a long way. The Hawks have been missing a player that makes the opposition answer for their sins the way Gilbert does. You’d like to avoid taking an instigator, but the Blackhawks had an issue with a dangerous hit not being penalized.

It’s up to the penalty kill to make that a good penalty. Unfortunately for Gilbert and company, they didn’t get the job done.

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The Chicago Blackhawks would be smart if they went on to trade Erik Gustafsson at or before the trade deadline.

Defenseman Erik Gustafsson is a “roller coaster” type player. He has highlights and low lights during every game it seems. But does that make him an asset that the Chicago Blackhawks can trade before the trade deadline?

Surprisingly, the Blackhawks held onto Gustafsson this season after he put up 60 points in 79 games played last year when they could’ve traded him during the offseason. They would have gotten a couple of decent players and picks in return because his value was so high.
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The Chicago Blackhawks have played in 34 games this season so far. Not surprisingly, Gustafsson is having yet another roller-coaster type season. He has 13 points in 33 games played so far this year, but sadly, he is hurting his trade value on pretty much a nightly basis.

Gustafsson is actually a very solid puck-moving defenseman for the Blackhawks. But other than that he doesn’t really provide much else for the team. Plus, top prospect Adam Boqvist would fit right in if they did end up trading Gustafsson.

He fits well in the Blackhawks system that they have been using over the past few weeks, but I think he’d thrive even more if he was on a team that was in contention for a Stanley Cup.

I can see the Vegas Golden Knights trading for Gustafsson, he’ll fit right in on the power play unit for Vegas. Also, I can see him fitting well with the Montreal Canadiens, who have actually been rumored to acquire Gustafsson. It’ll take a couple of drafts picks for teams to acquire him but i’m pretty sure every team will be willing to give up whatever it takes.

The Blackhawks would be better off moving Gustafsson right now instead of waiting because his value may never be higher than it is right now.

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Blackhawks defenseman Calvin de Haan will likely miss four-to-five months with a right shoulder injury, sources tell Scott Powers of The Athletic.

Chicago head coach Jeremy Colliton, however, did not given an official timeline on de Haan’s status during the team’s practice Saturday in St. Louis.

De Haan re-injured his right shoulder in Chicago’s 5-1 loss to the Golden Knights on Tuesday in Las Vegas. He fell on the shoulder after being hit into the glass in the neutral zone by Mark Stone, who was penalized for interference on the play with 2:14 remaining in the first period. De Haan skated off the ice on his own and immediately went to the team’s dressing room.

The Blackhawks placed him on injured reserve Thursday after he underwent further evaluation in Chicago. It’s the same shoulder de Haan had surgery on in the offseason that sidelined him for four-to-six months. He has one goal and five assists in 29 games this season.

Chicago acquired de Haan and forward Aleksi Saarela from the Hurricanes on June 24 in exchange for defenseman Gustav Forsling and goaltender Anton Forsberg. The Blackhawks then traded Saarela to the Panthers on Oct. 23 for defenseman Ian McCoshen. Saarela has no points in three NHL games with Florida, while Forsling, Forsberg and McCoshen have yet to play in the NHL with their respective new team.

De Haan has two years remaining on his four-year contract worth $4,550,00 million per season.