Tag:Ben Eager
Posted on: March 28, 2011 2:46 am
 

Morning Skate: Chicago makes push minus depth

At some point, the personnel departures had to catch up with the Chicago Blackhawks

Kris Versteeg, Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, Antti Niemi , John Madden, Brent Sopel and Dustin Byfuglien were either dealt or let go after the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup last season, mostly for salary cap reasons. Still, Chicago rallied midseason and were all the way up to fourth place in the Western Conference as recently as March 14.

The Blackhawks have played .500 hockey in the four games since -- including a 2-1 loss to the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday -- and enter tonight’s game against the Detroit Red Wings in the eighth and final playoff spot in the West. 

The slip coincides with recent injuries to Patrick Sharp (knee) and Dave Bolland (concussion). 

Line Changes
  • Eye on Hockey: Vancouver's Hamhuis concussed
  • Pens extend shootout win streak
  • Detroit's Howard day-to-day
  • CBSSports.com playoff tracker

  • Minus the depth of a season ago, the Blackhawks could very well join the 2007 Carolina Hurricanes as the only teams in the last 72 years to miss the playoffs a season after hoisting the Stanley Cup. 

    The Blackhawks, however, are hardly focusing on who they don’t have in the lineup and are looking toward what they have to do to make it into the postseason, Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune reports
    “Maybe we go .500 and maybe that's not good enough," winger Patrick Kane said. "That puts us at 96 and we don't get in. Hopefully, we'll be better than .500."

    So somewhere between four and eight victories would appear to get the Hawks a postseason berth. They have three games remaining against the Wings, and one each against the Bruins, Blue Jackets, Lightning, Canadiens and Blues.

    "It would be nice to win a lot of them," Kane said. "You don't want to put a number on it because you don't want to set any expectations for yourself that are too low. We have to worry about Detroit right now and try to get two points there. It's a tough schedule remaining. You can't look past anyone." 

    The Blackhawks have 88 points, a point ahead of the Calgary Flames and two points up on the Dallas Stars.  Chicago has the second-toughest strength of schedule (.597) -- calculated by points percentage of future opponents --  for the remainder of the season, according to the NHL. 

    Chicago coach Joel Quennville appears to be shuffling around the players he has at his disposal, Jess Rogers of ESPN Chicago reports

    Kane and Jonathan Toews were put with Troy Brouwer at practice on Sunday. Marcus Kruger centered a line with Bryan Bicklel and Marian Hossa. Michael Frolik centered the third line with Jack Dowell and Thomas Kopecky at the wings. Viktor Stalberg, who had been playing with the first line in place of Sharp, moved to the fourth line with Ryan Johnson and Fernando Pisani

    The changes come a day after the forward Corey Perry – part of the Ducks’ top line -- scored twice with Blackhawks’ No. 1 line on the ice. 

    The ‘Hawks could get Sharp, injured March 20 against the Phoenix Coyotes, fairly soon. Quennville said this weekend that Sharp was making “rapid progress.” But the same can’t said for Bolland, who took a hit to the head March 9 that led to a two-game suspension for Tampa’s Pavel Kubina, is apparently still suffering concussion-like symptoms and Quennville said there was no change in his status. 

    SUNDAY’S RESULTS
    Pittsburgh 2, Florida 1 (SO)
    Atlanta 5, Ottawa 4 (SO)
    Vancouver 4, Columbus 1
    Boston 2, Philadelphia 1

    -- A.J. Perez   

    Posted on: March 4, 2011 2:51 am
    Edited on: March 4, 2011 3:10 am
     

    Morning skate: Is this finally San Jose's year?



    The San Jose Sharks, winners of the Western Conference the last two seasons, didn't look like they'd contend for much more than a low playoff seed, if that, just a few weeks back. 

    Then Antti Niemi, the goalie the Sharks acquired from the Stanley Cup champ Chicago Blackhawks last offseason, took over. The Sharks have won 17 of the last 20 games -- all with Niemi in net -- including Thursday's 3-1 victory over Detroit Red Wings at HP Pavilion. Niemi (above) made 26 saves in his latest win.

    The Sharks have won eight in a row, are tops in the Pacific Division and now sit three points behind the Red Wings in the Western Conference. (Here's a look at our playoff tracker.) 

    The Sharks have integrated defensemen Ben Eager (acquired in from the Atlanta in January) and Ian White (acquired from Carolina last month) and are relatively healthy, minus defenseman Dan Boyle (upper-body injury) and goalie Antero Niittymaki (groin). Both are expected to return soon. The taht has a solid stable of forwards -- including Dany Heatley, who had a two-goal effort on Thursday -- and a capable defense. 

    For a team that was a trendy pick for the few seasons to win it all, could this be the season where the Sharks advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history? Maybe even win it all?

    Or, are the Sharks just teasing us again?


    A PLEA IN PHOENIX: After about two years, the Phoenix Coyotes ownership saga could be coming to an end. That's if a citizen watchdog group drops it objections over how the City of Glendale is helping finance the transaction via a sale to of $116 million in bonds. FOXSportsArizona.com's Matt Swartz reports the Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs and Greater Phoenix Economic Council leader Barry Broome spoke at a news conference on Thursday where they urged the Goldwater Institute not to follow through their threat of a lawsuit, which could prevent investor Matthew Hulsizer from taking over the team. Hulsizer said he intends to keep the team at Jobing.com Arena, although any more delays ups the chances that the league-controlled franchise that once called Winnipeg home could be headed back north of the border. 

    GILLIES HEARING TODAY: New York Islanders enforcer Trevor Gillies is scheduled to meet with NHL officials in Toronto this afternoon to discuss Wednesday's blindside hit of Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. (Link to hit here.) TSN.ca reports that such in-person meetings usually mean a suspension of five or more games is on the horizon. Gillies had just returned from a nine-game suspension for a blow to the head delivered to Pittsburgh's Eric Tangradi on Feb. 11. Because of that, Gillies will be treated as a repeat offender. 

    LINE CHANGES: Jason Arnott has acclimated himself pretty well in Washington. His slapshot late in the third period led the Capitals past the visiting St. Louis Blues, 3-2. That makes it one game-winning goal and a primary assist on a game-tying tally in Tuesday's victory over the Islanders since he arrived from New Jersey. . . . Philadelphia forward Kris Versteeg scored twice against his former club, but the Maples Leafs rookie goalie James Reimer made a key glove save in the closing seconds to preserve a 3-2 victory. The Leafs, who dealt Versteeg before the deadline for a first-and third-round picks, moved two within three points of eighth place in the East. . . .  The Buffalo Sabers, unable to score on a power play late in regulation, failed in thier bid to move into eighth place in the East, as Carolina won, 3-2, in OT. 
    Photo: US Presswire

     
     
     
     
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