Blackhawks remember when nobody came

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UnitedCenter.jpgESPN’s Pierre LeBrun has
a great article
up this afternoon on the Chicago Blackhawks and the
incredible atmosphere present at their home games. He talked with
Patrick Sharp, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith, the original members of
the current team and who were around in 2005 when things just a
bit….different.

It’s easy to forget that despite leading the NHL
in attendance the past two seasons, the Blackhawks had perennially been
at the bottom of the NHL in average attendance. It didn’t help that the
Hawks were a poor team in a rebuilding mode, whom local fans were
completely unable to watch on local television.

Now there’s 21,000
at every game, the crowd goes nuts during the anthem, and the team is
setting all sorts of television viewership records.

Patrick Sharp
looks back on how it used to be:

“I remember my first game. There were 9,000 people and they announced
12,000,” Sharp said. “Times have changed, big time. A lot of new faces
in the room, but there’s a few guys that have witnessed it. We remember
what it was like, and that’s why we’re pushing even harder to keep it
like this.”

As for that national anthem? Well, at least the players love it:

Madden cannot believe what it’s like at the United Center during the
anthem.

“The national anthem [here] is, in my opinion, the
best national anthem in sports,” the Toronto native said. “If you don’t
get your blood pumping and your pulse racing after that …” 

There’s going to be an incredibly boisterous crowd tomorrow night as the Hawks hope to extend their lead to 3-0 in their series against the San Jose Sharks. There’s no doubt that success brings the fans, but it’s incredible to think that just a few years ago nobody was even watching this team play.

Fight video: Flyers’ Manning vs. Penguins’ Gaunce

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Breaking: the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers don’t like each other.

The stakes might be higher for the Penguins than the Flyers – aside from those who still believe Philly has a shot at a playoff run – their rivalry rarely subsides.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that Sunday featured at least one fight, with Cameron Gaunce squaring off against Brandon Manning in a pretty spirited bout.

Manning isn’t shy about fighting, by the way; this was his seventh bout of the season, according to Hockey Fights.

Higher on the radar for the Penguins is the situation for Conor Sheary, who has been absent from the ice since about midway through the first period. PHT will keep an eye out for updates on what could be yet another injury for the health-challenged Pens.

Dreading the work week? Watch this dog get ‘ice time’ with puck

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Life is difficult, complex and confusing. Good thing we have dog videos.

Forgive this video being one night late, but for those of us who watch cute animal clips, time is a furry circle. Or something like that.

Anyway, this golden retriever got a little “ice time” before the Washington Capitals’ game against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday in what would end up being a 4-1 win for the Caps. It’s an excellent video featuring a top-notch, hilarious pooch.

Alternate joke: Now that is some puck retrieval.

Patrik Laine’s out sick for Jets on Sunday

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Patrik Laine and Auston Matthews are locked with identical goals (34), assists (27) and points (61) on Sunday, which is remarkable since Laine has played in 67 games versus 75 for Matthews. He won’t get a chance to beef up his numbers on Sunday, either.

It looks like the high-scoring rookie is missing the Winnipeg Jets’ contest against the Vancouver Canucks because of an illness, according to TSN’s Sara Orlesky.

The Jets are almost assured to miss the playoffs, so seeing Laine lose a chance to bolster his Calder argument adds a little extra sadness to the night.

NHL schedules hearing for Micheal Haley’s sucker-punch on Calle Jarnkrok

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The NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced a Monday hearing for San Jose Sharks tough guy Micheal Haley for his “roughing/sucker punch” on Calle Jarnkrok of the Nashville Predators.

The league didn’t specify if Haley will face a telephone or in-person hearing on Monday afternoon. They did, interestingly, use the phrase “sucker punch” in that official announcement.

Haley received a match penalty during the game. Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer was highly upset about the hit that inspired Haley’s actions.

“When you run someone from behind in a game like that, you probably deserve to get a punch in the mouth,” DeBoer told reporters.

In other bad news for the Sharks, CSN Bay Area’s Kevin Kurz reports that Logan Couture‘s situation isn’t looking promising after he was hurt on Sunday.