Corey Crawford

Blackhawks trying to sign Corey Crawford to long-term deal

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The Blackhawks running with a hot rookie goaltender down the stretch isn’t anything new for hockey fans. Last year, it was Antti Niemi who snatched the starting job from Cristobal Huet mid-season and led them all the way to the Cup. The Blackhawks are hoping to catch the same kind of lightning from Corey Crawford in this year’s playoffs. The difference, however, is that the Blackhawks may have learned their lesson last year and are trying to lock-up the rookie netminder before a good playoff performance could price him out of town. They’ve seen it before. They probably don’t want to see it again (the goaltender leaving thing, not the Cup thing).

The 26-year-old pending restricted free agent is currently bringing in $800,000. Needless to say, his stellar season has him in line for a raise. Stan Bowman sat down with Chris Boden of CSNChicago.com to discuss the Blackhawks’ plans with Crawford.

“We’ve reached out and we’re gonna try to do something here. The timing is delicate and you don’t want it to become a distraction but we certainly have an interest in trying to get something done. I think he’s performed very well for us this year. Looking back from where he’s come – not only having a foothold in the NHL at the beginning, when he started a handful of games, but watching his progression as he’s gotten more responsibility, he’s risen to the challenge. That’s what you look for in goaltenders. When they get the increased workload, can they handle it? He’s kind of unflappable and doesn’t get rattled by much. I think that’s a strength of his. He’s obviously talented. He’s got the physical capabilities, but the mental side is important as well, and he’s been rock-solid for us.”

To say the time is delicate is like saying the sun is kind of hot. The Blackhawks have been one of the hottest teams in the competitive Western Conference; but they’ll need to continue their hot play down the stretch if they want to get to the playoffs to defend last June’s Stanley Cup. Going into the night, they were tied with the Kings and Predators for the 5th seed in the West—but they were also only two points ahead of the Dallas Stars who are currently in 9th place. More importantly, they’re two points into a playoff spot.

Over the course of the season, Crawford is rocking a 29-14-5 record with a .918 save percentage and a sparkling 2.28 goals against average. But the reason the timing is so interesting is that Crawford has been playing so well over the last stretch of games. In his last 15 games, he’s 11-2-2 with a pair of shutouts. But when the focus is narrowed to the last 7 games, he’s only 3-2-2 and has been pulled twice. With Bowman speaking out that they’re negotiating a contract, it’s only natural to wonder if that’s had to do anything with the recent slip in his play. Shutouts like the one he had last night against Florida will certainly quiet the questions though.

Bowman and the Blackhawks looking to lock-up a young player shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. They already have six players under contract until the end of the 2014-2015 season. They have eight players signed up through the end of the 2014 season if you include Dave Bolland and Nicklas Hjalmarsson’s contracts. Marty Turco’s contract comes off the books at the end of the season so some of the goaltender money can go to the guy they’re depending on to win games.

This offseason the Blackhawks will have to make decisions on Tomas Kopecky, Troy Brouwer, and Jordan Hendry. In addition, newcomers Michael Frolik, Chris Campoli, and Viktor Stalberg are all restricted free agents at the end of the season. But for now, it looks like Stan Bowman has chosen his top priority. Once he gets the net situation figured out for the future, he’ll be able to work on the rest of the team.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.