A red-hot end (and a timely Dallas Stars loss) helped the Chicago Blackhawks make the playoff last season, but they’re hoping to make things a little easier for themselves in 2011-12. As CSNChicago.com’s Tracey Myers points out, the early grade is “so far, so good” – they began Saturday’s action atop the Western Conference with 19 points.
Myers points out that their 8-2-3 record yielded four more points than they did at the same point during the 2010-11 season, even though they played in two extra contests (Chicago was 7-7-1 for 15 points). Sure, they’re scraping together some charity points with six of 13 contests going to overtime or a shootout, but at this point it’s all about building up a solid winter coat for tougher times.
The tantalizing part for the Blackhawks is that there’s room for improvement, too. While they’re fifth-best penalty kill will come down to earth from its 89.5 percent success rate, their power play should almost certainly improve from its 10.4 percent mark.
They’re hammering shots on goal and playing sufficient defense through the first month-and-change, which is a great sign for the league’s second most recent champions. The Blackhawks might even build up a divisional lead that proves too much to handle for the struggling Detroit Red Wings, which is reason enough to stay focused early on.
Either way, a more robust Blackhawks team has to be much happier about the way things are looking through this first span.
The National Hockey League has suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Andrew Shaw for three preseason games for boarding defenseman Connor Hobbs of the Washington Capitals in an exhibition game Tuesday.
Shaw was given a major penalty and a game misconduct on the play, as he slammed Hobbs “through the numbers, with speed” from behind into the end glass, as per Thursday’s video from the NHL outlining the suspension.
From the video: “It is important to note that Hobbs is never eligible to be checked by Shaw on this play. From the moment Shaw arrives at the faceoff dot, he sees nothing but Hobbs’ numbers. Hobbs makes no sudden movement just prior to contact that turns this hit from a legal hit into an illegal one.
“The onus is on Shaw to ensure that he can deliver this hit in a legal fashion, minimize the force, or avoid this hit completely. Instead, he hits forcefully through Hobbs from behind, driving him dangerously into the glass.”
In a bid to land a gritty forward to their lineup, the Habs acquired Shaw from the Blackhawks, who had been dealing with a cap crunch, during the NHL Draft. He later signed a six-year contract extension with Montreal.
Clarke MacArthur suffered yet another concussion after being hit by Patrick Sieloff during a scrimmage over the weekend, but the veteran Ottawa Senators forward doesn’t plan on retiring.
Last season, the 31-year-old MacArthur played in only four games for the Senators due to concussions. According to the Ottawa Sun, he suffered four concussions in an 18th-month span.
Despite this latest concussion, MacArthur is still, at least publicly, planning to work toward a return to game action, saying in a post on Instagram that he was “encouraged” by how his body has reacted following this most recent incident.
“First off, I want to thank the team and its fans for all the support after the unfortunate incident on Sunday. To me, it was simply a hockey play that ended in a hit causing me to suffer a concussion, a play that could happen at any point,” MacArthur wrote on his social media page.
“We have been encouraged by how my body had reacted in the days since the injury and the team has been great to give me all the time I need to rest and recover. I will continue to consult with doctors and my entire support group, but I felt it important to let everyone know that my intentions are to work towards returning to the ice soon.”
Senators focus on MacArthur’s safety
You couldn’t blame the Blues for freaking out a bit today when Jaden Schwartz left practice after an apparent hand injury, and didn’t return.
It was last October, of course, when Schwartz fractured his ankle during practice, an injury that required surgery and sidelined him for 49 games.
Thankfully for St. Louis, it won’t be deja vu.
From the Post-Dispatch:
Coach Ken Hitchcock said Schwartz was fine but would miss some practice.
“He’ll need a couple days off, but he’s a lot like Fabbri,” Hitchcock said. “He’s probably not going to skate this weekend in any of the games but he’ll be ready to go next weekend.
“He’s day to day. He’ll be fine.”
Signed to a five-year, $26.75 million extension this summer, Schwartz will be a big piece of the Blues moving forward.
He’s coming off a good playoff run — 14 points in 20 games — and the club is hopeful he can build on the goalscoring form shown in ’13-14 (25 tallies) and ’14-15 (a career-high 28).
Nikita Kucherov will not report to Tampa Bay Lightning training camp until he’s signed. The 23-year-old winger is not currently under contract, though as a restricted free agent he is partially under club control.
From the Tampa Bay Times, which confirmed through GM Steve Yzerman that Kucherov would not be reporting:
Kucherov, the team’s leading scorer last season, could warrant $6 million or more annually. And that makes it difficult for the Lightning, which has between $5-5.5 million of cap space remaining, per CapFriendly.com. It begs the question whether Tampa Bay may need to make another move to create room. With the season opening two weeks from today, no deal appears imminent.
Yzerman said earlier in the month that he can get Kucherov signed without making a trade, but as mentioned, no deal has been reached yet.
Kucherov is one of a handful of high-profile RFAs who remain unsigned as the regular season approaches. The others are Johnny Gaudreau, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jacob Trouba, Hampus Lindholm, Rickard Rakell, and Tobias Rieder, the latter of whom requested a trade yesterday.
Trouba has also requested a trade.
Related: Ristolainen, still without a contract, makes ‘good will’ gesture towards Sabres