Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane

Blackhawks enjoy much better start than last year

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.

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    Blues, Capitals to play exhibition game in Kansas City

    Pedestrians walk past the Sprint Center, Sunday, March 24, 2013, in Kansas City, Mo. The city was preparing for the third round of the NCAA college basketball tournament at the arena after the region received 6-10 inches of snow overnight. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
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    Kansas City is going to host another NHL exhibition game.

    The St. Louis Blues announced today that they’ll take on the Washington Capitals on Oct. 5 at Sprint Center. Both Vladimir Tarasenko and Alexander Ovechkin will be there, at least according to the press release.

    The Blues last played in K.C. a couple of years ago when they took on the Stars in exhibition play. In 2011, a sellout crowd watched the Penguins and Kings at Sprint Center.

    A market once considered a candidate for expansion or relocation — particularly after Sprint Center opened in 2007 — the NHL-to-Kansas City buzz has since died down. Last year, there was no interest from Kansas City when the league called for expansion applications.

    Sensing an opportunity to make their team a favorite of all Missourians, not just the ones in St. Louis, the Blues have said they’d like to cultivate their fan base across the state in Kansas City.

    Report: Pens won’t make Fleury (talks too much) available to media

    at Pepsi Center on December 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado.
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    Don’t expect many updates on Marc-Andre Fleury‘s health over the next little while.

    Well — don’t expect them to come from Fleury, anyway.

    Per TVA Sports, Fleury has been shut down from speaking with reporters until he’s fully recovered from the concussion that’s sidelined him since Apr. 2.

    A translation of Renaud Lavioe’s piece for TVA, per PHT’s Joey Alfieri:

    Fleury practiced with his teammates this morning at the Verizon Center.

    What I can tell you is he’s feeling better, but the Penguins have decided not to make Fleury available to the media because he says too much.

    The next time Fleury talks to the media, it’s because he’ll be ready to return.

    Not to be mean, but Matt Murray has given up three goals or more in back-to-back games.

    Earlier this week, Fleury told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that — despite participating in on-ice workouts — he’s still dealing with concussion symptoms.

    “It’s one of the toughest things I’ve been through,” he explained. “Some good days, when you think you’re back, and some bad days, when you think it’s never going to get fixed.”

    The Fleury situation seems to have rankled some within the Penguins organization — like head coach Mike Sullivan, who took issue with questions about the club’s handling of Fleury.

    Here’s a related series of tweets from DKonPittsburghSports’ Josh Yohe:

    Game 2 of the Pens-Caps series goes tomorrow from Verizon at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Matt Murray, who allowed four goals on 35 shots in the Game 1 loss, is expected to start in goal.

    North Dakota loses another d-man as Kings sign LaDue

    BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09:  Paul LaDue #6 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the second period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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    Keaton Thompson, Troy Stecher and now, Paul LaDue.

    On Friday, the Kings announced that LaDue — the junior d-man that helped North Dakota win the Frozen Four — agreed to a one-year, entry-level deal, forgoing his senior season in the process.

    LaDue, 23, was part of a talented UND blueline that also featured fellow juniors Troy Stecher — who since signed with Vancouver — and Thompson, who inked with the Ducks.

    So yeah, bit of an exodus.

    Thankfully for North Dakota, freshman scoring sensation Brock Boeser has already committed to returning for his sophomore campaign, while junior defenseman Gage Ausmus — a San Jose draftee — vowed to go back to school as well.

    As for Frozen Four MOP Drake Caggiula — a senior that was already leaving school — he’s already begun his tour of interested NHL suitors.

    Per TSN, Caggiula has shortlisted six clubs: Philadelphia, Edmonton, Ottawa, Vancouver, Chicago and Buffalo.

    Wilson fined for kneeing Sheary

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    No suspension for Capitals forward Tom Wilson. Only a fine.

    That’s what the NHL’s Department of Player Safety decided after Wilson kneed Pittsburgh’s Conor Sheary last night in Washington.

    The fine of $2,403.67 is the maximum allowable under the CBA, and, at the very least, it puts Wilson on official notice.

    Wilson was not penalized on the play, and Sheary was able to leave the ice under his own power and remain in the game.

    “We’re just going to play hockey, and the refs are going to call it the way they see it,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told reporters afterwards. “Our guys are going to play.”

    This morning, Capitals coach Barry Trotz reportedly said of the play, “It was OK, but it wasn’t I would say necessary.”