Patrick Sharp

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Khudobin’s impressive preseason performance ‘bodes well’ for Bruins

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Anton Khudobin wasn’t perfect for the Boston Bruins on Saturday. But he was close, turning aside 35 of 36 shots faced against the Chicago Blackhawks.

Only Patrick Sharp was able to solve the Bruins’ netminder, scoring late in the third period as Chicago recorded a 1-0 win.

Still, that’s two very good performances in the preseason for Khudobin, who also stopped 20 of 22 shots against Detroit, and they come at a time when the Bruins are facing a logjam in net with Malcolm Subban also looking to earn a spot as the back-up behind Tuukka Rask.

“Dobby was very good. The shot that beat him was an excellent shot by Sharp – he scores from there a lot,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “He was very good and I’m sure he’d be happy with his game for the most part. There’s always things you can clean up, but two solid efforts in the preseason for Dobby. That bodes well for our season. If his game’s on, that’s gonna help us a lot.”

A first-round pick of the Bruins in 2012, Subban entered training camp with the belief that he could play at the NHL level. He has two games experience with Boston, but has spent the vast majority of his professional career developing his game in the American Hockey League. That said, he has also been sharp when he’s had his opportunity during this preseason.

Now 23 years old, Subban does, according to reports, require waivers if the Bruins decide to send him down to Providence, which adds to the difficulty of any impending decision, as the Bruins look to improve at the back-up position for this season.

“Look, he requires waivers,” general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald. “We’re trying to manage it, as other teams are at this point, and we have other players that require waivers and we’re just trying to field the best team we possibly can and asset management is a part of it.”

Khudobin, now 31 years old, played 16 times for Boston last season, posting a .904 save percentage.

Anisimov adjusting to new linemates in Chicago

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The only constant when it comes to Joel Quenneville’s line combinations with the Chicago Blackhawks is that they are always going to change.

A lot.

The one exception to that over the past couple of seasons has been the second line of Patrick Kane, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin, a truly dynamic trio that could take over any game at any time. But with Panarin now playing in Columbus following an offseason trade to reacquire Brandon Saad even that line has been broken apart.

Instead of skating alongside Kane, Anisimov has spent the preseason skating next to Ryan Hartman and a rotation of Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Sharp on the team’s third line.

He talked about that experience this weekend, via CSN Chicago’s Tracey Myers.

“It’s been good, actually,” Anisimov said. “Every time it’s a challenge, you know? It’s hard to play without those two guys, but you have to adapt to situations and I can play with every player. I’ll try to do my best with any player on the team.”

Replacing Anisimov alongside Kane has been 21-year-old Nick Schmaltz. If he ends up sticking on that line for any reasonable amount of time it should help to boost his production a little bit.

Dropping Anisimov down to his own line could, in theory, help to stretch out the Blackhawks’ depth a little bit and not make them quite as top heavy. If he ends up playing on a line with a young standout like Debrincat — who absolutely should make the roster — it could help create a pretty dynamic third line … assuming Anisimov is able to maintain his current level of production away from Kane and Panarin.

Anisimov has played the best hockey of his career with the Blackhawks (averaging more than 20 goals and 45 points each year) but he has also been surrounded by some pretty high-end talent. Debrincat has the look of a potential star, and Sharp has been a high-level player in the past, so it’s not like he is going to be dragging around some anchors. But it is still a pretty significant change.

Of course, given how much the Blackhawks juggle their lines it is probably only a matter of time until he ends up back alongside Kane anyway.

Video: Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley gives shout out to Eddie Olczyk at Wrigley Field

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Very cool moment at Wrigley Field on Friday.

Chicago Blackhawks announcer Pat Foley threw the ceremonial first pitch at the Cubs game, while wearing a Cubs jersey with the last name ‘Olczyk’ on the back. That is a salute to his broadcast partner Eddie Olczyk, who is currently undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

Later on, during the seventh inning stretch, Foley gave a shout out to Olczyk, asking fans to join in, as well.

The Blackhawks announced in August that Olczyk, the lead hockey analyst for NBC Sports, had surgery to remove a tumor after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Olczyk recently attended a Blackhawks practice ahead of a preseason game, and players and coaches expressed their support for him as he continues treatment.

“To see him show up for the first preseason game at home is going to pump some guys up,” Patrick Sharp told WGN-TV. “He knows he’s got a ton of support behind him in his battle.”

Blackhawks need a push from young forwards Hartman, Schmaltz

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This post is part of Blackhawks Day on PHT…

The Chicago Blackhawks got an injection of youth into their group of forwards last season, with Nick Schmaltz and Ryan Hartman cracking the roster out of training camp.

Having prospects challenging for and earning roster spots is critical for every team across the league, especially with the speed of today’s game.

The Blackhawks have three Stanley Cup championships since 2010, all won with a core group of players like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook.

But that group, which hasn’t made it out of the first round since 2015, is getting older, which highlights Chicago’s need for its young players like Schmaltz and Hartman to further their offensive contributions this upcoming season and beyond, and for someone like Alex DeBrincat to show well at camp and perhaps earn a spot in the NHL.

There is added pressure on a player like Toews heading into next season, after the lowest goal total of his career. How will Patrick Sharp perform back with this group at age 35? The Blackhawks also won’t have Marian Hossa, which, despite his age, is a huge loss.

That should highlight the need for Hartman, 22, and Schmaltz, 21, to take another step forward in their development.

In 76 games, Hartman had a nice 19-goal, 31-point campaign, his first full season in the NHL. His production dried up in the playoffs, though in fairness to him, the Blackhawks as a team were ultimately outmatched as Pekka Rinne played sensational in goal for Nashville and the Predators completed the sweep.

The 20th overall pick in 2014, Schmaltz played in 61 games for Chicago. His season included a stint in Rockford, where he had a productive six goals and nine points in 12 games before getting recalled to the NHL.

From the time of his recall until the end of the regular season, Schmaltz was able to put together a couple of extended hot streaks, with 12 points in nine games during a stretch from Feb. 8 to March 1, and seven points in six games from March 19-29. Again, Chicago’s brief time in the playoffs was a struggle and Schmaltz wasn’t immune.

There was a point late in the season, however, when coach Joel Quenneville believed Schmaltz made the proper steps forward. Of note, Quenneville has the option of using Schmaltz either on the wing or up the middle, he said earlier this summer.

“There’s definitely a learning curve when you first come into the NHL. Expectations are higher for some guys than others. But him getting down and getting some games [in Rockford], getting more confident offensively and with the puck, he added a little pace and another dimension to his game, we like how he’s playing during this recent stretch,” Quenneville told CSN Chicago.

“We like how he’s handled himself in a situation where, as the season’s gone on here, he’s gone to a different level.”

It would be one less thing for the Blackhawks to worry about if Schmaltz and Hartman took their games to a different level beginning in October.

Hitch talks up Radulov-Seguin-Benn line in Dallas

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Given it’s only July 5, talk of who will play on what lines next year is a tad premature.

That said, it’s also kind of exciting.

Especially in Dallas, where head coach Ken Hitchcock suddenly has a wealth of options at his disposal following the acquisitions of forwards Tyler Pitlick, Brian Flynn, Martin Hanzal and Alexander Radulov.

With all apologies to the first three, the real excitement in Texas is for Radulov, who came aboard on Monday courtesy a five-year, $31.5 million pact. Hitchcock doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself, but has already envisioned Radulov playing on the club’s top line next to Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.

“I’ve coached against Radulov both in the NHL and internationally, and he brings an intensity to the game,” Hitchcock said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “You notice him and you have to account for him. Now, put Jamie Benn on the other wing, and you have the same thing. You know he’s there, and you know you have to account for him. Same with Seguin.

“I just think they will all feed off of each other if that’s the line we come up with.”

Riding shotgun with Benn and Seguin has been beneficial for a number of guys over the years. Last season, Patrick Eaves enjoyed a terrific offensive campaign while serving partial duty on the line. Jason Spezza, Patrick Sharp and a flurry of others have also received minutes alongside the dynamic duo, and produced well.

Radulov brings some interesting attributes to the line. He, along with Benn, are both left-handed shots, which will give the Stars some unique looks in the offensive zone. There’s also his style of play. Despite not being overly large — listed at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds — he plays a big man’s game. The 31-year-old has terrific upper-body strength, is effective in winning board battles and knows how to leverage his body to protect pucks.

As an example, this wonder goal against the Rangers in the playoffs:

Between Radulov and Hanzal alone, the Stars will be a “heavier” team — at least stylistically — than they’ve been in previous years. It’ll be fascinating to see how that plays out with Seguin and Benn, and under Hitch’s watchful eye.