Christian Ehrhoff

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Niederreiter, Gaborik added to Team Europe roster

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This might be the ultimate underdog group, but Team Europe isn’t short on talent. Compromised of players outside of the Czech Republic, Finland, Russia, and Sweden, this squad features players from nations that don’t typically excel in international tournaments, but will attempt to upset the hockey powerhouses with their combined talents.

The original 16 players named featured representatives from Denmark, Slovakia, Switzlerland, Germany, Slovenia, Austria and Norway. Today’s additions included Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Luca Sbisa from France and Italy respectively, bringing the number of nations represented to nine.

Two of the biggest names added today, though, were Nino Niederreiter and Marian Gaborik. Niederreiter, 23, hasn’t quite lived up to the hype, but the 23-year-old has established himself as a meaningful part of the Minnesota Wild after he struggled in the early years of his pro career with the New York Islanders. Gaborik is coming off of a rough campaign, but he has three 40-plus goal seasons on his resume.

Team Europe also added a veteran blueliner in Christian Ehrhoff in addition to Sbisa.

In goal they now have Thomas Greiss to work with his Islanders teammate Jaroslav Halak. Greiss has spent most of his NHL career serving as a backup goaltender, but when given the chance he stepped up with the Islanders this season and had an impressive showing against Florida in the first round of the playoffs.

Here is Team Europe’s roster in full:

G Frederik Andersen, Anaheim Ducks (Denmark)
G Jaroslav Halak, New York Islanders (Slovakia)
G Thomas Greiss, New York Islanders (Germany) *

D Zdeno Chara, Boston Bruins (Slovakia)
D Christian Ehrhoff, Chicago Blackhawks (Germany) *
D Roman Josi, Nashville Predators (Switzerland)
D Luca Sbisa, Vancouver Canucks (Italy) *
D Dennis Seidenberg, Boston Bruins (Germany)
D Andrej Sekera, Edmonton Oilers (Slovakia)
D Mark Streit, Philadelphia Flyers (Switzerland)

F Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Philadelphia Flyers (France) *
F Mikkel Boedker, Colorado Avalanche (Denmark)
F Leon Draisaitl, Edmonton Oilers (Germany)
F Marian Gaborik, Los Angeles Kings (Slovakia) *
F Jannik Hansen, Vancouver Canucks (Denmark)
F Marian Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks (Slovakia)
F Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings (Slovenia)
F Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders (Switzerland) *
F Frans Nielsen, New York Islanders (Denmark)
F Tobias Rieder, Arizona Coyotes (Germany) *
F Tomas Tatar, Detroit Red Wings (Slovakia)
F Thomas Vanek, Minnesota Wild (Austria)
F Mats Zuccarello, New York Rangers (Norway)

* named to roster today

‘Hawks will make three lineup changes ahead of matchup with Canucks

Associated Press
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The Chicago Blackhawks will shake things up ahead of Sunday’s game against the Vancouver Canucks. Joel Quenneville will look to find a winning lineup combination. The ‘Hawks have just two wins in their last eight contests.

Dale Weise, who was a healthy scratch in Saturday’s game against the Calgary Flames, will take Richard Panik‘s spot in the lineup. Weise has just one assist in nine games since being acquired from the Montreal Canadiens.

Christian Ehrhoff will jump back into the lineup while Michal Roszival will watch the game from the press box.

Artem Anisimov will also come out of the lineup because he’s dealing with a lower-body injury. Dennis Rasmussen is expected to play in his place.

If the ‘Hawks are able to get one point out of tonight’s game, they’ll clinch a spot in the 2016 playoffs.

Toews says ‘everyone’s to blame’ for Blackhawks’ slide, but sees no reason for panic

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CHICAGO (AP) Just two short months ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were on top of the Western Conference and looked like a legitimate contender for an historic Stanley Cup title.

It’s a much different picture with 12 games left in the season.

The Blackhawks lost 5-0 to the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night and have dropped four of five overall, including three in a row against potential playoff opponents. After a pair of road losses to St. Louis and Dallas, Chicago yielded a pair of goals in an 18-second span of the first period and never recovered against Los Angeles.

The defending NHL champions are 9-10-2 since they ripped off a franchise-record 12 straight wins at the end of December and into January.

“We’ve had a tougher schedule,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ve had some tough games and I think during this stretch here our penalty killing hasn’t been great. Some nights they could have won us some games with getting the job done and giving up some timely goals that got their team going.

“But that was a stretch there that we really made a lot of hay and put ourselves in a great spot. Now we’re not taking advantage of it, which is disappointing.”

The slide has dropped Chicago (41-23-6) into third place in the tough Central Division. The Blues also lost Monday night and are tied with the Stars at 91 points apiece, followed by the Blackhawks at 88.

Chicago has a home game left against each of the division leaders, so there is plenty of time. But the standings are less important to the Blackhawks than their play heading into the postseason.

“It seems like for whatever reason, the season’s been up and down throughout the whole year,” forward Patrick Kane said. “You go on stretches where you win 12 in a row, and we’ve got this little stretch going right now. Obviously we want to shore that up before playoffs, and make sure we’re going in there feeling consistent about our game.”

The second line of Kane, Artem Anisimov and rookie Artemi Panarin has been one of the most dangerous groups in the league for most of the year. But it has fallen on hard times of late.

Kane, who leads the NHL with 89 points, has been held to one goal in his last five games. Panarin has been kept off the scoresheet in six of his last nine games. Anisimov has one goal and three assists in his last 14 appearances.

Quenneville tried Kane on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Andrew Ladd for a while against the Kings, but nothing worked against Jonathan Quick in his 41st career shutout.

“That four-line rotation we always talk about (that) makes us successful hasn’t been in place over this stretch,” Quenneville said.

Ladd returned to Chicago in one of a flurry of deals by the Blackhawks before the trade deadline, and some of their recent woes could be attributed to chemistry issues. Dale Weise‘s arrival was held up by a visa issue, and defenseman Christian Ehrhoff has been in and out of the lineup.

Veteran forward Marian Hossa just returned last week after missing nine games because of a lower-body injury, adding another wrinkle to the lines and special teams. It could be a while before everyone gets used to each other.

“Collectively as a team, I think everyone’s to blame,” Toews said. “It’s a tough couple games, but we’ve seen that before. We’ve been through that before. We know not to overreact, start second-guessing ourselves and really letting that lack of confidence really creep into our minds.”

The Blackhawks finished last season with four consecutive losses, then went on to win the title. They dropped three of four during a March swoon in 2013 and hoisted the Cup that year, too.

The Kings lost to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference finals in 2013, and then eliminated Chicago at the same juncture in an epic seven-game series in 2014. Even with Chicago sputtering down the stretch, Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty said the playoff matchup could happen against this year.

“If you ask me, I could see them coming out of their side and going all the way to the conference finals and obviously that’s what we want to do, too,” Doughty said. “There’s a good chance we could meet up at some point and if we do it will be a fun series.”

Related: Hossa hoping things ‘click’ with Toews and Ladd

 

No hearing for Reaves following Ehrhoff hit

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St. Louis forward Ryan Reaves won’t face any supplemental disciplinary hearing for his big hit on Chicago d-man Christian Ehrhoff from Wednesday night, per the Tribune.

Reaves’ hit, which came in the first period of St. Louis’ eventual 3-2 shootout win, earned him a five-minute charging major and game misconduct.

Ehrhoff left the game momentarily, but did return to finish with 17 shifts for 11:45 of ice time.

Reaves managed to avoid punishment despite having run afoul of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety lately. Late last month, he was suspended three games for ‘dangerously’ charging San Jose d-man Matt Tennyson from behind.

Update

Wrong call? Ryan Reaves gets ejected for hit on Christian Ehrhoff

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The Chicago Blackhawks received a five-minute power play after St. Louis Blues tough guy Ryan Reaves was ejected for a charging hit on Christian Ehrhoff.

You can watch that check, with multiple replays, in the video above.

Blues fans weren’t happy about that call, but that often is the case with home crowds. The difference here is that many others felt that the punishment was excessive, including plenty of members of the NBCSN crew.

Here’s a GIF of the hit, too:

Mike Milbury and Keith Jones believed that it was the wrong call, too.

Update: The NHL might take a look at the hit for possible supplementary discipline.