Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Pronger presents big challenge

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Hawk Talk: Pronger presents big challenge

Tuesday, May 25, 2010
7:00 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

CHICAGO - A looming shadow is cast over the Chicago Blackhawks Stanley Cup aspirations, running about 66, 220, with a number of battle scars and a scowl you can see, on a bright, sunny day like Monday, from Philadelphia.

Not to oversimplify the strategy Chicago brings to the ice on Saturday in Game 1 vs. the Flyers, but neutralizing massive defenseman Chris Pronger is central to whatever it is. For sure, the veteran of 16 seasons has captured the Blackhawks attention.

Hes a big guy, Chicago center Dave Bolland said.

Hes as good a player as there is back there, said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, who coached Pronger with the St. Louis Blues. Pronger enjoyed career-high and league-leading ratings under Coach Q in 1997-98 (plus-47) and 1999-00 (plus-52).

Pronger only registered a plus-22 this season, leading Philadelphia at age 35. He also scored 55 points on 10 goals and 45 assists and didnt miss a single game, one of just five Flyers to accomplish that feat. And the burly giant wasnt making token appearances in games, eitherhis 25:56 of average ice time led the Flyers as well.

Hes a workhorse, Blackhawks alternacap Duncan Keith said. Hes out there most of the game.

Yeah, hes a big guy, Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane said. He plays a lot of minutes, but it doesnt look like hes aged too much. Still we have to try to wear him down as much as possible.

Wear him down? Its tiring merely reading Prongers accolades.

To Bolland at least, Prongers size and superlatives come second to his experience in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Hes one of a few guys they have who have been through the Finals, Bolland said. I remember watching him dominate when the Anaheim Ducks won it.

Despite Prongers multi-tiered value to Philadelphias defense, Flyers coach Peter Laviolette may have little choice than to match his defensive ace on net, up against the Blackhawks own brawny man, Dustin Byfuglien, who has basically gone ham on both the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks in prior series.

Neither of those teams had a skater who could measure up against Big Buff, whose confidence is growing by the day and who has tallied a team playoff-high eight goals in just his last eight playoff games.

When it was suggested that Laviolette may choose to move Byfuglien using a skilled but smaller, quicker defender (say the 510, 194 Kimmo Timonen) Kane burst out laughing, dismissing the idea that you can attack Byfuglien at the net with anyone but your biggest player.

Pronger and Buff will be seeing a lot of each other in the series. Buff is just big and strong and he can just stand there at the net all day. No ones had an answer for him yet, and thats the way we want it.

Chicago didnt exactly prove it had solved Pronger, either, at least not in the one game the two clubs played during the 2009-10 season. It was the behemoth of the blue line who slipped behind Brent Seabrook and took a backdoor pass to score with just a few seconds left in the game, turning Philadelphia from likely desperation overtime team to look-ma buzzer-beater winners faster than you can say six-six and gulp.

There arent many obvious obstacles the Blackhawks will have to scale in Philadelphia as they begin to gameplan against the Flyers. But the one presented in Pronger is simply too big to ignore.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Blackhawks’ depth could be key as roster becomes clearer

Jeremy Colliton has tried to dismiss any notion that forward lines in preseason games or practice groups in training camp give any indication as to what the Blackhawks might look like come October 4 in Prague. But with only two preseason games remaining – one of which could very well be the Rockford IceHogs against the Boston Bruins – it would be quite a shock to see the lines shuffled much before the team heads overseas.

“To me, it’s becoming more clear what our lineup is going to look like,” Colliton said after a 3-2 overtime win over an abbreviated Bruins squad on Saturday. “I think we’re getting what we want out of training camp here.”

Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews look like a safe bet to once again start the season on the top line, with Alexander Nylander getting the first look on the left wing. On the second line, the combination of Dylan Strome and Alex DeBrincat look like they will have Andrew Shaw pestering opponents and opening up some ice for them.

Where the Blackhawks hope to see a major improvement is in the bottom six, where the team struggled to generate offense last season. Stan Bowman’s additions this summer seem to have the Blackhawks in much better position to not have to rely so heavily on their top two lines or top power play unit.

The third line looks fairly set with Brandon Saad on the left wing and Dominik Kubalik on the right wing. David Kampf looks like the favorite to center that line, but the Blackhawks did give Anton Wedin a look there against the Bruins, and he delivered a primary assist on Saad’s goal.

“I think he plays with a lot of energy and he’s a conscientious player. I think he works hard. Both sides of the puck, he’s got a little bit of skill. He’s a strong skater,” Colliton said of Wedin. “I thought he did well, I liked that line. I thought Saad was excellent.”

The fourth line of Drake Caggiula, Ryan Carpenter and Zack Smith earned high praise as well.

“I thought that Carpenter line with Smith and Caggiula was really good, really effective for us,” Kane said. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Good to see them going, seems like that could be a fun line to watch.”

When the Blackhawks’ season ended this past April, Colliton said he wanted to rely less on Kane and use his star in a more “targeted” way. If the third and fourth lines can generate some scoring, or at the very least some offensive zone time, it could go a long way in getting the Blackhawks into a position to confidently roll four lines.

“We have so much more depth, definitely. There’s no question,” Colliton said. “To have the opportunity to move guys up at times, they should be fresh and ready to make a difference further up the lineup. We have competition, which I think is a good formula for us.”

So, while Colliton may try to play coy on forward lines and defense pairings, Kane has much less to hide.

“That was pretty much our lineup, or close to our lineup, so we’re trying to identify the way we want to play,” Kane said. “Obviously, I think we had some spurts tonight where we did that well and some other times where we struggled a little bit. It’s early in the season, we’re still trying to figure it out.”

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Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

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USA Today

Blackhawks announce second round of roster cuts

After making a first wave of roster cuts to pare their roster down from 55 to 49, the Blackhawks announced a more significant second round Saturday afternoon.

Per the team, forwards Dylan Sikura, Matthew Highmore, Brandon Hagel, Philipp Kurashev, Mikael Hakkarainen, Alexandre Fortin, Reese Johnson, MacKenzie Entwistle, defensemen Nicolas Beaudin, Joni Tuulola, Lucas Carlsson and goaltender Matt Tomkins have all been assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The Blackhawks roster now consists of 33 players: 18 forwards, 11 defensemen and four goaltenders. 

The news comes just hours before the Blackhawks square off with the Bruins in the team's fourth game of the preseason Saturday night.

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