Blackhawks trade Clendening to Canucks for Forsling

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
10:40
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The Chicago Blackhawks acquired defenseman Gustav Forsling from the Vancouver Canucks for defenseman Adam Clendening on Thursday.

Forsling, 18, has five points in 35 regular-season games with Linkoping of the Swedish Hockey League this season. He was selected by Canucks in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2014 draft.

"We are excited to add Gustav to a strong group of young talent in our organization," Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman in a statement. "He was one of the best players at the World Junior Championships a few weeks ago and this season has emerged as a regular contributor in the top professional league in Sweden. He's an offensive defenseman that plays very well on the power play and has a big shot."

Clendening, 22, was drafted in the second round (36th overall) by the Blackhawks in 2011. He has two points in four career NHL games. He has 118 points in 185 AHL regular-season games for the Rockford IceHogs.

AHL moving 5 teams to California

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
7:08
PM CT

For more than eight years, the San Jose Sharks have been shuttling young players to and from Worcester, Massachusetts, for depth on their NHL roster or development at the AHL level.

Soon, the Sharks will be able to shed the cross-country flights from their budget and make those moves within their own building.

The NHL's feeder league will undergo a sizable westward shift, designed to bring five farm teams closer to their parent clubs in a long-anticipated announcement finalized Thursday by the American Hockey League. The 30-team AHL will create a Pacific Division next season, the product of nearly three years of discussions with the NHL.

"This will make the franchise even more competitive on the ice," Sharks chief operating officer John Tortora said at a news conference at the SAP Center, which also will be home starting this summer for their yet-to-be-named AHL affiliate. The team won't be called the Sharks, for obvious reasons, as it was in Worcester.

The Toronto Maple Leafs already have a same-city AHL affiliate, the Marlies, but they play in a different arena.

All of the new sites will be in California, home to three of the NHL's 30 teams. Here are the other farm club shifts:

• Anaheim Ducks: Norfolk, Virginia, to San Diego.

• Calgary Flames: Glens Falls, New York, to Stockton.

• Edmonton Oilers: Oklahoma City to Bakersfield.

Los Angeles Kings: Manchester, New Hampshire, to Ontario.


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Cary Chow and Katie Strang pick out the players who need to perform the best for their teams down the stretch, what the Red Wings' winning streak means for coach Mike Babcock, and recap the legacy of Martin Brodeur.
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Two teams with visions of the Stanley Cup collide in Anaheim on Friday night when the Ducks host the Blackhawks.

Hawks thoughts: Defense, Oduya continue to struggle

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
1:31
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Johnny OduyaBill Smith/NHLI/Getty ImagesJohnny Oduya has the worst plus-minus among Blackhawks defenseman.


Here are some thoughts on the Chicago Blackhawks following their 4-3 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday:

1. Two consecutive wins heading into the All-Star break were certainly a positive for the Blackhawks, but it didn’t mean they were completely back on track. Something is still off defensively with this team. Wednesday’s game marked the eighth time in the last 14 games where they allowed three or more goals. That happened just 11 times in the first 34 games. They have a goal differential of minus-3 in the last 14 games compared to their plus-42 in the first 34 games. Some of the blame could be placed on goaltender Corey Crawford during the early stages of this slump, but he’s been pretty good lately. This has more to do with the defense of the forwards and defensemen. The penalty kill also hasn’t been perfect lately and has given up 11 goals in the last 14 games. It was unrealistic for the penalty kill to continue at the rate it had been going.

2. Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya struggled again on Wednesday. He was on the ice for two even-strength goals. He has the worst plus/minus rating among the team’s defensemen at minus-6. He’s a minus-9 over their 14-game slide. He’s been on the ice for six goals for and 15 goals against in 5-on-5 play in the last 14 games.

3. The line of Brandon Saad, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa was proven to be human again. The line had one of its worst games of the season against the Kings, who matched the Blackhawks' top line up with Dustin Brown, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik. Hossa had his worst possession of the game and was at a minus-12 Corsi. Toews was at minus-8 and Saad was at minus-7. The line was also scored on twice.

4. Could playing David Rundblad more help the Blackhawks? Before you jump to an answer, read on. While the Blackhawks have had issues allowing goals, Rundblad hasn’t been factoring into that. He’s actually been helping them. The Blackhawks have been outscored 29-31 in 5-on-5 play over the last 14 games. Rundblad has a plus-7 goal differential during that span. He’s been on the ice for 10 goals-for and three goals-against. He has two goals and four assists in that span. Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has shown more trust in Rundblad than he once did, but the complete trust still isn’t there. Rundblad is still playing the least amount of ice time among the defensemen. He played 10:50 against the Kings on Wednesday and is averaging 11:55 for the season.

5. The Blackhawks don’t count on the fourth line for production, but the occasional goal would certainly be welcomed by the team. Marcus Kruger and Ben Smith, the most consistent fourth-line players, haven’t contributed much offensive as of late. Kruger doesn’t have a point in the last 15 games. He’s been on the ice for one goal for and six goals against and has a minus-33 Corsi in the last 14 games. Smith has one point in the last 15 games. He has been on the ice for two goals for and four goals against in the last 14 games. Neither have put up large numbers in the past, but their production is down from a season ago. Kruger has 12 points in 48 games this season and had 28 points in 81 games last season. Smith has nine points in 48 games this season and had 26 points in 75 games last season.

6. Teuvo Teravainen continued to make a difference on Wednesday. He had the primary assist on Andrew Shaw's goal and has two goals, two assists and is a plus-2 in the last four games. He played a team-low 8:58 against the Kings.

Level of frustration heightened after Blackhawks blow late lead

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
1:40
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Arritt By Dan Arritt
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LOS ANGELES -- The third period was moving along flawlessly for the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. They scored the go-ahead goal in the opening minutes of the third, then battened down the hatches in front of goalie Corey Crawford.

But in what seemed like the blink of an eye, the lead was gone and soon any chance at earning a point or two followed.

The Los Angeles Kings scored two goals in the contest’s final seven minutes to send the Blackhawks away with a 4-3 loss at Staples Center, something that’s become all too familiar against the Kings during the past year.

[+] EnlargeKings/Blackhawks
Jayne Kamin/Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawks had their chances on four power-play opportunities but came away with only one score.

Afterward, Crawford's broken stick lay next to his stall, and even a postgame locker room visit by actor Vince Vaughn barely brought a smile to his tender's face.

"It’s frustrating." Crawford said. "We played a good game, and [the Kings scored] two quick ones at the end. I guess everyone can pretty much tell how we feel about that one."

Crawford was clearly unhappy with some of the calls that were made -- or not made -- during the game but passed on making any comments regarding the officiating.

Patrick Kane wasn't so reserved, pointing to a slash in the final minutes that resulted in a broken stick but wasn't called. He also referred to a penalty earlier in the game on Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook for using his hand to pull the puck out from under his backside as he sat in the middle of the slot, something he claimed the Kings had done just prior to the penalty.

"There were a couple calls that could have been made," Kane said. "[The referees] were maybe playing catch-up after we had three power plays [in the first period] and evened the score a little bit."

If the Blackhawks wanted to pick out a part of their game that let them down, it was the lone goal they scored on four power-play chances. Kane scored with the man advantage just past the midway point of the opening period, but Chicago came up empty on the next three.

"I think we might have sat back a little bit and waited for them to come to us," Kane said. "Usually when we do that, bad things happen."

Jonathan Toews said it all came down to the final minutes.

"We played 55 solid minutes of hockey," he said. "I think our line is obviously looking at ourselves after that one. All three of us could have been a little more intelligent in our zone, getting the puck out and not giving them those chances to score late in the game."

It won't get any easier this week for the Blackhawks, who will get a day to regroup before playing the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks on Friday night in the second of six straight road games coming out of the All-Star break.

Rapid Reaction: Kings 4, Blackhawks 3

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
12:37
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Arritt By Dan Arritt
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LOS ANGELES -- The Chicago Blackhawks gave up two goals in the final seven minutes and lost to the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 on Wednesday night at Staples Center in the first game coming out of the All-Star break.

How it happened: The Kings won a faceoff in the Chicago zone and the puck made it to defenseman Jake Muzzin, who rang his slap shot off the left post and behind goalie Corey Crawford with 3:37 left in the game. Tyler Toffoli had scored about 2 1/2 minutes earlier for the Kings to tie the score.

What it means: The Blackhawks have exited a break with a loss for the third straight time. They lost seven straight to come out of the All-Star break three years ago and were beaten by the New York Rangers coming out of the Olympic break last season.

Player of the game: Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist each for Chicago, and Jeff Carter had two goals for the Kings. Andrew Shaw made the play of the night for the Blackhawks, taking a Teuvo Teravainen pass, finding an opening on the short side of the goal and beating Kings goalie Jonathan Quick to his glove side with a quick flip of the wrist to give Chicago a 3-2 lead early in the third period.

Stat of the game: David Rundblad assisted on the first goal of the game and now has scored a point in all three games since moving back to his natural right wing position.

What’s next: The Blackhawks head south to Orange County, where they’ll face the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night, the second of six straight road games coming out of the All-Star break.
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LOS ANGELES -- Jake Muzzin scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:37 to play, Jeff Carter had two goals and an assist, and the Los Angeles Kings roared back in the final minutes to snap their four-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

Tyler Toffoli tied it with 6:11 left for the defending Stanley Cup champions, who made a dynamic rally in their first game back after stumbling into the break in ninth place in the Western Conference after losing seven of eight.

Andrew Shaw scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third period for the Blackhawks, who had won four straight regular-season games over Los Angeles.

Jonathan Quick made 26 saves, thwarting a huge Blackhawks surge in front of Los Angeles' net in the final minute.


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Paliotta's development has Hawks excited for future

January, 28, 2015
Jan 28
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Vermont coach Kevin Sneddon is careful in how he explains that senior defenseman Mike Paliotta became the most improved player he’s ever coached.

Sneddon is aware being given the title of most improved player isn’t always flattering.

[+] EnlargeMike Paliotta
Courtesy Vermont Athletic CommunicationsDefenseman Mike Paliotta has impressed the Blackhawks organization with his improvement on offense in his years at Vermont.
To start off with, Paliotta was a big-time recruit for Sneddon and the Catamounts. Before Paliotta arrived to campus in 2011, he had already been a third-round draft pick by the Chicago Blackhawks and was a product of the U.S. national development program. His reputation was as an elite physical shutdown defenseman.

Sneddon envisioned Paliotta being more than that. Over the last four years, Sneddon, his coaching staff, the Blackhawks and especially Paliotta have put in a lot of time and effort to expand Paliotta’s game. He’s developed into an all-around defenseman who is still able to deny opponents’ chances, but is also now able to create his own offensive opportunities and is among the nation’s defenseman points leaders.

“Mike was obviously one of the more talented players coming out of the U.S., playing with the national program, but I think his game was maybe undefined, for a lack of a better word,” Sneddon said by phone on Wednesday. “He was maybe a cross between a tough defenseman and maybe not as skilled as he needed to be. I have no problem saying he is the most improved player I’ve coached. Sometimes you look at that negatively. I look at it as he was a very solid talent coming in. Where he was as a freshman, he was a little rough. Where he was, he didn’t have the confidence he needed. It’s night and day and he’s upward trending.

“I think a lot of times people expect a 6-foot-4, 200-pound defenseman to only be an excellent physical player. I think that was what Mike was concentrating on. I think what we’ve tried to do is as a staff and work with the Blackhawks is for him to be a tough competitor and enhance his skills to play at the next level.”

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Prospect watch: McNeill, Brennan shine in AHL All-Star Game

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
2:13
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Here’s a look at how some of the Chicago Blackhawks’ prospects are doing throughout the world:

Mark McNeill, forward, Rockford IceHogs (NCAA), drafted 1st round in 2011
McNeill, 21, scored three goals in the AHL All-Star Game on Monday. He has 12 goals, 11 assists and is a plus-9 in 31 games this season.

T.J. Brennan, defenseman, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), acquired from Islanders in 2014
Brennan, 25, had a goal and three assists in the AHL All-Star Game. He has eight goals, 24 assists and is a plus-16 in 44 games this season.

Michael Leighton, goaltender, Rockford IceHogs (AHL), signed as a free agent in 2014
Leighton, 33, has made 189 saves on 194 shots for a .974 save percentage in six games in January. He has recorded two shutouts in the month and has four for the season. He is 11-7-4 with a 2.02 goals-average and .931 save percentage this season.

Mac Carruth, goaltender, Indy Fuel (ECHL), drafted 7th round in 2010
Carruth, 22, has won his last five starts for the Fuel and stopped 140-of-145 shots for a .966 save percentage during that span. He’s 6-9-2-2 with a 2.69 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in 20 games in the ECHL this season.

Fredrik Olofsson, forward, Chicago Steel (USHL), drafted 4th round in 2014
Olofsson, 18, had two goals and an assist in the Steel’s 4-3 win over Dubuque on Saturday. He has 17 goals and 15 assists in 32 games this season.

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Blackhawks-Kings is a growing rivalry

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
2:09
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Arritt By Dan Arritt
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EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Too soon to call it a rivalry?

If so, the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings have created something just as intense and equally anticipated in the last two years.

They’ll strap it on again Wednesday night at Staples Center in a matchup of the last two Western Conference semifinalists and four of the last five Stanley Cup champions.

“The games are always intense,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They’re always close, and they’re fun to be a part of.”

Prior to the 2012-2013 season, the Kings and Blackhawks had met just once in the postseason, in 1974, when teams like the California Golden Seals and Kansas City Scouts were a part of the NHL.

Then came June 1, 2013, when Chicago and Los Angeles met in Game 1 of their Western Conference final, a game won by the Blackhawks and a series they clinched in five. Chicago would then go on to win its second Stanley Cup title in three years.

Fast forward exactly one year, on June 1, 2014, and it was the Kings celebrating a dramatic overtime victory over the Blackhawks in Game 7 of the West final, propelling them to the Stanley Cup Championships and their second title in three years.

Yes, the Blackhawks and Kings have gotten to know each other quite well in the last two years, but the relationship has grown less adversarial and more deferential.

“I don’t think there’s a whole lot of hatred,” Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp said. “There’s a lot of respect on both sides. I think both teams respect what each other has accomplished. Once you’ve been through the grind a few times, you really appreciate what a team can do to win two championships in recent times.”

The Blackhawks will face a Los Angeles team that’s going through another tough January. The Kings are 2-3-4 this month and earlier in the week took the drastic step of placing center Mike Richards, the team’s third-highest paid player, on waivers. Richards has since cleared and is expected to report to the team’s AHL affiliate on Wednesday.

The Kings went 5-8-2 in January last season before regrouping to win the Cup, and they won just five of 11 games in the same month three years ago but took their No. 8 seed all the way to the Stanley Cup finals, where they knocked off the New Jersey Devils.

The Blackhawks won’t be fooled by where the Kings sit in the standings this time around either.

“We know they’re going to be hungry,” Quenneville said.

Points product of consistent play for Kane

January, 27, 2015
Jan 27
10:38
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Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane tries not to pay attention to how many points he has and where he is among the league’s leaders.

He’s been around long enough to know his play has a tendency to get off track when his mind is wandering to those areas. What’s best for him and his statistics is concentrating on the task at hand.

Blackhawks
Cal Sport Media/AP ImagesPatrick Kane entered the All-Star Game break seventh in the league with 22 goals and tied for third with 51 points.
“I’ve kind of learned from experience, especially in this league, if you get into a situation where you start thinking about points and numbers and where you are as far as stats and points go, you’re only going to get yourself in trouble,” said Kane, who is in his eighth season. “I’ve tried to just focus on playing good, creating chances and just worrying about the next game on hand and hopefully that stuff takes care of itself.”

That stuff has been taking care of itself for Kane this season. He entered the NHL All-Star Game break seventh in the league with 22 goals, tied for third with 51 points and is on pace to break his career-high totals of 30 goals and 88 points, which were both set in the 2009-10 season. That season and the shortened 2012-13 season were the two times he finished in the top 10 in points.

Kane may not follow his point production game by game during a season, but he’s fully aware of how he ends up. His expectation is at least a point a game, and he would like to surpass his career-high marks.

“I think the year after [the 2009-10 season] I was at a point a game and the year after that I dropped down a little bit when I was playing center, and the lockout season my numbers were pretty good,” Kane said. “Last year, I was up there and just kind of got injured at the end of the year. The most important thing is probably staying healthy for a full 82 games. The big thing for having a good season is really not to have any slumps and be consistent. I always feel like I can get back up to those numbers.”

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Blackhawks gearing up for 'new season'

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
11:29
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Arritt By Dan Arritt
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LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Chicago Blackhawks exited an All-Star break, they lost their next seven games. It wasn't a stretch to believe the downturn actually began with them dropping their final two heading into the All-Star weekend.

This time around, the Blackhawks took a two-game win streak into the hiatus.

Is it possible that momentum might carry over, too?

We’ll have to wait and see.

"It's kind of a new season," defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson said after the Blackhawks wrapped up a 30-minute practice Monday evening at Toyota Sports Center. "It's going to be a little rusty the first couple shifts, but it’s just like riding a bike: After a while, you get right back into it."

Chicago will be in better position to answer whether it has sustained the pre-break momentum after its California swing, which begins Wednesday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings and continues Friday against the Anaheim Ducks before heading north Saturday to visit the San Jose Sharks.

The Blackhawks' most recent post-All-Star swoon came in 2012. The NHL didn't have an All-Star Game in 2013 due to a work stoppage. The Blackhawks then dropped their first game coming off the 20-day Olympic break last winter.

Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa weren't thinking about losing or retaining momentum when they showed up for practice Monday. Both said they were just looking forward to a competitive second half of the season.

"It was nice to clear the mind mentally, not think about hockey for a couple days," Sharp said.

Hossa, who had 10 points in the first 10 games of January after scoring seven in 13 December contests, said it was a relief to get away from the rink, even if the break came when he was playing some of his best hockey of the season.

"There's a second part of the season coming up and you want to [use the All-Star break to] recharge your batteries," he said. "It's going to be an all-out race to the end, and the games get tighter and tighter."

Sharp and Hossa were among the few big names who practiced Monday, with Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook not in attendance after playing in Sunday’s All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Kris Versteeg is not on the road trip -- which continues through Feb. 8 at St. Louis -- as he recovers from a hand injury.

There was one new face on the ice: Dennis Rasmussen, who arrived following his first call-up from the AHL. The forward won't play against the Kings, as Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said he wants to stick with the lineup that earned victories against the Arizona Coyotes and Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the break.

Sharp said the 24-year-old Swede has shown the makings of a great NHL player.

"We saw Ras in training camp," Sharp said. "He's an all-around centerman there. He's a good skater, he's got great offensive skills, takes pride in the defensive side of the game as well, so it was nice to see him on the plane today."

Saad taking leap forward in development

January, 26, 2015
Jan 26
5:17
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Brandon SaadMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Saad leads the Blackhawks in 5-on-5 points this season with 28.
Brandon Saad is starting to get this NHL thing.

Saad’s talent has been undeniable since his first NHL call-up as a 19-year-old by the Chicago Blackhawks. From physical strength to puck possession to defensive reliability, he’s proven to be a solid top-6 forward at an early age for one of the league’s premier teams.

Expectations have been placed higher than that, though. While there were spurts during his first two seasons when he showed he could be a game-changer and produce offensively, the thought has often been Saad is capable of even more considering his age and ability. Just wait until he figures it out, people would say.

Saad has begun to figure it out. He's lately playing his most productive and most consistent hockey since joining the league. He’s scored eight goals and registered 11 points over the last 12 games.

What Saad has learned and put to use during his recent run has been the usefulness of getting to net. It’s simple, but quite effective.

“I think a little bit more focus and determination about it,” Saad said recently. “Playing with [Jonathan Toews] and [Marian Hossa] and building some chemistry and making plays. But the biggest thing is getting to the net, tons of rebounds, just sitting around the net. You see players around the league with getting more goals and that’s how they’re going to come.”

Six of Saad’s eight goals have all come by putting himself in that area. Four have come off rebounds and two more by being ready at the net to knock in the puck off a pass.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has recognized a difference in Saad’s recent play.

“I think he’s around the puck a lot, going to the net more, getting open-side goals, stick’s on the ice,” Quenneville said. “He’s getting some free looks because he’s hard to contain. His quickness, whether it’s an odd-man situation, it’s getting him open space. He’s driving with it. He’s a threat off the rush. That line’s playing well together. But we had an ordinary start, but his game right now is what we’re looking for.”

Consistency has been what Quenneville has preached to Saad over the last few seasons. Saad displayed flashes of his potential, but he would disappear at other times. Some of those ups and downs were expected considering his youthfulness.

How Saad closes out the regular season will determine whether he’s truly turned the corner. Saad does believe he has, and the numbers indicate he’s at a level he’s never reached in the past. He’s had a plus-62 Corsi over the last 12 games and had 22 shots on goal over the last four games. He's also first on the team with 28 points in 5-on-5 play.

“I think the more I’m playing, the more experience I get, the more consistent I’m going to be,” Saad said. “This year has been pretty good so far. I’m looking to continue that throughout the second half.”

Toews has also witnessed Saad’s development. Toews and Hossa did a lot of the heavy lifting when Saad played with them as a rookie. Now, Saad is carrying his own weight and making the trio the Blackhawks’ most dangerous line.

“He’s getting better and better,” Toews said. “I think he’s really feeling that if he puts pucks on net, they’re going to go in. It’s good for our line. Regardless of how we score, we want him contributing. Good to see him playing the way he can and getting the results he deserves.”

SPONSORED HEADLINES

TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Patrick Kane
PTS GOALS AST +/-
53 23 30 9
OTHER LEADERS
GoalsP. Kane 23
AssistsP. Kane 30
+/-D. Rundblad 15
GAAC. Crawford 2.32