2011-12 Regular Season

All-Star Shame: Bettman’s Pathetic Spectacle Should Be Euthanized

I’m a little late to the party on this one, so I apologize for not chiming in earlier. I’m late because, as with most fans of the game of hockey, I pay no attention to the All-Star Game whatsoever. It’s not hockey, and it’s definitely not a “game.” It’s 40 guys pretending to care who wins while goofing around for 3 periods and playing inside jokes on one another. It was only when my wife asked me to find out what channel the game was on that I blew my stack.

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Saturday Maintenance: Morrison Acquired, Toews Likely Returning, Bad Trade Talk

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman made his first splash into the trade market Friday, albeit the type of splash resulting from stepping into the bathtub.

It isn’t the deal many had hoped for, but getting center Brendan Morrison from Calgary for prospect Brian Connelly seems to be a solid depth move with very little risk.

Bowman said he’s been talking to Calgary “for awhile” to secure this deal, which seems beneficial for both teams.

Two things. First, Morrison is not the second-line center the fan base hoped the Blackhawks would acquire. His job will be – or should be, since we never seem to know what Q is thinking – to win draws on the fourth line while not playing a ton of minutes.

Second, he’s 36 with a history of knee problems, so don’t expect him to provide anything more than serviceable minutes.

It’s precisely the reason Bowman wasn’t about to give up anything of substance for him, and Connelly seems to be on the back end of the list when it comes to NHL potential for Blackhawks defensive prospects. An AHL All-Star doesn’t translate into NHL-ready, or even close to NHL-ready.

Adam Jahns of the Sun-Times posted a series of tweets with quotes from ‘Hawks players and Morrison himself regarding the trade, some ‘Hawks chirping after Morrison was injured in a meeting last season and his injury history.

The main thing to come from this deal is that Bowman is hitting the phones trying to make this team better. We’ll see what else he has up his sleeve.

♦   Jonathan Toews is expected to play Tuesday in Vancouver, according to Bowman.

He made sure to note the trade for Morrison had nothing to do with Toews’ injury, which came as a welcome relief.

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Life During Wartime : Hawks In A Dogfight, All-Star Draft

"Tazer, I don't want to go to Ottawa, I'm tired."( Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune)

So, the Blackhawks have to be the best 4th place Central Division team of all time going into an All Star break, right? If you would have told the general public a month and a half ago that the Blackhawks would be where they are at this point, they would have lost their collective shit. While most people aren’t freaking out quite yet,  the “trade Patrick Kane” movement that seems to spring up each time he hits a rough patch is back in force.

By far the most mind-blowing criticism we’ve seen in the past few days of Kane was that he was cherry picking  while 3 other Hawks were fighting in the defensive zone  (killing yet another too many men penalty) in the waning minutes of the Tuesday Nashville game. How can these people be serious? Why the hell else would Kane be on the ice at the end of a game on a penalty kill? THE HAWKS NEEDED A DAMN GOAL! OF COURSE HE WAS CHERRY PICKING! Game 5 in 2010 anyone?

Listen, we all know the Blackhawks lack a big time asset that will help us land the defenseman we need, but the notion that you would deal Kane at this point in his career is simply absurd and it’s getting extremely tedious going over this every time either Kane or the Blackhawks slump. Another thing, how many guys in the league would cut off a finger to have a down year in which they recorded 41 points in the first 50 games?

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Punched Out: Boxing, Once Again, with Blackhawks and Predators

JIM YOUNG, REUTERS

There may not be a team in the league looking more forward to the All-Star break than the Blackhawks.

Playing without Jonathan Toews and of course Patrick Sharp, the ‘Hawks looked fell short on the defensive end a dropped the final game before the break, 3-1 to the Predators.

Despite the offense lacking, I didn’t feel the offense necessarily was the issue. Nick Leddy and Niklas Hjalmarsson are becoming painful to watch. Absolutely and completely painful. It actually hurts from getting so damn angry at their problems – and they’re many.

No more crap about Leddy being young and learning and being thrust into a position to learn on the job. He’s playing for a Stanley Cup contender, and that label for the ‘Hawks comes in spite of him, not because of him. The second goal was a direct result of his inability to play defense with enough muscle nor brains. The blind ring around the boards didn’t work simply because he thrre it into a forechecker’s legs, leading to a nice kick pass for Mike Fisher’s goal.

Hjalmarsson gets plenty of blame as well, as Fisher had all day to prepare himself for that pass. At this point, I’d like to see Sami Lepisto get a night with one of these two in the press box. Something needs to be done.

(UPDATE: It’s since been confirmed it was Sean O’Donnell on the ice with Leddy, and not Hammer. My eyes weren’t working right from the opposite end of the stadium, which is my bad. However, it doesn’t change my stance that one of these guys needs a seat up high for at least a game.)

♦   Corey Crawford is giving up far too many rebounds, but this game could’ve gotten out of hand tonight if it weren’t for him. Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith allowed a breakaway chance, as did Hjalmarsson’s flat feet. Crawford stopped them both, then made some saves in the third that could’ve doomed the ‘Hawks had they gotten past him. No real praise, but no real thoughts of this being his fault by any means.

♦   Dave Bolland won 17 of 20 faceoffs tonight. Dave. Bolland. Won. 17. Of. 20. Faceoffs. I slowed it down for you to make you read it slower. Between that and his goal, I think he embraced taking Toews’ spot on the top line.

♦   Marian Hossa is an under-appreciated part of this team. He never gets enough credit, in my book. The reason he’s not talked about much is because he doesn’t do much wrong. I guess it gets hard to constantly praise someone.

♦   Patrick Kane stopping to twirl mid-breakaway is a prime example of him thinking too much about his slump. No, I really don’t have any idea what’s running through his head. It could be hookers or pretty pink bows. However, it’s hard not to speculate when a true, killer goal scorer refuses to simply take his space and go hard to the net to try and beat the goaltender like he’s always capable of doing.

♦   Andrew Shaw has officially become Q’s new Kris Versteeg. Shaw led all ‘Hawks forwards in ice time tonight, and while he’s playing hard, I don’t necessarily believe he deserved all that time. Q is trying to ride the hot hand, but Shaw hasn’t exactly done anything stellar over the past few games to have me going nuts over him. As I’ve said before, everyone needs to stay grounded on this guy – including Q.

♦   Michael Frolik was a healthy scratch in favor of Bryan Bickell. And no one cared or noticed one way or the other. The drop off of these guys is epic.

Here’s Boxing…

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This Time, Let’s Not Be Such Easy Prey

I’m sure there are those who wouldn’t mind re-living last Saturday’s embarrassment down in Nashville, but I’m not among them. As far as I’m concerned we should have pulled the team off the ice and forfeited when the bloop grounder to short hopped past Corey Crawford. That was the sign that it was not our night, and no measure of effort nor change in strategy would change that.

The Hockey Gods played a joke at our expense, and we walked away with a 5-2 loss. Thanks very much, assholes.

How did Nashville do it? The same way they always do. They played their usual more-boring-than-Latin-mass style of defensive hockey, and took advantage of the many, many scoring opportunities we gave them. Were it not for some heroics by Marian Hossa the Blackhawks would easily have been shut out.

Tonight, let’s not be such easy prey, shall we fellas?

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Logjamin’: Competitive Central Division on Pace to Make History

Zetterberg, Toews, Weber, Oshie

One day, the Blackhawks are sitting atop the Central Division standings, at times boasting the most points in the NHL. The next, they wouldn’t even have home-ice advantage in the first round if the playoffs began at that moment.

It’s a difficult time to keep up with the constant shifts in the standings, but such is life in the competitive Central – which is currently on pace to make a bit of history while providing us fans with some entertaining hockey down the stretch.

This is the 13th season since the NHL went to six divisions and the current playoff format in 1998-99 (the 2004-05 season marked the lockout). In the 12 completed seasons, at least one division has sent four teams to the playoffs 10 times.

In a game Blackhawks fans likely won’t forget soon, Minnesota beat Dallas on the final day of the 2010-11 regular season to prevent the Pacific from becoming the first division to send all five teams to the postseason.

Essentially, the playoff format has three division winners and five “wild-card” teams. The only seasons one division didn’t claim three “wild-cards” were 2000-01 and 2005-06.

The 2008-09 season marked the one time two divisions accomplished the feat. The Atlantic and the Central, when Detroit (No. 1 seed), the ‘Hawks (4), St. Louis (6) and Columbus (8) qualified four of their five teams – the only time since current realignment the Central has done it.

Overall, a single division qualifying a quartet is quite common. The rarity lies in what the Central currently is on pace to accomplish – place all four teams within the top six seeds.

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Don’t Anther: Blackhawks Welcome Florida

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Just past the midway point of the season, Kris Versteeg has come on out of nowhere and is leading the team in scoring. Brian Campbell is third, boasting a team-high 31 assists. Tomas Kopecky has amassed 19 points, but his -12 tells a bigger story than his point total. And Jack Skille is still not showing the spark that General Manager Dale Tallon felt he would bring to the team, with only 6 points on the year.

Could be a paragraph out of January 2010, could it not? Well, maybe not the part about Steeger. But alas, no, dear reader: this is the current state of the Florida Panthers. Chicago South, as it were, as Tallon continues to stack his deck with former members of the Blackhawks’ 2009-10 Stanley Cup-winning roster — adding as-yet-unsigned free agent John Madden just three weeks ago.

Is it paying off?

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Quick And To The Pointless

This was too easy ( Nuccio DiNuzzo, Chicago Tribune)

So Bartl was supposed to be around with your Boxing – but he has gone MIA. Sombody should probably look into that.

But we have bigger fish to fry! We’re going to forego a traditional recap as the game was yesterday and you’ve probably already read recaps  here and here. Just a couple of real quick thoughts on the game and some other things:

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Won’t You Come Out Tonight: Blackhawks Try To Rattle Sabres

Photo: AP

From December 17th through the 31st the Buffalo Sabres were 1-5-1. During the month of January so far they are 2-4-1.

So, they’re improving! Right?

The latest loss comes at the hands of Detroit (*spitting noise*), a 5-0 shutout that has the team, the media, and the fans shaking their heads. This is no longer just a slump, this is a tailspin. Something needs to be done.

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Talking Trades: Cheer The Anthem Round Table for January 2012

Photo: Universal Pictures

With the up-and-down play of the Blackhawks in the new year, the talk about trades has ramped up considerably on the blogosphere and among the social media faithful. The Cheer The Anthem staff sat down recently to discuss who should (or could) stay, who should (or could) go, and who the Blackhawks might get in return — or are any changes needed at all? Check out what they had to say in the January edition of the Round Table…

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First Thing’s First: Boxing with Blackhawks and Sharks

"Oh, excuse me Antti." (Credit: Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune)

That’s your top line, ladies and gentlemen.

The Blackhawks came away with five of six points in their three-games-in-four-nights stretch, dominating San Jose 4-3 – save for a few moments.

Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Viktor Stalberg combined for two goals and three assists in the victory, coming up with big goals – and two more near-goals – to help improve the ‘Hawks to 3-0-2 in their last five games.

♦   It’s tough to ignore the play of Stalberg, despite the fact half of his 14 goals have come against Columbus. Nonetheless, when you’re hot, you’re hot. His goal was nothing short of perfection on all accounts, charging hard toward the net after recognizing the open space. With his speed and first step, these goals can continue happening, especially playing on a line with two of the league’s best passers.

♦   Kaner is in a big scoring slump, and if it wasn’t obvious enough, Antti Niemi absolutely robbed the living hell out of him in the first period. Toews and Kane executed a perfect 2-on-1, and Niemi seemed down and out. As we’re all privy to when Niemi was wearing the Indian head, he suck out the glove across the open net and snagged a sure-goal out of the air. Kane couldn’t believe it, and Toews had to go console him. It’s a shame, but it seems as if he’s getting closer to ending that slump.

♦  Toews’ goal was the work of the entire line. Stalberg hustled to bother Niemi, and the puck shot out to Kane on the left board. Without a hesitation, he fired it to the front with Toews waiting, and all three got on the score sheet. I’ll mention this again later, but Toews described the goal during the intermission interview and referred to Niemi as “their goaltender.” Fuck the friendship when it comes to getting a win, eh?

♦   Another goal from Andrew Shaw, who may get a statue outside the UC soon if it were up to a good chunk of the fan base. I like the guy. I think he brings plenty of things to the table and it’s hard to ignore his scoring numbers. He went 6 for 6 at the dot tonight and has an awesome Napoleon complex.

However, quoting the Gin Blossoms, Shaw may want to start singing: “If you don’t expect too much from me, you might not be let down.” Thinking this guy is the second coming of Denis Savard will only make for a long fall from the top of the What-You-Talkin’-About Willis Tower. If this keeps up, awesome. Build his statue. But when he starts to screw up – and he will – remember to be objective toward your newly found hero.

♦   I’d like to thank the ‘Hawks for taking my mind off what I witness first-hand at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. That first period was complete shit show. Following that with five solid periods helps.

Onto Boxing…

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Get It Together: Blackhawks Try To Bounce Back Against San Jose

Photo: AP

Out of the frying pan and into the fire, so to speak. After a humiliating loss to the Red Wings on Saturday, the Blackhawks get to suit up against yet another Western Conference rival on a hot streak in the form of San Jose. The new year has been good to the Sharks, with 6 wins and a shootout loss to their credit thus far.

In those six victories, they never allowed their opponents to tally more than twice. Defense is a big key to the Sharks’ game — they are 5th-best in the league in goals against. There is just one regular member of the Sharks roster who has a negative plus/minus. One. It’s Jason Demers, in case you’re interested.

But that’s not to say the Sharks have lost their once-potent offense. The usual one-two punch of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau is still as effective as ever, with the three-four punch combination of Joe Pavelski and Logan Couture close behind. Those four account for over 130 points of the Sharks’ offense. This is not a team that is prone to sitting back and protecting a lead.

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Tell The Kids To Do It: Chicago Visits Detroit (*spitting noise*)

Photo: NHL.com

The biggest challenge about this game isn’t the Red Wings’ roster, or its goaltender, or Coach Cranky Pants, or the brain-dead knuckle-draggers throwing seafood on the ice.

Detroit (*spitting noise*) is nearly unbeatable on home ice.

But notice I said “nearly.”

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Blackhawks Survivor: Ben Smith Voted Off

Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images North America

When you’re stacked with loads of talented youth in your system and under-performing or injured starters in the NHL, in comes the carousel of players going back and forth between the NHL and AHL.  Case in the point, the 2011-12 Blackhawks.

With the return of Marcus Kruger from injury this morning Joel Quenneville was forced to make a decision about which of his young studs wouldn’t make the cut.

Marcus Kruger, as a center, will always find a warm welcome on the Hawks, seeing as they need as much help as possible in the middle.  With rookies Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes playing lights out and both producing huge last night against Minnesota, Q had a decision to make.

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Recap: Hawks Domesticate the Wild

AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh

There are few teams better than the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild to use as slumpbusters in the NHL right now.  That is precisely what the Blackhawks have done in their last two games.  They could have stuck their tails between their legs after Patrick Sharp went down with his injury.  Instead, they responded with swagger.

Viktor Stalberg has taken Sharp’s spot, playing with Toews and Kane.  He’s taken full advantage of that opportunity with four goals in two games.

Andrew Shaw and Jimmy Hayes are showing that they are here to stay.  Sign them up.  I have to give Shaw some credit.  I was a major doubter when he got called up, not of his potential but whether he was ready for the NHL.  He’s shut me up really fast.  These two kids have been the spark the Hawks needed on the third and fourth lines.  Shaw scored his second NHL goal in tonight’s game and continues to impress me every game with smart and energetic shifts.  Both Shaw and Hayes scored goals against the Wild, showing that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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And We Thought We Had It Bad: Blackhawks Host Wild

Remember earlier this season, not long ago in fact, when everyone soiled their unmentionables over the headline, “Minnesota Wild First in Western Conference?” Oh, how things change.

For those of us feeling bummed or pissed or confused about the Blackhawks’ latest string of losses, we should thank our snowblowers that we’re not Minnesota Wild fans.

The Wild have two wins — that’s TWO WINS — in their last 13 games. The second one came against San Jose just this past Tuesday, when they blew a 2-goal lead and needed a shootout to finally get the W. They now sit clinging desperately to 7th place in the Western Conference, having dropped from 1st in just over a month. Unbelievable.

Guess they should have held on to Cam Barker, huh?

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Hats Off: Boxing with Blackhawks and BJs

(Credit: US Presswire)

I got home very late tonight, so this will be short before I get to Boxing.

♦   Viktor Stalberg – Good for you, kid.

♦   Jared Boll/Referees – You’re assholes

♦   Marian Hossa – Badass

♦   Corey Crawford – Just gave up another rebound.

That’s it. I’m tired. Here’s Boxing…

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Dull Game Without Sharp: Blue Jackets Visit Chicago

Photo: AP

News Flash: the Columbus Blue Jackets fired their coach.

*Yawn*

Everything else about the team is still the same as the last time we discussed them. Key players are injured; marquee names are trying their damnedest but can’t produce; offense sucks; defense is worse; goaltending is pathetic.

I really wish there was more to go into here, but there really isn’t. I feel like I’m giving Columbus the short end of the stick compared to the other previews I do, but how many different ways can you say, “Columbus sucks?” I ran out months ago.

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Sharp Will Miss 3-4 Weeks: Kruger Skating, Smith Recalled

The chick in the front row does her best Gene Simmons impression, while the guy on the right looks on skeptically. ( Nuccio DiNuzzo-Chicago Tribune)

If you’re a glass half empty person, you think the loss of Patrick Sharp comes at the worst possible time for the Blackhawks. With the PP going down the crapper (again) and the schedule getting a lot tougher, the Hawks can ill-afford to be without a key cog in their top-6 for the next 3 to 4 weeks.If you’re the glass half full sort, you say to yourself that this injury could have been much worse and the kids they have called up from Rockford have been impressive.

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Put Up Your Dukes: Union and League Spar Over Re-Alignment

L: Donald Fehr C: Bill Daly R: Gary Bettman

The NHL Players’ Association (NHLPA) and Executive Director Donald Fehr lobbed a hand grenade into what everyone thought was a quite pleasant cocktail party yesterday, informing the NHL that they would not approve the re-alignment plan that was approved by the league’s Board of Governors last month. This shocked the hell out of casual observers of the situation, though the undercurrents monitored by those closest to the situation had pointed firmly in this direction for a while.

What in the name of Virgil Johnson’s jock strap is going on here? Where did all this come from, and why is everyone in the hockey universe going non-linear about this? Sit back, make some popcorn, and buckle up: this is going to take a while…

Here’s a quick timeline. It all really got started when Phoenix started having financial trouble. The assumption was that the days of NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman’s south/southwest expansion were all but dead, and one or more teams (including Phoenix) would be moving north/northeast. Foreseeing this, the rumblings of re-alignment began with the league around 2008-09. Something would, eventually, have to be done.

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Call the Snow Patrol- Hawks Feel the Whiteout

Photo- Scott Slingsby

Blackhawks fans are certainly feeling the frustration right now, myself included.  Our team is on a roller coaster this season.  It’s pretty hard to deny that we are plummeting down the hill right now.  Another frustrating loss against the Avalanche tonight has led me to drink my sorrows away yet again. Yes, the Avs are on fire.  Let’s give them some credit.  However, it’s time to throw the excuses out the window.  What the hell is wrong with the Hawks’ ability to play consistent hockey?

Tonight was another prime example of what happens when the superstars can’t score.  No one picks up the slack for them and it’s deeply troubling.  The Hawks have thrived off their top scoring lines all season, with very little support from those lower on the depth chart.  This hurts in nights like tonight when they can’t get it going.

Semyon Varlamov earned a rare shutout in the United Center.  Unfortunately, this is the second time the Hawks have been shutout at home in 5 game stretch.  This is inexcusable.  Erik Johnson dominated the blueline for the Avs, logging two assists and a +3.

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Ignore This At Your Peril: Red-Hot Avalanche Visit Chicago

Photo: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

My fear as we entered January was that the Blackhawks would bring it during the big games and slack off with the so-called “lesser” opponents. I mentioned Colorado as one of the teams we should not look past. I also mentioned Edmonton. Mmm-hmm. Well, it’s time for the Colorado game. And guess what? The Avalanche are on a friggin’ tear.

3 wins in a row, 8 wins in their last 9 games, 3 straight wins on the road, and victories over Detroit, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, San Jose and Tampa Bay — all in the month of December. Colorado is getting solid and occasionally sensational goaltending from what has become its tandem of J.S. Giguere and Semyon Varlamov, and putting up the necessary goals on a night-in, night-out basis to bring home the wins.

This is not the Colorado team that we beat 3-1 out in Denver on October 20. If the Blackhawks treat it that way, this is another Edmonton loss waiting to happen.

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Scene Of The Crime: Winning Puck Still Missing as Blackhawks Return to Philly

Photo: USA Today

Without a trace. The NHL tried and failed, the Hockey Hall of Fame guys scoured the arena until the wee hours of the morning and came up empty, even the FBI were finally called in months after the confetti was cleaned up from Michigan Avenue. No dice.

The whereabouts of the puck that Patrick Kane put between the legs of Michael Leighton in overtime of Game 6 of to bring Lord Stanley’s Cup back to Chicago may never be officially known. But I think we all suspect it’s in Chris Pronger’s rec room. And now that hamster-fucking rectal wart is out for the season with a concussion.

Karma is a bitch, isn’t it, Chrissy?

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Carcillo Gets 7 Games : Will Carbomb Rise Again?

The White Sox are looking for pitching if the Blackhawks thing doesn't work out (Brian Kersey/Getty Images North America)

Brendan Shanahan has decreed Daniel Carcillo must serve a 7-game suspension once he recovers from the knee injury he sustained while railroading Tom Gilbert on Monday night.

Whatever. As annoying as it is to watch the people who were looking for reasons to hate Carcillo from the second he signed gloat, there is absolutely nothing you can say to  justify the hit he put on Gilbert. The puck was about 3 feet away from the contact point and his hands came way, way up. Worse yet, he injured his own knee on the play.

The Hawks are still uncertain how much time Carcillo will miss, but it’s likely to be a considerable amount  - perhaps the rest of the season.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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Hawks recall Dylan Olsen, Andrew Shaw : Monty to IR

This one is a framer! (Claus Andersen/NHLI via Getty Images)

Well this certainly came out of nowhere. The Blackhawks recalled 2009 1st Round pick Dylan Olsen today and placed 2011 5th round pick Andrew Shaw on the active roster. This news came on the heels of the Blackhawks announcing that Steve Montador and Marcus Kruger would both go on IR.

Olsen is a big (6-2, 214 LBS) stay at home defenseman that the Hawks could certainly use. It will be interesting to see who Q pairs him up with – most likely Sami Lepisto or Sean O’Donnell. This year at Rockford, Olsen is a -4 and has 1 goal and 1 assist in 30 games. Some speculated in the off-season that the Ryan Stanton might be the first Ice Hogs defenseman to get called up this year, but it appears Olsen has impressed the Blackhawks enough to be given that honor.

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