Tim Bits for Friday, December 10

Some quick news flashes for Blackhawks’ fans as the team wraps up activities for the day in San Jose:

Multiple sources on the scene are reporting that Corey Crawford will be in net for the Blackhawks when they take on the Sharks on Saturday. This should not be a surprise to anyone.

It was also suggested by Coach Joel Quenneville that Jordan Hendry may return to the lineup against San Jose. We haven’t seen him wearing the Indian Head sweater since November 7th against Edmonton. And few people were complaining. Hendry is a big goose-egg on the scoresheet and a -2 in 11 games this season.

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The Daily Phil Esposito (12/10/10)

"Yep, I'm still a dick."

There were 13 former Blackhawks who took the ice last night, and apparently they believe they are still on the Blackhawks and had a day off. Of the 13, there were 11 skaters who combined to score 0 points, and had a rating of minus-7. Eeeek. The only positive came from a guy who played 15 games as a Hawk and went 1-10-3.

Click the jump for updates from the 12/9 games

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The Daily Phil Esposito (12/9/10)

Brandon Spinner will be all set up later today and will post The Daily Espo under his own name tomorrow. Here’s his second edition recapping former Blackhawks’ performances from last night.

"Hm, I used this tongue on that blonde in the fifth row back in May." (Chicago Tribune)

Only a handful of former Hawks were in action, combining for just 1 goal and 2  assists. The return of well-loved Adam Burish to the Madhouse proved to be nice. He received a loud cheer when he started his first shift, but that’s the only noise that was associated with him.

Click the jump for updates from the 12/8 games

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Boxing with ‘Hawks/Stars (12/8/10) and Crawford’s legit tirade on refs

Let’s get down to brass tax here — Dallas Stars coach  Marc Crawford laid into the refs following the game and had a very legit gripe. Whether or not  Brent Seabrook meant to throw his stick at the puck carrier makes no difference. It should have been a penalty shot for Dallas. I’m not even going to attempt to deny that.

Here’s Crawford’s postgame press conference:

While understandable for Crawford to go nuts, he may want to look deeper at his team, which fell behind 3-0 before deciding to play. Then it was too late. The Stars are lucky to have made the comeback in the first place. And I’m sure he’ll realize that once he looks at the tape and takes a step back from the heat of the moment.

Of course, I could say the same thing about the ‘Hawks giving up a goal-against immediately after going up 3-0, then giving up two goals in just over a minute to allow Dallas to make it interesting heading into the third period. The ‘Hawks have been notorious for placing the opposition’s collective mouth on the curb, then forgetting to stomp.

Everything else I have to say is done through “Boxing.” Click the images to enlarge and, as always, enjoy.

Click the jump for “Boxing”

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Shooting Stars. And passing, and checking… Hawks/Stars at the U.C.

"You guys replaced me with John Fucking Scott?"

The Dallas Stars come into tonight’s game sitting second in the Western Conference, three points behind Detroit, and just suffered their first loss in 7 games on Monday. If we’re lucky enough not to get Kari Lehtonen in goal, we get Andrew Raycroft: 3 – 1 record, 1.65 GAA, .951 save percentage. Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, James Neal, and Mike Ribiero are all comfortably north of 20 points in 26 games.

Dallas is burning as white hot as… as… hmm. What’s a good analogy?

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The Daily Phil Esposito (12/8/10)

I’d like to introduce  Brandon Spinner, who will be updating you on your former Blackhawks each day. Brandon will be posting under his own name soon and will have The Daily Espo up every morning. You can follow Brandon on Twitter @branman111289.

In other site news, FanSided has teamed with SeatGeek, which is a StubHub-like operation where tickets to sporting events are sold. If you’re looking for seats for ‘Hawks games, click on the SCHEDULE tab on the top of the page and find the game you’re looking for. Remember to buy the short blonde guy sitting in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 11 a Bud Heavy when you arrive. Thank you for your cooperation.

Also, you can now “Like” each specific story by clicking on the headline from the main page, then clicking the button in the upper right. You’ll also find an easier way to send each story to Twitter next to it.

All right, enough bullshit. Here’s Brandon’s first edition of The Daily Phil Esposito:

"Damn, there were a lot more empty seats when I played in here." (SportsBlink.com)

Quiet day for former Indian Head Sweater Wearers, in which all scoring came from one guy. A Flame-r…

Click the jump for updates from the 12/7/10 games

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20 cents for your thoughts: Injured Patrick Kane out for three weeks

"Welp, see ya later." (CSNChicago.com)

The news  Patrick Kane will be out for up to three weeks with a left leg injury came without much of an uproar. The general consensus seems to be: “It looked worse than that. Three weeks isn’t so bad.”

Hmm, interesting. It’s funny how we all panic when  Marty Turco lets in a soft goal, yet we’re relatively calm when the Blackhawks’ point-per-game winger will be shelved for nearly a month. If you can figure that out, well, you’re a step ahead of me.

Fact is, a day without Kane is a day too many. There’s been times this season he’s been clearly absent from the game while his Give A Fuck is in the shop. However, at least he’s been on the ice. We all know when Kane decides he’s going to do something spectacular, it happens more often than not. I’d rather have Kane roaming the ice without a care in the world rather than have him watching from the press box.

The It’s-Not-So-Bad mentality may go away quickly tomorrow when the Blackhawks take the ice without both Kane and  Marian Hossa for the first time since Hossa signed with the ‘Hawks. They missed games separately, but not together.  Jonathan Toews put the Blackhawks on his back Sunday against Calgary, and we’re going to be hoping he can do that again for however long it takes Hossa to return.

As I stated after Sunday’s game, the Blackhawks are already dressing  John Scott at forward. Since Scott has the offensive talent of Dennis Rodman, losing both Kane and Hossa — along with Fernando Pisani still out — the attack is considerably less intimidating.

While  Chris Kuc says  Jeremy Morin should be back with the ‘Hawks tomorrow night against Dallas, my assumption is  Ryan Potulny will get his I-Pass and make the trip up from Rockford. Imagine if someone in your fantasy league offered you Morin and Potulny for Kane. You’d probably laugh yourself into a coma.

Maybe I’m not being optimistic enough, or everyone else is lacking the pessimism necessary to be a realist.

But three weeks without Kane? Sounds as fun as a fart in a 100-floor elevator ride to me.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

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PUCKCAST: Tim and HOCKEENIGHT get their Nick Boynton on

Plus a bunch more. Have a listen and get a laugh rather than killing your boss while you hate your job today.

Injury-riddled Boxing with Blackhawks/Flames (12/5/10)

Prognosis: Negative. (Chicago Tribune)

It’s pretty unfair to  Jonathan Toews to talk about  Patrick Kane’s injury right off the bat, seeing as Tazer put the Blackhawks on his back in their 4-2 win Sunday against the Calgary Flames.

However, the potential long-term absence of Kaner is pretty damning. With  Marian Hossa and  Fernando Pisani already out, losing another offensive weapon like Kane for a team already dressing  John Scott at forward could send the ‘Hawks up Shit’s Creek without a paddle.

Coach Q said he’ll be “out for a bit,” but that it’s “nothing very serious.” I’ve seen on Twitter some NHL media have heard 4-6 weeks. Did he sprain his ankle? Tweak his MCL? Hopefully by the time you read this, we’ll know.

Whether it’s a week, two weeks or more than a month, any time without Kane is going to be a detriment to the offense. Everyone is going to have to step up a notch, and hopefully  Dave Bolland keeps removing his head from his ass.  Patrick Sharp is already carrying more than his weight, but the ‘Hawks will need even more handsome firepower.

Toews showed right away what he means to this team, and you’re bat-shit insane if you don’t think he watched Kane go off the ice and said, “OK, time to beat some fucking ass.” The Blackhawks will need more of that mentality.

Corey Crawford pretty much solidified himself as the No. 1 with his sixth straight win. I know that  Marty Turco hasn’t been playing awful and has the heart of Mother Teresa, but he’ll have to sit and watch until the kid shits the bed.

On that note, here’s your Monday morning edition of “Boxing.” Click the images to enlarge and, as always, enjoy.

Hit the jump for “Boxing”

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Light Them Up: Flames Visit Chicago

There are two reasons for the Blackhawks to kick it into gear tonight against the Calgary Flames. First, getting shut out by Vancouver two nights ago on home ice. Second, the embarrassing loss the Hawks suffered at the hands of the Flames two weeks ago by the score of 7 – 2. That absolutely must be avenged tonight.

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Okay, so that happened: Canucks 3, Blackhawks 0

Photo: AP

Last night there were several Blackhawks lying awake in bed, staring at the ceiling, wishing they had a second chance at the opportunities they missed against the Canucks. Were it not for those missed opportunities — and admittedly white-hot goaltender in the form of Roberto Luongo — the scoreboard would have looked much different when the final horn sounded.

The Hawks threw pretty much everything they could at Luongo, but Bobby Lu was on his game, turning away all 32 shots for his second shutout of the season. Those saves included a breakaway by Patrick Sharp and a point-blank, doorstep chance by Tomas Kopecky the he flipped gently into Luongo’s glove.

The Hawks didn’t play badly, nor did Marty Turco, who turned away 15 of 18 shots. Most of the lines were hustling, we saw signs of the old Duncan Keith re-emerging, and newcomer Jeremy Morin had another solid outing. It was just one of those nights with a hot goalie on the other end of the rink and the bounces not going the way the Blackhawks needed them to. Hard to say more than that.

Next up is Calgary on Sunday, a team we need to get even with following the beat-down we suffered at their hands two weeks back. We’ll preview that matchup tomorrow, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for any team info you need between now and game time.

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Back For More, Eh? Blackhawks Host Vancouver

Photo: AP

We tend to scoff at the Canucks in general, because we have Roberto Luongo’s number and we tend to knock them around like a piñata pretty much every time we see them, especially at the United Center. But we had better take the game more seriously this time: the Canucks come in fresh off a 7 – 2 win over Calgary. That game included a noteworthy hat-trick from Mason Raymond — one tally on the power play, one at even strength, and one shorty. Not often you see that.

So you can bet the Canucks will be feeling their oats and itching for a scrap when they hit Chicago tonight, especially after the bitch-slapping we gave them in GM Place the week before last. We showered the Vancouver net with 41 shots, chased Bobby Lu before the end of the 2nd, and walked out of there with a 7-1 victory. They will be looking for some payback. Expect Vancouver’s Tanner pain-in-the-Glass to be the latest fool to challenge — and get bludgeoned by — John Scott early on.

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The Daily Phil Esposito (12/3/10)

This is a new quick-hitting feature I hope to publish each morning updating a good majority of former Blackhawks playing around the NHL with their performances the night before.

Why the name?  Phil Esposito was traded to the Boston Bruins in 1967 in one of the most lopsided trades in league history. Seems fitting to honor one of the most famous former Blackhawks who had his best years while not playing for the franchise. Hope you enjoy.

"I don't drink ALL the time. Assholes."

A pretty slow night for the former Four Feathered Men, who combined for one goal and one assist. However, a drunk guy stopped a bunch of shots.

Click the jump for updates from 12/2

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End The Controversy: A Tale of Four Goalies

Photos: TSN.ca

The Blackhawks’ rookie goaltender Corey Crawford came off the Circus Trip with three starts, three wins, and a GAA hovering just below 1.00. The calls went out for a third straight start after his wins over the Ducks and Kings, and he got it on Tuesday night against St. Louis. He came away with another win, but I think he showed us exactly why doing a flip-flop for the starting role with Marty Turco is a mistake.

Before we get into that, I want to take you back ten years and revisit the story of two young goaltenders in the Blackhawks organ-eye-zation. Michael Leighton and Craig Anders(s)on — I really should tell that story about the extra ‘s’ — were both drafted by Chicago and came into the AHL in 2001. They played as a tandem in Norfolk, which was then the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, and over the next three years started to gain confidence at the pro level.

Here and there they would get the occasional call-up, mostly to sit on the bench at the UC and watch Steve Passmore flop all over the ice and get his ass handed to him. Then, disaster struck. Blackhawks’s starting goaltender Jocelyn Thibault injured his hip, underwent surgery and was to miss a total of 60 games during the 2003-04 season.

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Boxing with ‘Hawks/Blues (11/30/10)

All right, it’s really late so you’re not going to get any analysis from me tonight other than what’s in the “Boxing.” However, be sure to check out today’s Daily Esposito below this post to catch up on your former Blackhawks.

Click the images to enlarge and, as always, I hope you enjoy it.

Click the jump for the BOX SCORE

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The Daily Phil Esposito (12/1/10)

This is a new quick-hitting feature I hope to publish each morning updating a good majority of former Blackhawks playing around the NHL with their performances the night before.

Why the name?  Phil Esposito  was traded to the Boston Bruins in 1967 in one of the most lopsided trades in league history. Seems fitting to honor one of the most famous former Blackhawks who had his best years while not playing for the franchise. Hope you enjoy.

"See? I told you I was good." (SI.com)

Well, the meatballs would have a good case tonight. Three Stanley Cup-winning former Blackhawks combined for two goals and three assists. And there’s other stuff.

Hit the jump for udpates from the 11/30 games

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Please, Enough Drama Already! Blues Visit Chicago

SAN JOSE, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Corey Crawford  of the Chicago Blackhawks warms up before their game against the San Jose Sharks at HP Pavilion on November 24, 2010 in San Jose, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

It’s been an exciting few days for Blackhawks fans, as we wound down the Circus Trip with four wins, our star winger got injured at practice, and the phrase “goalie controversy” threatened to rear its ugly head again. But we’ll get to that in a minute. The task at hand are the boys in blue and gold, and game time is not even 12 hours away.

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The Daily Phil Esposito (11/30/10)

This is a new quick-hitting feature I hope to publish each morning updating a good majority of former Blackhawks playing around the NHL with their performances the night before.

Why the name? Phil Esposito was traded to the Boston Bruins in 1967 in one of the most lopsided trades in league history. Seems fitting to honor one of the most famous former Blackhawks who had his best years while not playing for the franchise. Hope you enjoy.

Nothing that will blow your skirt up over last night’s performances. Eight former Blackhawks combined for one point, a minus-4 and a made-up drunken-driving offense.

Click the jump for updates from 11/29 games.

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“It’s not rocket surgery”: Crawford to start, Boynton hurts Hossa

"I got this." (Chicago Tribune)

The clamoring for  Corey Crawford to get the nod in net Tuesday has come to fruition. Unfortunately, so has the official confirmation that  Nick Boynton is a worthless piece of shit.

CSN’s  Tracey Myers (@TramyersCSN) reported a couple of nuggets on her Twitter account today. First, Boynton and  Marian Hossa collided in practice and Hossa was sent back to the locker room to be looked at. No word yet on Hossa’s condition. However, if Hossa is out for an extended period of time yet again, Boynton and his lisp are going to be swinging from a building somewhere.

Myers reported later that Crawford will get his third straight start Tuesday night against St. Louis. He’s 4-0-0 with a 1.23 GAA in his last four starts, including three road victories. Giving the kid a start at home riding a hot streak should’ve gone without saying, but it was good to see  Joel Quenneville announce it early.

The only time Crawford faced the Blues was Feb. 2, 2006 in a 6-5 shootout loss. Crawford gave up five goals and made 34 saves in a brief call-up.

It should also go without saying that Q needs to ride Crawford as long as possible with the way he’s been playing. A loss shouldn’t immediately relegate Crawford back to the bench if he plays well. For a Blackhawks team seemingly lacking a spark, Crawford resembles the closest thing to a pick-me-up at the moment.

And on top of all that,  Marty Turco is the class act we all knew he was. According to Brian Hamilton of the Trib:

“Corey’s going to play, I think, and he should,” Turco said. “He’s been playing great, he’s been playing great all year, has won a few in a row. We want to get on a roll. I’m here to win, no matter what.”

Either Tim or I will have updates on the Hossa injury as we get them. Check our Facebook fan page or our Twitter for the the quickest info.

End of the Circus: Boxing with ‘Hawks/Ducks and ‘Hawks/Kings

Hey dude. You're, like, bleeding and stuff. (Chicago Tribune)

Well, Corey, it looks like it’s your show — for now.

A couple of very solid performances and an overall above-average season so far is good enough in my book to give  Corey Crawford the keys to the Blackhawks’ ride. McClure of Second City Hockey said it best:  Marty Turco is owed nothing here. He’s a hell of a guy, came here to win a ring and hasn’t played all that bad.

Crawford, a product of the ‘Hawks system who has paid his dues with the franchise, is playing to his capabilities and expectations. His 5-4-0 record may seem modest, but his GAA is a sparkling 2.07 in eight starts and nine total appearances. He made key saves in both games against Anaheim and Los Angeles and didn’t give up a single even-strength goal in either contest.

If Turco gets the start Tuesday, Coach Q should immediately have his head examined. There’s no reason not to go with Crawford.

With all of that said, let’s make this clear: There is no goalie controversy — yet. While Crawford has played well, he’s simply the guy who gives the Blackhawks the best chance to win right now. It’s too early to say he’s the one who gives the ‘Hawks the best chance to win for the rest of the season. Turco still holds that title, in my opinion. It’s not to say that can’t change, but Crawford has to do it for an extended period of time — like Antti Niemi did last season.

If Crawford gets his starts and continues to show he’s the right guy for the No. 1 job, the worst thing that happens is the ‘Hawks have a damn good veteran backup in Turco. That’s a good position to be in, especially given the  Cristobal Huet situation in which we thought Dr. Phil would have to intervene.

So, with that being said, I’ll let “Boxing” do the rest of the talking from the weekend. First is the ‘Hawks 2-1 win against the Kings, followed by Friday’s 4-1 victory against the Gordon Bombays.

Click the jump for “Boxing”

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When You Strike At A King: Blackhawks End Circus Trip in LA

Photo: Yahoo! Sports

Since the LA Kings visited the United Center on October 27th, the Kings went on a tear. Los Angeles won six in a row, followed by a six-game stretch in which they allowed the opposing teams to take 11 of the 12 possible points from them. The Blackhawks arrive in Los Angeles on the occasion of that 13th game, wondering if the Kings will break their streak of bad luck, or start a new one.

The teams that de-throned the Kings in that stretch were nothing to sneeze at, including Columbus and Montreal, both in the top four teams of their respective conferences. But the key to these wins appears, statistically at least, to be dependent on two players. With rare exception, the following maxim is true: if Jonathan Quick plays, LA wins. If Jonathan Bernier gets the start, LA loses. Chicago faced Bernier in their game at the United Center.

Tonight, the Blackhawks will face Jonathan Quick.

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Does This Make Us Cake-Eaters? Blackhawks at Anaheim

Photo: AP

The last time we saw the Anaheim Ducks it was less than two weeks ago at the United Center, and it was one of the games we want to remember from this year. Okay, Duncan Keith getting his pocket picked in the deep slot and allowing a goal less than a minute after we had taken the early lead wasn’t highlight-reel material. But the Blackhawks shelled Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller with 43 shots, allowing only 26 against, and Viktor Stalberg gave Corey Crawford the win with a late-OT goal.

It wasn’t perfect, but it was a nice send-off victory for the Circus Trip, as we now pay a visit to the Honda Center in Anaheim to see those same Ducks again. The Hawks are fresh off a loss in San Jose, where a stop-and-start effort ended in a 5 – 2 defeat, the salt in that wound being the name “Niemi” pasted across the jersey of the opposing goaltender. Hopefully the ‘Hawks get angry and hand it to the Ducks for some payback…

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Thanksgiving Boxing with Blackhawks/Sharks, 11/24/10

What. Do I got a boogy hangin'? (Associated Press)

Well, not much to be thankful for after that shit. I’d have rather eaten my roommate’s toe jam.

I know this may sound vague, but that game was just bad to watch. At no point did I feel confident about a ‘Hawks victory. And if any of you clowns start talking about  Antti Niemi and how the Blackhawks got a first-hand glimpse of why we miss him, I may hang myself with dental floss.

Granted, he played well. However, a few other goalies who haven’t been in net when the ‘Hawks won the Stanley Cup have also played well against us this season. So, let’s move on from that.

It’s quite clear  Nick Boynton needs to remove his penis from  Jen Patterson long enough to play some serviceable hockey. What has  Jordan Hendry done to be in QStache’s dog house? Why does he continue to troll Boynton and  Jassen Cullimore on the ice when Hendry hasn’t done to warrant the constant healthy scratches? It’s starting to become mind-boggling.

More dipshit penalties, such as  Bryan Bickell’s absolute comeback killer with a holding-the-stick call, then a follow-up unsportsmanlike conduct for a double minor which is the clear result of him being a fucking whining bitch. Sit in the box and shut the fuck up. You already did something stupid, don’t do more stupid stuff.

The best thing was  Patrick Sharp’s awesome deflection past Niemi. Good to see him back in the groove with three goals in four games. Neato stuff there.

Marian Hossa got another assist, giving him four in two games. However, he’s scored one goal in 12 games. That needs to end soon.

Oh, and did the ‘Hawks leave  Patrick Kane in Vegas to pick up hookers and drink his own piss hoping to drink the same 39 beers twice? It would be nice to see some consistency. Games like his 1 G, 2 A performance against Vancouver are too few and far between. Kane has 22 points, which is one off Sharp’s pace, but imagine if he played every single game like he played last season when he was trying to overcome the “20 Cent” label. Christ Almighty.

I have some more stuff in a Turkey Day edition of “Boxing.” Sorry again for the delay in these, and thanks to those who enjoy it so much to send messages telling me how much you love it. As Tim said yesterday, sometimes life gets in the way. You’re alive and reading it now, so you’ll be fine.

Click on the images to enlarge. See you again Friday for Gordan Bombay Appreciation Night.

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Minnows In This Tank: Blackhawks Visit Sharks

Photo: Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press

Well! What a difference 6 months makes.

6 months and one day ago, Antti Niemi was stellar between the pipes for Chicago as the Blackhawks swept the San Jose Sharks from the Western Conference Finals on their way to winning the Stanley Cup.

Now, Niemi is struggling in net for the Sharks, and both teams are shadows of their former selves. Chicago is hovering just one point above the 8th spot in the West; and if the playoffs were to start today, the Sharks would be scouting good tee times. So while on the surface this game appears to be a heated re-match of last year’s playoff encounter, in reality it will likely come down to which team sucks less.

The Sharks have been streaky this year: win two, lose two. Win three, lose three. They are coming off a loss and two OT defeats in their last three games, due in no small part to feeble goaltending. Neither Niemi nor starter Antero Nittymaki could get their team through overtime in their previous two efforts, and neither Colorado nor Dallas needed more than 3 shots to dent the twine for the game-winner. With Niemi’s 3.93 GAA, that honestly should come as a surprise to nobody.

Offense has been San Jose’s bread and butter for some time now, with Uber-Players Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley leading the charge on the team’s first line. They are getting goal support from other players too this year, with Ryane Clowe, Joe Pavelski and defenseman Dan Boyle close behind in the points race. That explains why the Sharks have scored five or more goals in 5 of their 9 wins so far this season.

Defense hasn’t been stellar so far, with half of their core lineup hovering at or below the +1 mark, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic bringing up the rear with a -10 on the season. Former Blackhawks draft pick Kent Huskins is a bright spot, with two assists and a +7 in 19 games.

The slow start to the year has San Jose fans puzzled, and the blogosphere talking trade. One thing is for sure: this is not last year’s Sharks.

So much the better, because this is not last year’s Blackhawks either. This time last year, the Blackhawks were wrapping up an 8-game winning streak that would leave their record at 16-5-2. This year, the Hawks longest winning streak is 4 games, and their record is 11-10-2.

Confidence should be high in the locker room, however: the Blackhawks’ had 13 players with at least one point in Saturday’s 7 – 1 win over Vancouver, chasing long-time whipping-boy Roberto Luongo in the process. It was a night for the stars to come out and play: Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews all lit the lamp, and Marian Hossa had 3 assists on the night.

Also starting to shine more brightly is Troy Brouwer, who has two goals in as many games and is starting to assert himself more decisively. Recently-written-off Fernando Pisani has four points in five games; and don’t look now, but Viktor Stalberg is fifth on the team with six goals, and he hasn’t even adjusted to playing with Kane and Toews yet. If that line ever gels the way it potentially could, they could change games all by themselves.

Goaltending remains solid: both netminders are above .900 save percentage and below 3.00 GAA, and one more win puts Corey Crawford back at the .500 mark for the year.

The weak spot continues to be defense, where the play of (though it pains me to say it) Duncan Keith deserves to be singled out as particularly sub-par. At least once a period he’s making a bad pass, getting his pocket picked, or losing a battle against the boards that allows a scoring chance for the opposing team.

It’s almost to the point of asking, “What’s wrong with the kid?” Bad breakup with the fiancee? Family member sick? Paying too much for car insurance? This is *not* the Norris Trophy-winning defenseman we saw last year, and honestly, something needs to be done about it. I have a feeling that if Dunc gets his act together this team will start to see a substantial rebound. In my opinion, somebody needs to take the reins on that task. Coach Q…

Late start tonight: puck drops at 9:30pm Chicago time. It’s a national broadcast on the NHL Network, though Chicago viewers will see the game on WGN. Broadcast radio is WGN AM-720, and XM subscribers should tune in to channel 205

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Dump & Chase: Tuesday, November 23

A few bits and pieces from around the league on the Blackhawks’ day off.

Fan voting for the NHL All-Star Game has always seemed to me to be the election easiest to rig. Teams scatter fan ballots like confetti all over home games, and team with the most fans at the most games gets the most players into the game. The league is trying to put a lid on that, in its own way; but in the mean time the Blackhawks are reaping the benefits.

Despite his play being less than stellar of late, Blackhawks’ defenseman Duncan Keith is currently ranked first among defensemen, and second overall behind only Sidney Crosby in All-Star fan voting. Other notables on the Blackhawks include Jonathan Toews (3rd among forwards), Patrick Kane (5th) and Marian Hossa (8th). Some dedicated souls have Marty Turco sitting 14th among goaltenders as a write-in candidate, but it looks like Montreal’s Carey Price is going to win that one by a mile.

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We’re going to suggest you take a trip into enemy territory here, and visit one of our red-headed step-sister sites on the FanSided.com network. This time, in honor of tomorrow’s game against San Jose, we present you with Blades of Teal — which you have to admit is a pretty catchy title. They’ll give you an insider’s peek inside the tank in San Jose.

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A brief We’ll Always Love Them Even If They Wear Other Jerseys Now update for you.

Heading north to Minnesota we find John Madden starting to hit his stride after a slow start. His quick stick at the faceoff dot and penalty-killing abilities are helping Minnesota to secure a playoff spot.

Further north in Edmonton, we have seen Colin Fraser three times already this season, fulfilling his role as a grinding center with 22 hits to complement his 2 goals and 1 assist.

Up in Toronto, winger Kris Versteeg got off to a hot start and was an immediate favorite with fans and sports writers alike. But the bloom is off the rose, as his 6 goals and 6 assists are far fewer than Leafs faithful were expecting from a top-six forward. Don’t worry, Kris: the Toronto press tends to anoint anyone with a modicum of talent. Just stay consistent, they’ll get over it soon enough and start picking on somebody else.

Blackhawks’ fan favorite and consummate smart-ass Adam Burish landed in Dallas, and surprising nobody but his mother who is (no doubt) still ashamed, he leads the team in penalty minutes. He has seen time on a line with Mike Ribiero and Brenden Morrow, and has 2 goals to show for it.

But the real action is in Dixie, where some former Blackhawks are transforming a Thrashers team that we saw earlier this month. Winger Ben Eager has been throwing his weight around with 35 hits. Blueliner Brent Sopel continues his solid stay-at-home play, logging 15 minutes a night (and still sporting the homeless-musician haircut).

Dustin “BIG BUFF” Byfuglien has taken Atlanta by storm, returning to his native position on the blue line, and sitting second on the team in points — including a team-leading 4 game-winning goals. The Thrashers put the “A” on his sweater in recent weeks.

And finally, Andrew Ladd was recently named Captain of the Atlanta Thrashers, leading the team with 21 points (7 G, 14 A). He is having what more than one journalist is calling a “career year,” as his scoring and leadership abilities are illustrating the raw talent that has earned him two Stanley Cup rings. Congratulations, Andrew!

My update on Antti Niemi will be seen tomorrow morning: check back for our preview of the Blackhawks vs. Sharks tilt.

*     *     *     *     *

One last note: Jeff wanted me to apologize to all of you for not getting your favorite “Boxing” features up following the games over the weekend. He told me to say that he’s been sitting at home playing “Call of Duty: Black Ops” and smearing Crisco on his nether regions.

And now, he’ll never let me apologize for him ever again!

No seriously, as is the case with all of us, work and life intervene. Jeff had his clothes stapled to his desk by cruel co-workers last week, and the custodial staff went through several pairs of needle-nosed pliers trying to break him loose. But he promises to be back in the saddle and “Boxing” again for you shortly.

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