Blackhawks on the Mend: Salak Recalled, Saad to OHL, etc.

Hopefully all of this injury shit is confined to the start of the season, when the ‘Hawks had five days to heel up and get back in gear.

♦   Corey Crawford practiced today with a sore groin, and he’s not certain if he can go against Winnipeg tomorrow night. Crawford downplayed it and said he’ll decide at the morning skate how healthy he is, but there’s no reason to rush back for the third game of the season. In fact, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to sit Crawford either Thursday or Saturday against Boston anyway even if he was healthy.

The humorous part, though, is that Ray Emery also missed Wednesday’s practice with the flu. To counter that, the Blackhawks recalled Alexander Salak to either start or be the backup against the Jets. With all the hullabaloo over the backup goaltender, we all may get a chance to see what Salak is all about. Then if he posts a shutout, we can read 19 more blogs about whether or not Salak will replace Emery even after Emery is done vomiting. Yippy.

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That’s More Like It: Another Round of Boxing with Blackhawks-Stars

"Thanks for the roster spot, bitch." (Credit: Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)

After Friday’s poop fest, it was more than nice to see the ‘Hawks score first and shut down the Stars out of the gate in a 5-2 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It also helped that Andrew Raycroft was getting beat like a group of Mormons in a keg race to his glove side all night. A couple of inches on numerous shots and this game could’ve ended 9-2.

Jonathan Toews scored out of the penalty box after Andrew Brunette got his first goal as a Blackhawk. Dave Bolland had a pair, including one that made Raycroft look like, well, Raycroft. Goals came much easier than they did Friday against Kari Lehtonen.

The Blackhawks seemed to be determined well before puck drop, as the ‘Hawks limited shots to Corey Crawford as he was playing a back-to-back for the first time since late last season. No real threats were posed other than a Vernon Fiddler goal which was set up by a nice give-and-go with former friend Adam Burish. Still, it took a great shot from Fiddler to beat Crawford to the far top shelf when Crawford had the near post covered.

Jamal Mayers helped welcome back Jake Dowell to the UC with a couple of haymakers, while John Scott was up to his same old shit – wasting a perfectly good uniform while dressing his large, worthless body for a whole three minutes.

Bolland, on the other hand, proved just how useful he can be when he can stay healthy. Friday and Saturday were night and day, and don’t think Bolland wasn’t a major cause of it. The Stars looked completely out of sorts, and Bolland provided plenty of offense as well. It’s probably both good and bad, but the ‘Hawks seem to be a different team when he’s out on the ice (See: Vancouver series, Games 4-7).

Onto Boxing to celebrate the first of (hopefully) many more victories. As always, separate images for the summary and box score, click each to enlarge:

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Let’s Get ‘Em Tomorrow: Opening Night Boxing with Blackhawks-Stars

Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE

Oh well. Not much to get nuts about here. One game down, 81 (and hopefully more) to go.

Sure, there are certain things that made me angry. The power play was 0 for 4, Duncan Keith looked like poop. Marian Hossa and Michael Frolik missed on a couple of good chances.

Again, it’s just one game and a 2-1 loss in Dallas on opening night isn’t something to cower in the corner about. It’s time for the Stars to head into our house.

It’s time for the triumphant return of Boxing – the first one here at our new home, Cheer the Anthem. There are two separate images, one for the game summary and one for the box score. Click on each to enlarge.

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Dancing With The Stars: Dallas Home-And-Home Kicks Off 2011-12

Photo: Getty Images

The bad news for the Dallas Stars is, they come in to the 2011-12 season with most hockey pundits expecting them to miss the playoffs, ranking in 11th place or lower when April rolls around. The worse news is, they have a rookie coach, their leading scorer flew the coop in the off-season, and they may be moving to Medicine Hat at any moment.

That unfamiliar face behind the bench is Glen Gulutzan, coaching his first NHL team in his first NHL game. Both his playing and coaching careers topped out at the minor league level — until tonight. Star center Brad Richards decided to follow dozens of overpaid and underperforming hockey players to the white-hot Klieg lights of the New York Rangers’ dressing room. And the ownership situation is still very much up in the air — leaving the question open as to whether new ownership will want to take the team someplace where the most prevalent religion is not NASCAR.

And let’s not forget, this is the Dallas Stars team that handed their playoff berth to the Blackhawks on the final day of last season, with a hog-smoking performance against the nearly-impotent Minnesota Wild. That Cubs-worthy choke sent the Stars to an early tee time for the third straight season, and contributed significantly to the dismissal of former head coach Marc Crawford.

Not exactly a good time to be a Dallas Star.

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Behind Enemy Lines: Previewing the Stars with ESPNDallas.com’s Mark Stepneski

With Richards gone, is Eriksson ready to shoulder the load?

The season opener(s) is upon us, and to help preview the home-and-home with the Dallas Stars is ESPNDallas.com’s Mark Stepneski, who discusses last season’s letdown, the departure of Brad Richards and the Stars’ gameplan for the weekend against the Blackhawks.

Bartl: After missing the playoffs on the final day of the season and allowing the Blackhawks to sneak in, has there been any talk around the team about that near miss providing added motivation for this season, or has the team moved on?

Stepneski: I think missing the playoffs for a third straight season is a big motivation. But the sense I get from the team is that this season is kind of a fresh start. There’s a new head coach in Glen Gulutzan and several new players have been added via free agency. Not many in the national media are giving them much of a chance – hardly anyone is picking them to make the playoffs – and that is providing a little extra motivation as well.

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Fans Puzzled Over Salak Demotion: Here’s Why

Photo: Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The battle for the backup goaltender job with the Blackhawks this pre-season was the most anticipated contest at camp. That is, until Brandon Saad came along and played like he wanted his locker next to Jonathan Toews for the season. He may yet get his wish. But that’s another story.

Much ballyhooed rookie goaltender Alexander Salak came into camp with a phalanx of very vocal supporters, clamoring from any soap-box that they could find that the kid was “ready.” But the Blackhawks invited veteran netminder Ray Emery for a tryout anyhow. On Monday that battle came to an end when Emery signed a one-year contract and Salak was demoted to Rockford.

Did Salak “lose” the starting job to the enigmatic (and frequently problematic) veteran Emery? Was there ever a competition to begin with, or did the team just want to give the appearance of actually considering Salak when their intention was to sign Emery all along? A lot of fans are crying “foul,” believing that Salak was the better of the two goaltenders in the pre-season, and didn’t deserve the fate handed to him.

Here’s how I view the situation looking back at it now: the Blackhawks were left with two unpleasant choices after Friday’s loss to Pittsburgh, and they chose the least unpleasant of the two.

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Emery “Wins” Backup Goaltender Job, Which Means… Nothing.

Yep, that's our backup goaltender. The one on the left, dumbass.

The Blackhawks officially signed Ray Emery to back up Corey Crawford this season, ending the competition with Alexander Salak. Why should you care? Well, you really shouldn’t.

It doesn’t matter what the reasons were for Coach Q and Stan Bowman to go this route. There are plenty, I’m sure, and none of which are of any concern to me. Chicago fans have an affinity for the backup, no matter what sport. It’s always been that way. And finally, for the first time in a few years, Blackhawks fans don’t have to worry who the hell is wearing the baseball cap this season while the starting goaltender shines in net.

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Looking at What Counts when Nothing Counts

(Chicago Tribune)

After a nice little break I like to enjoy each offseason, I’m making my triumphant, much-anticipated return so you folks can remind me of how my fantastic, well-written, well-informed opinions are what you look forward to on a daily basis bother you.

I hit the United Center last night in my usual spot in Section 326, Row 12, Seat 11 and watched the Blackhawks earn a meaningless 4-3 win over Detroit, much to the delight of the woman behind me screeching each time the ‘Hawks crossed the red line. Thanks, psycho.

The problem with these games that don’t count is that bad shit still can happen, evident by the fact Viktor Stalberg will be sidelined three weeks with a leg injury, and Ben Smith got railroaded by a nasty hit which knocked him out cold. The bad stings, and the good is taken with a shaving of ice.

Now that I’ve made you more depressed about watching preseason hockey, here’s what I saw:

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Down To The Wire: Questions Remain at Blackhawks Camp

Photo: AP

Four pre-season games down, three to go. Camp started with 60 players, and after Monday’s cuts we are now at 31. Seven goalies started camp, three remain. One of Chicago’s first-round thoroughbreds was surreptitiously yanked from a game roster and sent packing. And an 18-year-old second-round draft pick is making a serious case for getting signed and added to the roster on October 7th.

What started out as a dull camp with very few questions to be answered has turned out to be quite an exciting and eventful time indeed.

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Little Bit South of Saskatoon: Oilers Beat Blackhawks 4 – 2

Photo: Reuters

Fear not, faithful readers of Jeff Bartl’s “Boxing” feature here on Cheer The Anthem; Jeff will crank things up when the regular season gets underway. Until then, we’ll tell you what we can from the games we can see, and last night was one of those times.

The Blackhawks took a 21-man roster with only 8 proven veterans aboard to the mighty plains of Saskatchewan to take on the Edmonton Oilers in a game shown streaming live from the Blackhawks web site. Despite allegedly being restricted to the Chicago hockey market, reports were coming in from as far away as Pittsburgh and Minnesota that fans were able to see the game. Damned computers…

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