The Blackhawks played a pretty good game last night. Because of a flu bug that is going through the room, they were forced to skate Caleb Jones as a forward. And then one of their best offensive players left the game because of an injury after two periods, meaning the Blackhawks effectively had 10 forwards and seven defensemen available to try to combat the high-powered offense of the Tampa Bay Lightning. They tried, but they didn’t have the horses to pull off an upset. But hey, they got a power play goal from a defenseman for the first time since May 1, 2021. So we’ll take the small victories inside the bigger losses?
- Head coach Luke Richardson, who was not at the morning skate because he was sick, said the team will not practice on Wednesday. Tyler Johnson was a late scratch because he’s sick and Richardson is trying to avoid more players getting sick. He already had two injured forwards — Jujhar Khaira and MacKenzie Entwistle — and added a significant name to that list last night…
- Okay, so we need to talk about a potentially enormous issue the Blackhawks are now facing. We were inching closer to Obsessive Patrick Kane Trade Watch season with yesterday being exactly two months to the NHL’s trade deadline. But Kane did not return to the bench for the start of the third period last night. Richardson said after the game that it’s a lower-body issue that started with a hit he took against San Jose and became a more significant issue as the game progressed last night.
- Kane is all over the top of every trade target list that’s out there right now. In the final year of his contract and with the Blackhawks in a downward tank I MEAN spiral it makes a lot of sense to a lot of people that he might be open to chasing a championship for a couple months this spring. As the Blackhawks hoard draft capital and assets to further accelerate their rebuild, Kane could be a significant part of that process.
- He also might decide he wants to stay in Chicago through the end of the season and decide his future from there. That is still a very real possibility for both him and Jonathan Toews. And their shared agent, Pat Brisson of CAA, is expected to meet with his clients and the Blackhawks at some point this month to discuss their futures.
- Kane met with the team’s medical staff on Tuesday night and Richardson said they hoped to know more on Wednesday morning. With the team not practicing today, we might not hear anything official until Thursday regarding the immediate future for Kane. But fully expect the team to proceed with caution because of what Kane means to the franchise’s history, it’s present and what he could mean to its future as well.
- With that in mind, can I interest you in an overtime game-winner from Lukas Reichel?
- Richardson was asked after the Blackhawks’ loss on Tuesday night if a call-up might happen and he said he’s going to talk to general manager Kyle Davidson, but there’s a good chance “one of two” players might get a call. If a top-six role is open (um… Tyler Johnson is sick and Kane is hurting… ) then Reichel might get some more run in the NHL. If a second player gets a promotion, I would think Cole Guttman would be on the short list of options. I’ve mentioned it before: he’s having a great season and the organization likes what he brings to the table.
- The World Juniors are back on the ice tonight. Canada faces the United States in a semifinal game that should be worth the price of admission. Two high-scoring offenses that have had their issues against the better teams in the tournament. The US blasted their way through the quarterfinals; Canada needed Connor Bedard to be the hero. It’s the nightcap so clear your schedule to watch the Blackhawks’ three prospects (and a few other guys we’re interested in).
- Sweden plays Czechia in the other semifinal game. Captain Victor Stjernborg was the hero with the short-handed game-winner in the final minute of the third period in their quarterfinal win.
- If you haven’t been watching Bedard dominate for Canada, you’ve been missing out on what has legitimately been an all-time great performance. No hyperbole: the kid is one of the greatest players (maybe the greatest individual) in the history of the World Juniors. And Pierre LeBrun at The Athletic wrote about him being worth tanking for NHL franchises. These two quotes from executives really stood out to me in the article:
“At this age, best prospect since [Sidney] Crosby,” said one long-time NHL team executive with a scouting background, who requested anonymity. “Elite skill is one element, but the ability to rise to the occasion is something that you rarely see. He has done it internationally and in the WHL. Seems to love a challenge to him personally or on a team level.”
Added an NHL GM on Monday, who also requested anonymity: “He is a generational talent and has proven that for several years, despite his age. I expect Connor Bedard to be a foundational piece for whichever organization is fortunate enough to draft him.”
- Sadly, Colton Dach‘s participation at the World Juniors came to an early end because of an injury. According to this tweet from his junior team on Tuesday afternoon, Dach will come to Chicago at the conclusion of the tournament to be evaluated by the Blackhawks’ medical team. Dach is the captain of the Kelowna Rockets this season.
- This was a fun story from Charlie Roumeliotis at NBCSN. And, with the US playing Canada tonight, it’s worth reading. The world was introduced to Toews, Kane was a babyfaced teenager, and Jack Johnson was in the building as well (doing big things for the US).
“I remember, I think both teams were pretty confident that whoever won was probably going to win the tournament,” Johnson said. The same might be true this year.
- One other prospect note of interest: forward Jalen Luypen had a GREAT postseason in the spring and signed with the Blackhawks, but a rotator cuff injury he suffered at the end of the playoffs kept him from playing in any of the Blackhawks’ camps. He recently returned to game action for the Tri-City Americans, and has two goals and two assists in his first five games back on the ice.
- This was a surprise piece of news on Tuesday. The Red Wings placed forward Jakub Vrana on waivers. Vrana, 26, was reinstated Dec. 16 after two months in the players assistance program. He was the 13th overall pick in the 2014 draft by Washington and was traded to Detroit in the blockbuster trade for Anthony Mantha in 2021.
- Here’s part of what Helene St. James wrote about Vrana yesterday:
Vrana, 26, is a top-line winger with a knack for scoring. But he has not played much for the Wings since arriving as part of the trade that sent Anthony Mantha to the Washington Capitals at the 2021 trade deadline. Vrana missed 56 games last season recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent after showing up late to training camp.
- Vrana had 24 an 25 goals in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively, and is an interesting player with one more year at $5.25 million for a cap hit. Should the Blackhawks be interested? I would need to know more about the why and how he wound up in the players assistance program before I would be willing to buy, but for nothing? A 26-year-old with his skillset is at least an intriguing potential addition for a team that has little (no) offense and a lot of money off the books next year.
- With the worst record in the league, the Blackhawks could get him if they want to. We’ll find out today if they want to when he either clears waivers or someone grabs him. Jay Zawaski tweeted during the game last night that his sources indicate the Blackhawks will not make a claim on Vrana. I do wonder if that might change depending on what the doctors have to say about Kane’s injury.
- Finally, sometimes you need the other team to do their part when you’re tanking. And it sounds like the Bears are going to get a little help on Sunday when the Vikings plan on playing their starters.