Blackhawks ponder special teams changes

  • Alex DeBrincat practiced Wednesday on the first power-play and penalty killing units.

    Alex DeBrincat practiced Wednesday on the first power-play and penalty killing units. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 4/14/2021 4:36 PM

With two days off, the Blackhawks returned home to practice at Fifth Third Arena Wednesday before jetting to Detroit for back-to-back contests against the suddenly dangerous Red Wings.

Defensemen Adam Boqvist (concussion) and Calvin de Haan (hip pointer) did not participate and are considered day to day. If both are out, it likely means Riley Stillman will continue to get an opportunity to prove himself after coming to the Hawks in a trade with Florida.

 

"There's an opportunity here (to play) more minutes that I had earlier this season," said Stillman, whose ice time was 21:23 in a 4-3 OT win at Columbus Monday. "It's an opportunity to come into a younger team with a lot more guys around my age (23) and hopefully help the team win."

And now, Five Things:

Forward(s), march?: For the second time in a week, coach Jeremy Colliton experimented with five forwards on the first power-play unit. It's almost certain we'll see this strategy deployed if Boqvist can't play against Detroit.

Patrick Kane quarterbacked the unit Wednesday, with Dominik Kubalik and Alex DeBrincat on the wings. Dylan Strome and Kirby Dach played in the middle.

"It's not my idea," Colliton said of the unorthodox look. "Teams have been doing five forwards on the power play for years. It's just another way to put things together. We want to be flexible and if things are not working as well as we'd like, we have to be great at finding new solutions."

After a 1-for-20 dry spell the previous seven games, the Hawks went 2-for-8 on the power play in back-to-back victories at Columbus.

The second unit Wednesday was Brett Connolly, Philipp Kurashev, Pius Suter, Duncan Keith and Wyatt Kalynuk.

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Going for the kill: The Hawks also continued to give DeBrincat a look on the penalty kill. The fourth-year forward has yet to play this role in a game, but it's something Colliton is considering.

"Wherever they need me, I'll be ready to go," DeBrincat said last week. "It's fun to try something new."

DeBrincat's presence could yield a scoring opportunity or two for his team, but that's not the primary reason for giving him a chance in this role.

"It'd be nice to get one, of course, but the primary goal is to keep it out of our own net," Colliton said. "His speed and his stick, his instincts are really good. We haven't used him yet, but nice to get those guys some reps and see if it's an option."

DeBrincat's unit included Dach, Zadorov and Stillman.

Message sent?: Zadorov was a healthy scratch Monday for the first time this season. The 6-foot-6 D-man, who was acquired from Colorado in the off-season for Brandon Saad, has had a rough stretch the past month. His passing and decision making is off, and he took 7 minor penalties over a recent eight-game stretch.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Those conversations are personal, but no one likes coming out," Colliton said when asked how Zadorov reacted when told he would sit. "We all agree he can really help us when he's playing at his best. Physical, hard to play against. Take defensive minutes and defensive matchups. We need him."

Zadorov has 1 goal, 6 assists and is tied for sixth in the league in hits with 139.

Vaccine update: Players were given the opportunity to get vaccinated against the coronavirus Tuesday. Colliton believes there were "a good number that took it."

"I got it, so obviously I'm in favor of it," Colliton said. "Every single person that gets vaccinated is a step closer to getting back to normal -- both as a team, obviously, but in public life (too) we'd all like to get closer to the way we were living before."

Don't sleep on Wings: Anybody looking ahead to the Hawks' three-game set with Nashville, which begins Monday, would be well advised to pay close attention to Detroit first. The Red Wings, who started 7-16-4, have gone 8-7-2 over their last 15 games. Included in this stretch are 3 wins against Carolina (27-10-4) and 2 against Tampa Bay (28-12-2).

The Hawks visit Detroit Thursday and Saturday.

"They're playing spoiler, so we've got to be ready to go in there and play hard," Dach said. "It's gonna be a playoff game for us. All these points matter (as) we're trying to catch Nashville."

Detroit traded leading goal-scorer Anthony Mantha (11) to Washington Monday and beat the Hurricanes 3-1 that night. Jakub Vrana (11G, 14A) and former Hawks forward Richard Panik (3G, 6A) came to the Wings from the Caps.

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