Jan 102012

By Brad Vandenberk

Tuesday, after losing their fourth straight game to the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night, the Chicago Blackhawks were back on the ice playing the NHL worst, Columbus Blue Jackets.

Prior to Tuesday night, the Blackhawks had taken each of the three meetings this season with Columbus, all by three goals.  This game would be a great way to get back into the W column and reclaim first in the Central division.  This would also be the second time this year that the Hawks play a team with a coach making his first debut.  Head coach Scott Arniel was fired by Columbus just two days ago and replaced by Todd Richards.

Patrick Sharp missed his first game after being sidelined for the next 3-4 weeks with and upper body injury suffered during Sunday’s game.  With Sharp’s absence from the line up, Ben Smith was recalled from the AHL and inserted into the line up.  Dan Carcillo was also serving the 4th game of his seven game suspension.

The Hawks went with their number one net minder Corey Crawford, while the Jackets put in Curtis Sanford.  With injuries and suspensions, Coach Q was forced to adjust his line up once again.  Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were reunited with Viktor Stalberg.  Dave Bolland got his chance at second line center along with Marian Hossa and Jimmy Hayes.  Michael Frolik took Bolland’s spot as the third line center the Andrew’s, Shaw and Brunette.  Jamal Mayers stayed at his regular fourth line center position with Bryan Bickell and Ben Smith.

The opening period began with a scary moment.  Duncan Keith let a shot go from the point which deflected off a Jacket’s defensemen, hitting captain Toews in the head.  As he took the puck off the melon he went down crashing hard into the post, the puck careened off Toews’ head and then the near post.  Toews then left the game momentarily only return a few minutes later.  He received two rows of stitches on his forehead.

The first penalty of the game came to the Hawks as Hayes was called for a slash.  Crawford came up with some big saves to keep the game scoreless.  Later, Jared Boll decided to leave his feet and hit Brunette.  Steve Montador did not take kindly to this as he dropped his mitts and went right after Boll.  The fight went on for quite some time, as the linesmen came in a separated the two.  The NHL rule book was then thrown at Monty as he was given 2 minutes for instigating, 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike and a 10 minute misconduct.  The reason for this is, the NHL states that any player wearing a shield and instigates a fight is automatically given an extra 2 minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Who knew?  This put the Jackets on a 4 minute power play.  The Jackets were again unsuccessful and the period ends with no score and the Jackets out shooting the Hawks 10-5.

Period two had the Hawks hitting their stride.  Toews and Kane had a great opportunity to score but Sanford was there to keep it close.  Jared Boll was at it again this time leading with his elbow to attempt to take out Niklas Hjalmarsson.  This time, Mayers tried to teach him a lesson and the gloves were off once again.  Mayers was given an additional 2 minutes for instigating again.

During the Jackets power play Hossa and Bolland broke in on a 2 on 1 with Bolland finishing the play and scoring his 3rd shorthanded goal of the year giving the Hawks a 1-0 lead with 15:48 remaining.

The Hawks lead didn’t last long as R.J. Umberger found a lose puck and put it past Crawford tying the game at 1.

At the 4:31 mark of the second, Toews worked the puck behind the net where Kane put the puck out front to Stalberg who was fresh off the bench.  Stalberg went five-hole on Sanford giving the Hawks the lead again.  The Jackets out shot the Hawks once again 14-13 in the second period.

The final period was a wild one!  With the ref’s arm in the air waiting to call a penalty on the Jackets, Stalberg kept the play alive and got the puck back to Seabrook.  As the puck got to the net Stalberg was there to clean up the rebound for his second of the night and also giving the Hawks a 2 goal lead with 13:28 left in the game.

Just 27 seconds later Ben Smith broke in and put a backhand on net. Jacket’s defensemen Mark Methot tipped the shot and Curtis Sanford whiffed on the glove save, making the score 4-1 Hawks.

Antoine Vermette kept the game close putting a puck past a sprawled out Crawford, to keep the Jackets with in two.

As the Jackets pulled Sanford in the last 2 minutes of the game, Coach Q put Stalberg on the ice giving him an opportunity to obtain his first-ever hat trick.  A loose puck was sent into the Jackets zone and Stalberg raced into to grab it putting it in the empty net and the hats rained down at the United Center.  The Hawks win their 4th straight game against the Columbus Blue Jackets 5-2 with all 4 wins being by 3 goals.

Quick Hits:

-Viktor Stalberg has scored 12 goals this year and 7 of them have come against the Blue Jackets.

-The Hawks were out shot 34-25.

-Columbus was without Jeff Carter due to injury, reportedly a separated shoulder suffered Sunday in a loss to the Anaheim Ducks.  That loss also represented Scott Arniel’s last night behind the Jackets’ bench.

-Former Blackhawk defenseman Aaron Johnson (2008-09) assisted on both Columbus goals.

-Hawks were 0/5 on the power play.

-Duncan Keith led all Hawks with 27:34 TOI.  Bryan Bickell skated a team-low 6:44.  Ben Smith had one more shift and totaled 7:34 on the night.  John Scott and Sami Lepisto were the scratches besides Dan Carcillo (apparently trying to “serve” his suspension before going on IR).  Sharp and Marcus Kruger (concussion) remain on IR.

-Hossa and Stalberg led all Hawks with 4 shots on goal.

-Quietly, Sean O’Donnell had possibly his best night so far as a Hawk.  O’Donnell skated 17:48 of ice time (3:08 of that on the PK) and some of that was due to the Hawks being without Steve Montador for essentially a twenty minute segment of the game.  O’Donnell also pinched up in the offensive zone but missed on a terrific scoring chance early in the game.

-Toews won 11 of 15 face offs to continue his league lead.

-Hawks are tied for the Central division lead (55 points) as the St Louis Blues blanked the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 in Halak’s return to the Bell Center.  Detroit was Datsyuk-less and lost to the NY Islanders 5-1.

-Hawks next game will be Thursday when they play host to the Minnesota Wild.

Brad Vandenberk

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