Scott Darling, November 14, 2014 vs Milwaukee Admirals
Photo courtesy of Rockford IceHogs
By Chris Block
The Blackhawks made a series of roster moves on Saturday that were released over the course of the day out of necessity ahead of their next game, Sunday night at the United Center.
First, Peter Regin was reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs (AHL) prior the Blackhawks Saturday morning practice. In 4 games played with the Blackhawks, Regin averaged 8:20 of ice time. He had one assist and three shots on goal.
This move wouldn’t come as a surprise, as Joel Quenneville also announced on Saturday that Dan Carcillo (knee) would return to Chicago’s lineup on Sunday when the Blackhawks host the Dallas Stars. Since Regin had to clear waivers to go to Rockford in October, he’ll have to go through the process again if he’s played in ten NHL games or spent 30 days on the NHL roster. Thus, Regin’s demotion was inevitable.
Carcillo, 29, was injured on October 25th in St. Louis. He’s missed the past 10 games.
Later in the day, however, the Hawks then announced the recall of forward Joakim Nordstrom from Rockford. Nordstrom was named Rockford’s team captain last month. In 14 games this season with the IceHogs, the 22-year old Swede has 5 goals and 3 assists. Nordstrom is averaging a little better than 2 shots on goal per game and has a minus-1 rating. He’s mostly skated on the right wing with Dennis Rasmussen and Teuvo Teravainen being his primary centers. The Nordstrom recall indicates there’s likely a need for a healthy forward that’s more urgent than the upcoming road trip.
The more newsworthy transaction (for now) came at 11pm central, when the Blackhawks recalled goaltender Scott Darling from the IceHogs. In doing so, Chicago also reassigned Antti Raanta back to Rockford.
We can report independently that the decision to recall Darling and send Raanta to Rockford was made earlier in the day on Saturday, and prior to Rockford’s game in Milwaukee.
Darling was scheduled to make a start for the IceHogs in Milwaukee on Saturday night. Rockford, and Darling, would go on to lose the game 2-1. For Darling, it was his second game in as many nights. He lost both games to Milwaukee, allowing the Admirals 3 goals in a 4-1 loss in Rockford on Friday.
The reason for flipping goaltenders comes down to getting Raanta into a game, while also filling a need for Rockford. The decision to hold off until after Darling started in Milwaukee would seem to indicate Raanta is not pegged to be in an IceHogs uniform for long.
Rockford needs a goalie on Sunday as Darling wasn’t going to start three straight days. If the Hawks really wanted Raanta to get some extra work, they could have had him play Saturday and Sunday with the IceHogs. Instead, they held off on sending him to the IceHogs until after Darling played on Saturday. Raanta was made aware of what was happening on Saturday afternoon.
Veteran Michael Leighton is out of action right now with a minor injury suffered in his Nov 8th win over the Grand Rapids Griffins. Earlier this week, it was thought Leighton could possibly make this Sunday’s start against Texas, but it appears now that won’t be the case.
The Blackhawks moved Mac Carruth from Indianapolis to Rockford on Monday to cover for Leighton this week. He’s still with the IceHogs, but the organization isn’t comfortable with the idea of relying on Carruth at the AHL level right now.
Darling will backup Corey Crawford in Chicago on Sunday. It’s unclear if the Hawks will reverse this swap and return Darling to Rockford on Monday, but that is a possibility. This is up in the air and could rely on how Raanta performs for the IceHogs.
It’s still imperative for Raanta to play well for the IceHogs on Sunday, as Quenneville, and the Hawks organization in general, are high on Darling right now. If Raanta doesn’t do well Sunday, he could stay in Rockford a little while longer.
This weekend is Rockford’s first 3-in-3 weekend. The IceHogs will host the Texas Stars on Sunday at 4pm at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. They’ll then have four days off before doing another 3 games in 3 days next weekend.
It’s also possible Raanta will stay in Rockford for next weekend’s first two games, or two of the three. This would give Raanta some much needed game action, as Quenneville has been hesitant to turn to his backup goaltender over Corey Crawford with the Blackhawks fighting inconsistency in the early goings on. Leighton should be ready to go for Rockford by next weekend.
With the Blackhawks, Darling is 2-1-0 with a 93.3% save percentage and 1.98 goals against.
Raanta’s posted similar numbers, though with an opposite 1-2-0 record.
Raanta’s save percentage is the same as Darling – 93.3%, and his goals against per 60 minutes is just off, at 2.03 in three appearances. All three of Raanta’s starts came in one week, a span of five days. He shutout Philadelphia is his first appearance on 10/21. Then he allowed 3 goals to Nashville on 10/23 and St. Louis on 10/25, both road losses.
Sunday will mark one year exactly to the day of Antti Raanta’s last AHL appearance. Raanta’s final game with the IceHogs last year was a 4-2 win over San Antonio on November 16, 2013 at the BMO in Rockford.
In his brief AHL stay last season, prior to Nikolai Khabibulin’s season-ending injury, Raanta went 7-5-0-0 with a 91.4% save percentage and a 2.84 goals against average.
Scott Darling in Rockford thus far is 5-2-0-0 with a 93.5% save, 1.83 GAA. Darling’s two losses have each come this weekend versus Milwaukee.
Rockford is 10-4-0-1 this season with three of their four losses coming in the IceHogs three meetings with Milwaukee. The two teams will meet 9 more times this season.
-The Nordstrom recall was a little surprising. We are likely to find out Sunday that there’s a new Blackhawks injury that the team wasn’t certain of prior to Saturday’s practice.
Quenneville did tell the media on Saturday (before the Nordstrom recall that came five hours later) that it was possible that the Hawks would recall another forward from Rockford before the team left for its annual Circus road trip later this week, since the Regin for (the returning) Carcillo swap would again leave the Hawks with just 12 healthy forwards. But the trip doesn’t begin until Thursday in Calgary. So there must be a need for a forward Sunday.
Nordstrom, 22, appeared in 7 playoff games for the Hawks last spring, concluding in the series with Minnesota. He was held off the scoresheet in those games and had just 6 shots, averaging 8:30 in ice per game. In 16 regular season games in a Blackhawks uniform, Nordstrom has 1 goal and 2 assists, while averaging 11:41 of ice time.
In terms of the salary cap, Saturday’s moves shed $213,333.00 of salary cap dollars according to information provided on CapGeek.com.
It can now be said that, hypothetically, if the Hawks wanted to recall Teravainen, they could do that and be under the salary cap, but only if Scott Darling is their backup. The way the accrual works, it’ll be a few weeks before Teuvo’s contract would fit with Raanta as the backup. Of course, Nordstrom would also have to be sent down.
And there’s also the small matter of Teravainen getting his game together to the point where he’d deserve to be promoted. With Teuvo’s ability, he could string a week or two together and all could be right in the Blackhawks’ world again. And they may have their fingers crossed that happens, and should it, they may want to get Teravainen out of Rockford as quickly as it does. Teravainen is struggling to adapt to the AHL’s jagged pace and teammates who think the game a little slower than he does.
I also get the impression a trade is coming in the next week or two. Nothing of holding major significance, but a shuffling on the 50-man roster of sorts.
–Peter Regin returned the Rockford’s lineup on Saturday in Milwaukee. He posted three shots but was held off the scoresheet in the IceHogs 2-1 regulation defeat.
Darling allowed 2 goals against 21 shots in Saturday’s loss. The night before, he stopped 27 of 30 Milwaukee shots in Rockford. The Admirals potted an empty-netter to seal the 4-1 victory on Friday.
One area of concern in Darling’s game that has become evident in his time in Rockford is puckhandling. Darling has seen a couple mishandles this season turn into goals against. He nearly had another on Saturday when he tried to stickhandle behind his goal, but didn’t register a hustling Fredrick Gaudreau, who stole the puck right off Darling’s stick. The IceHogs were very fortunate in this instance, however, as Gaudreau’s centering pass to Pontus Aberg in front of a wide open net was shanked ninety degrees wide by Aberg.
McNEILL INJURED IN ROCKFORD LOSS
Mark McNeill suffered an apparent right knee injury late in the second period of Rockford’s 2-1 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday night. The 21-year old left the game just prior to end of the middle period and did not return. The severity of the injury is not known as of this writing.
McNeill had dropped to the ice to block Viktor Arvidsson’s shot. Arvidsson’s shot appeared to hit McNeill on the inside of the right knee. McNeill was immediately favoring the leg, though he did get up and finish his shift. But he did not return for the third period.
McNeill is the Rockford’s leading scorer with 9 goals and 7 assists in 15 games. He’s also a plus-7 and shooting at a 32.1% clip so far this season.
Teuvo Teravainen had the IceHogs lone tally on Saturday. It was his second goal of the season. Teuvo snapped a one-timer from below the faceoff dot in the right circle by Milwaukee netminder Magnus Hellberg at 6:45 of the opening period. T.J. Brennan set Teravainen up from the top of the point just as a Rockford power play had expired. Ville Pokka got the other assist as he, Brennan and Teravainen had been playing catch over the umbrella as the final seconds ticked away on the ‘Hogs power play just prior to Teuvo’s goal.
Counting back to last season, Teravainen now has 4 goals, 6 assists in 18 career AHL contests. He’s a minus-2 (plus/minus) rating and shooting 11.7% (34 shots).
McNeill missing the third period also put a halt to Rockford’s hottest line, the Garret Ross-Phillip Danault-Mark McNeill trio. That line has been hot mostly because of McNeill’s hot stick. Brandon Mashinter, Matt Carey and Alex Broadhurst took turns on that right wing in the third period with McNeill sidelined.
The Ross-Danault-McNeill line was put together at the end of October at the request of Blackhawks’ management.
McNeill notched 7 goals in the 4 games following the move. Ross posted his hat-trick in the line’s first full game together, but he has just 3 assists (all in one game) in the six games since. Danault had a goal and two helpers in the trio’s debut, and just one goal and two assists since. Danault does not see power play time with Ross and McNeill.
A few stats here
Garret Ross – last 30 AHL games: 4 goals, 7 assists, +6, 54 sog (7.4%)
Phillip Danault – last 30 AHL GP: 5 goals, 14 assists, +6, 67 sog (7.4%)
Mark McNeill – last 30 AHL GP: 12 goals, 10 assists, +1, 78 sog (15.3)
3 of those 4 Garret Ross goals were scored on Oct 31st in San Antonio, the last of those three being an empty-netter. All three of these players are working on getting their shots on net more than shooting in general. Though, Ross could stand to fire a bit more than he does.