WASHINGTON, D.C. -- With White House visits and moving moments with American Soldiers -- including hosting some at practice on Saturday -- all complete, the Chicago Blackhawks will try to snap a two-game slide when they take on the red-hot Washington Capitals on Sunday. The Capitals have won seven in a row.
The Hawks will play the game without key centerman Dave Bolland. Bolland is nursing a head injury after being hit illegally by Tampa Bay’s Pavel Kubina on Wednesday. But the Hawks have a back-up plan.
It’s one reason they acquired forward Michael Frolik in the first place. They liked his versatility, including his ability to play in the middle.
Now, he’ll get the chance.
“I felt good up there in Tampa Bay,” Frolik said after practice on Saturday. “I was kind of surprised on some faceoffs too, but every game is different. I got a few practices now and I feel better. I feel good. Hopefully it’s going to work.”
Frolik filled in for Bolland after he went down in the first period, against Tampa Bay, and won five of eight draws after winning just 5 of 14 for the season before Wednesday. Quenneville praised Frolik for his performance against the Lightning and hasn’t changed his opinion since.
“Even today looking at him in the faceoff circle, it looks like there is something there,” Quenneville said on Saturday. “Hopefully that line can take off a little bit to what that line was doing before. I think he changes the complexion or the look of our team with him playing in the middle.”
“He likes to have the puck and do some give and go’s in the corner,” Frolik said of Hossa. “He talked to me a little bit and we have the same language and the European style so hopefully it’s going to work.”
Joel Quenneville couldn’t put a timetable on Bolland’s return to the lineup. He’s considered day-to-day but a concussion type injury can last weeks or months.
“Tough to judge,” Quenneville said. “We’re seeing a little progress.”
Coming to the defense of their teammate, and criticizing an illegal hit which drew Kubina a three-game suspension, was easy for Hawks’ players.
“It’s very black and white to talk about but there is a lot of grey area when you’re talking about guys skating and having speed,” veteran Marty Turco said. “What we need to eliminate is that natural reaction to go back against the grain and lift your shoulder or put your elbow into it. I don’t think it [Kubina] was malicious at all but those are incidents we can control and get out of the game. It’s a fair punishment [3 game suspension] but how can you put a price on losing a player and possibly his long term health.”
Ryan Johnson was even more blunt.
“It’s completely unnecessary and uncalled for,” he said. “It’s almost a blatant shot to the head with complete disregard for anything.”
While Jonathan Toews readily agreed some head injuries are truly accidental, plenty can be averted.
“I think there a lot of situations where guys can easily avoid these sort of collisions,” he said. “Guys don’t, and later on they say, ‘I felt terrible, it wasn’t my intention,’ but again, they didn’t hold themselves back from doing it. It’s not fun to see.”
Toews agreed suspensions should make guys think twice when coming in high and retribution has to be done the right way.
“If there is a clean situation where I can take a run at him or one of our guys can, then you will,” he said. “That’s part of the game.”
If he’s talking specifically about Kubina, he’ll get the chance. The Hawks host the Lightning on April 3
“You can send a message by doing it the right way and win the hockey game, which at this point is the most important focus,” Johnson stated.
Sharp on twitter
Patrick Sharp joined the social media world when he recently activated his twitter account, Patrick10sharp.
“I don’t know how far I’m going to take it to be honest with you,” Sharp said. “I had the account for a while because there were so many fake Patrick Sharp accounts.
His first tweet mentioned going to Walter Reed Hospital to visit wounded soldiers with his teammates on Thursday.
“I’m new to it, I’m going to get a lesson from you [the media],” he joked. “I don’t know how far I’m going to take it.”
One thing is for sure, you won’t see him tweeting before, or during, games.
“My focus is on playing hockey and I don’t want to take anything away from that but again it’s fun to do, it’s fun to see the different comments pop up but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t last very long.”Johnson
Brian Campbell is a gametime decision, according to Joel Quenneville for Sunday’s contest. He’s nursing a leg injury.
A recent hot stretch by Jonathan Toews, and his team, has vaulted the Hawks captain into the MVP race.
“That seems far-fetched,” Toews said. “Anytime someone wants to talk about that stuff, any guy in this locker room would deflect that sort of attention. It’s the same thing I would do.”
Not that Dave Bolland was lighting it up in the faceoff circle but with the Hawks down a centerman it puts more pressure on the others to step up and win some key draws.
“It’s not so much pressure, it’s an opportunity, to show you can play more minutes and in different situations,” Ryan Johnson stated.
Johnson has won 62 percent of his faceoffs since signing with the Hawks mid-season.
Joel Quenneville, on how many points he thinks it will take to make the playoffs:“As many as the eighth place team or one more than the ninth place team,” he quipped.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Hawks were tied with three other teams with 81 points, just two ahead of ninth place Calgary. The top eight teams in each conference make the playoffs.