Blackhawks blanked 2-0 heading into Olympic break - Chicago News and Weather | FOX 32 News

Blackhawks blanked 2-0 heading into Olympic break

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The Blackhawks ended their six game road trip on a sour note getting blanked by the Coyotes 2-0. This was the first time since February 25, 2012 the Hawks were shutout. Goaltender Mike Smith played well but he didn't face a great amount of quality chances.

The Hawks started and ended the trip by not playing at their highest level, but what happened in between was some fine hockey. What should be appreciated is their overall record of 3-1-2 on a difficult road journey.

In Phoenix the Hawks took a few bad penalties and the Coyotes capitalized on two power plays. There were a couple of questionable calls but the biggest culprit was the Hawks were a bit sloppy and not as engaged as they have been.

This game meant a lot to the Coyotes who are fighting for a playoff spot and they caught the Blackhawks at the end of a long road trip. Phoenix doesn't have a high powered offense but with a lead they can be tough. The Hawks provided the opportunities and the Coyotes took care of the rest.

Last night, Johnny Oduya missed his second game with a lower body injury. Patrick Kane was back in Buffalo to attend his grandfather's funeral and as a result missed his first game of the season.

Newcomer Peter Regin, who was acquired on Thursday from the Islanders made his debut on the second line at center.

Regin is veteran depth forward, playing on the second line last night probably shouldn't be considered his permanent spot in the lineup. Maybe Regin will elevate his play while on a much better team. More likely he was acquired as insurance if injuries hit.

Time will tell how big of a role Regin has over the next 22 games and in the playoffs, but it was a low risk acquisition. The Islanders opened up a couple of roster spots and they got a fourth round draft pick in return. The Blackhawks don't have enough cap space to make a big splash and no player off the current roster will be dealt.

After the acquisition of Regin, and forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard who was assigned to Rockford, Brandon Pirri was also sent back to the AHL IceHogs.

Unless there is a change of opinion about Pirri being a part of the Blackhawks future he will likely be dealt. As was written here on January 29, Pirri could have a new address by the March 5 trade deadline. If GM Stan Bowman doesn't find the right deal he could wait until the summer to deal Pirri.

The chances of Pirri not being around for training camp seems very good considering he would have to pass through waivers next season. Pirri has had minor league success, and has been named as an AHL All-Star once again. Although this doesn't appear the right time for Pirri in Chicago he would play on other NHL teams.

Pirri would get claimed if placed on waivers and Bowman won't want to lose him and not get anything in return. The Hawks got caught in a numbers game and lost defenseman Ryan Stanton via a waiver claim after this season's training camp. Bowman won't let Pirri go the same way.

A reason to hang onto Pirri would be if injures were to hit later this season. Pirri could contribute down the stretch or in the postseason as well. Bowman may get less in return the longer he waits, but possibly Pirri could be part of a larger trade at the NHL Draft. No doubt Bowman has a plan and it will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

There are 22 games left and with a total of 84 points the Hawks have put themselves in position to finish with the best overall record again. It won't be easy as the Ducks, Blues and Sharks will likely be heard from. Probably more than having home ice throughout the playoffs, team health and postseason matchups will be key.

After the Olympic break the Blackhawks will face the Rangers in New York on February 27. Then on March 1 they will play an outdoor game in Soldier Field versus the Penguins.

Al's Shots

I look forward to watching Olympic hockey, but this was the time for the NHL to not participate.

No other major sport would shut down their season for about three weeks. Although hockey fanatics like myself enjoy watching the game played in an international setting, on a bigger ice surface, the NHL needs to realize the consequences.

Many will say it is important to grow the game and world wide exposure is the way to do so. Actually growing the game in the US should be the prime consideration and shutting down for three weeks at any time would be bad. Doing so after the Super Bowl is probably the worst time.

This should have been when the outdoor games started, at a time when the NHL could garner the greatest media exposure. Instead most were played in January and had the challenge of the weather and the NFL playoffs to deal with.

Many franchises have trouble filling seats and a lengthy break is enough reason for casual fans to turn away and not come back. That is especially so for teams which are out of the playoff race.

It was great theater in Vancouver and the Gold Medal game couldn't have been scripted any better. That would have been a great time for the NHL to end Olympic involvement and concentrate more on increasing the fan base here.

One could only hope no player suffers serious injury while playing in the Olympics. Everyone should also hope those participating in the Games, attending and working there will return home safe.

As far as having any thoughts on which teams will Medal, I have mixed feelings.

The US has solid goaltending and they will probably need it as their forwards may have trouble scoring. Canada has the most overall talent but their goaltending could be an issue. Sweden is a solid club and should finish in the top three.

The Russian team is the biggest question mark for me. They have some great players, but those same players have spit the bit in recent Olympics. This time the pressure will be the greatest for the Russians and there is no telling how they will cope.

After every live telecast of Team USA and Team Canada I will be writing game stories.

The US will kick off play early on Thursday morning versus Slovakia and at mid-day Canada will face Norway.

I will be back on Thursday and you can follow me on Twitter @AlCimaglia.

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