So many times this season it appeared the Blackhawks had hit rock bottom, yet they keep finding new depths to explore.
Sunday night was another in a 3-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild in which two shots from just inside the blue line went through the pads of Adam Munro and leading scorer Tyler Arnason was a healthy scratch for the first time in 217 NHL games.
Munro was pulled late in the second period of his debut as the No. 1 goalie with Nikolai Khabibulin out with a sprained knee.
Minnesota scored just 2 minutes 46 seconds into the game when Wes Walz skated across the Hawks' blue line and fired a shot that went through Munro's pads. When Brian Rolston beat Munro from 50 feet, again through the pads, to make it 3-0 late in the second period, Munro's night was finished.
"Two of the goals were awful on my part," Munro said. "I thought we played well enough to win. I know I have to be better."
Corey Crawford, who arrived in Chicago at 7 a.m. Sunday after playing Saturday night with Norfolk of the American Hockey League in Binghamton, N.Y., made his NHL debut.
Crawford, who played junior hockey last season, stopped seven shots and gave the Hawks a chance. Rene Bourque scored his first goal in 19 games early in the third period to cut the lead to 3-1, and Mark Bell scored his 17th with 22 seconds left and Crawford pulled for an extra attacker.
"That was a surprise," Crawford said of entering the game with 3:30 to go in the second period. "It was kind of nerve-wracking in the second period. I felt like I couldn't move. It was good to get in the first game and get the feeling of it."
Arnason has been the Hawks' leading scorer, but coach Trent Yawney said statistics are misleading.
"You're either part of the problem or part of the solution," Yawney said. "I've challenged him to be our best player every night. I'm probably the only one who knows what his ceiling is because I've seen it, and he's not playing there."
Former Hawks coach Brian Sutter had the same complaints with Arnason's inconsistency, but this is the first time he has been a healthy scratch since the end of the 2001-02 season.
"He has to give this hockey club more," Yawney said.
If there is one thing Arnason has shown, at least during his stretch in Chicago, it's that he's not going to be among the best players on the ice night in and night out.
There have been nights when he's very good, nights when he's very average and nights when he's not noticeable at all. The inconsistency has been consistent enough to suggest he's not going to changeat least not in Chicago.
"I've warned him and I've told him that he's no different than anyone else," Yawney said. "He's never really sat out a game at the NHL level. A lot of guys do. He's a big part of our team, but he needs to play a bigger role."
The bigger question is: Is it a role he's unsuited to play?
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