Berube shines in first start with Blackhawks

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Chicago Blackhawks goalie J.F. Berube, left, blocks a shot by San Jose Sharks defenseman Brent Burns, right, during the first period of an NHL hockey game Friday, Feb. 23, 2018, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

by Scott King
Twitter: @ScottKingMedia

J.F. Berube started in net for the Blackhawks Friday night vs. the visiting San Jose Sharks.  It was Berube’s first NHL start since March 13, 2017 when was in net for the New York Islanders for an 8-4 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.

The goaltender had a relief appearance for the Hawks back on December 6 at Washington. Berube saved 12 of 14 Capitals’ shots and the Caps beat the Hawks 6-2. Then he spent the rest of the season in Rockford before Jeff Glass was recalled and Berube was called up February 15.

The San Jose Sharks were looking to redeem themselves against Berube and the Hawks after laying a 7-1 egg in Nashville Thursday night.

Defenseman Jan Rutta drew back into the Hawks’ lineup on Friday and drew first blood in the second period to put Chicago up 1-0. Rutta now leads all Blackhawks defensemen with six goals.

Nick Schmaltz scored on a one-timer off an Anthony Duclair feed 2:01 into the second period to put the Hawks up 2-0. He also assisted on Rutta’s goal. Interesting enough, the forward had two points on his birthday last year in a 6-3 win over Arizona at home.

“Good vibes or something,” Schmaltz said. “Just feel good on the birthday. Legs felt good. Big team win and hopefully we keep this thing going.”

It took the Sharks 40 shots to score on Berube with 7:51 left in the third period. Timo Meier was credited with the goal.

Artem Anisimov extended the Hawks lead to 3-1 after scoring on an empty San Jose net late in the third period and that would remain the final score. Rutta assisted on the play to give himself a two-point night in his return to the UC ice.

Berube made 42 saves in the win. “When you don’t play a lot of games, I think it had been a little over a week since I had played, so seeing pucks early and kind of tracking pucks help me [get] settled in.”

The netminder appreciates the chance with the Hawks and doesn’t want it to slip away.

“It means a lot,” Berube said. “I think I’m going to take every opportunity I have to play games. I’m not trying to do things that I’m not supposed to do. I’m just trying to go out there [and] try to help the team win. I think that’s what everyone is trying to do in this locker room.”

As expected, Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville seemed extremely pleased with Berube’s performance.

“We were very happy with him,” Quenneville said. “I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. I thought absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got on top of the paint, rebound control was in effect. A nice response from a long absence.”

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