The Chicago Blackhawks came out of their Johnny’s IceHouse West locker room sporting a different look. Make that a lot of different looks, with players wearing red, black, white, green or dark blue jerseys.
It didn’t look like a typical Blackhawks practice and it wasn’t, as they played a 3-on-3 “tournament” for about 30 minutes before heading to their usual end-of-practice shootout. But in a long, arduous season, sometimes you need to mix things up and keep things light.
“Whether they’re tired or (tight), I just think it’s about changing it up,” said coach Joel Quenneville, who added that the team contemplated not hitting the ice at all on Saturday. The Blackhawks did not run forward lines/defensemen pairs on Saturday, either.
Quenneville said Kris Versteeg, Mike Kostka and Michal Handzus were the victorious trio.
It was a different and more relaxed change of pace heading into Sunday’s game against Winnipeg, the Blackhawks’ last at the United Center until March. And players appreciated it.
“It’s the first time I’ve seen that. I think Q did that once last year but I was hurt,” said Patrick Sharp, whose “tournament” teammates were Jonathan Toews and Sheldon Brookbank. “It’s kind of like a day off, gives us a chance to be on the ice and have a competition.”
And how did Sharp, Toews and Brookbank fare in said competition?
“Fifth out of six,” Sharp said. “I don’t think Johnny’s going to sleep well tonight, so he’ll have a great game tomorrow.”
Duncan Keith did not practice with the team on Saturday but Quenneville said the defenseman should play vs. Winnipeg on Sunday. Keith was at Johnny’s on Saturday morning, and Quenneville said, “he felt much better. He should be ready to play.”
Corey Crawford will start against the Jets, who will be coming off a back-to-back; they play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday night.