With the NHL still locked out, players truck on

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With the NHL still locked out, players truck on

The NHL remains mired in a lockout, Day 60 coming on Wednesday. But for the AHL, the hockey world keeps on spinning. And for those Rockford players who wouldve been with the Blackhawks at some point this season, hockey and their lives are going on just fine.

Talks have gone quiet once again in the big league. And after things looked so promising early last week, when the league and NHLPA were talking nonstop, the outlook for NHL hockey is looking grim again. But for the IceHogs, as with the rest of the minor-league hockey organizations, games continue. Practices continue. Regular-season routine continues.

Hockey continues. And for them, its not so much about listening to lockout rhetoric and speculation as much as it is focusing on their jobs.

It has to be (the focus), IceHogs forward Brandon Bollig said. You cant take anything away from this league. Its very talented, especially right now. And if you dont have your mind on the game youll be behind the 8-ball. Its unfortunate (about the lockout). But theres no room to focus on whats going on there. Im lucky, along with a few other guys, to be playing right now instead of sitting around and doing nothing.

Guys like Bollig, Andrew Shaw, Ben Smith and Brandon Saad lost the chance to compete for a Blackhawks roster spot this season at least for now. But in the hockey world, theres always a competition for something.

In this lifestyle, youre always fighting, always competing for something. Even here in Rockford youre competing for power play, penalty kill and ice time, Smith said. Being a hockey player, no matter where you are you have to bring your best. If not, someones trying to pass you. We want to be (in the NHL), thats the goal. But have to bring compete and passion every day here.

Not only are guys enjoying their usual hockey routine, but theyre getting that welcome distraction from lockout talk which theyre starting to avoid.

Well have a group chat going, and me and a few guys will read about it and stay informed. But thats mainly it for me, said defenseman Nick Leddy. Its good to focus on a season down here and develop.

And, when the NHL season does resume, some of the potential Blackhawks can hit the training-camp ground running.

Thats the good thing. We can stay sharp and fine tune some things that got you to the NHL, Bollig said. Were fortunate to be so close. If it starts up, and were lucky enough to be called up, were there and ready.

So while the NHL stays quiet, the AHL keeps playing. For these guys, the welcome routine of practices and games continues.

Were hoping something gets done and its something fair, Smith said of a potential collective bargaining agreement. At the same time were working on our games and hoping when the time comes, were all playing good hockey.

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second NHL season as he made the Blackhawks roster out of training camp.

It didn’t last long, however, as Baun was back with the Rockford IceHogs after two games with Chicago. As for that season in Rockford?

“That was a whole other story,” said Baun.

Indeed, Baun lost a good portion of his Rockford season when his right wrist was sliced twice by another player’s skate in mid-November. That, however, is all behind him. Now Baun hopes to replicate his 2015 camp performances and latch on with the big club longer.

Baun will play in his first preseason game this fall when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. The 24-year-old skated is expected to start on a line with Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero, with whom he skated on Friday morning.

“I just want to simulate what I did last year, and it went well at the beginning,” Baun said. “I want to keep working hard, do what I did last year in the exhibition season and hopefully I can stick again.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Baun’s stint was short lived last fall; he was reassigned to Rockford on Oct. 16, and was looking to have a strong season there. Less than a month later, however, he suffered his right wrist injury that sidelined him for more than three months. Baun said he still wasn’t quite right even when he returned.

“I was trying to get back with the wrist and stuff, and I’m not sure it was 100 percent by the time I came back,” said Baun, who now wears Kevlar guards on his wrists. “So it was good to get a summer of training back in and get my legs under me.”

As for that wrist, Baun said it’s definitely “much better now.”

“The strength and dexterity is back,” he said. “It’s a small muscle, so to get the dexterity back was kind of tough.”

Baun is looking for another opportunity. Considering the opportunities for forwards this season, a good showing could lead to some more time in Chicago.

“I’m just trying to focus on my own game like last year. I think that worked for me, trying not to look too, too much into what everyone else is doing,” he said. “Consistency is the biggest thing here. They’re just looking for a guy who can come in, game in and game out, and improve.”

BRIEFLY

- Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford, who just wrapped up their World Cup of Hockey play on Thursday night, will probably get “three or four days off” before joining camp, assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “They’ve been going for a long time,” Kitchen said. “We’ll give them some time off.”

- Coach Joel Quenneville flew to Pittsburgh with the team.

- The Blackhawks agreed with forward Graham Knott on a three-year contract on Friday. The 19-year-old Knott recorded 42 points (12G, 30A) in 68 regular-season games with the Niagara IceDogs (Ontario Hockey League) in 2015-16.

Blackhawks agree to terms with 2015 second-round pick Graham Knott

Blackhawks agree to terms with 2015 second-round pick Graham Knott

The Blackhawks have agreed to terms with forward Graham Knott on a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.

Knott, 19, scored 12 goals and 30 assists in 68 regular-season games last season with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.

He also added five points in 17 postseason contests.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Knott is a power forward who makes a living around the net with his big-body presence.

He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 54 overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft.