Dylan Olsen had enough reason to celebrate Tuesday night, his 21st birthday. Then the Chicago Blackhawks gave him another present.The defenseman Olsen was called up by the Blackhawks, and forward Andrew Shaw was added to the active roster and recalled also, late Tuesday. The two were brought up as the Blackhawks have finally run into some injury issues; defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) and forward Marcus Kruger (concussion) were placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.Both will make their NHL debuts Thursday against the Philadephia Flyers.It should be exciting (for Shaw) to play in his first NHL game. Hes one of those guys who can do a lot of things for us. Hes smart, can score goals and can play hard, coach Joel Quenneville said. (Olsen) looked good in practice and played well in our preseason games. With the depth of our organization, its something wanted to give a try.The call-ups were great news for both young players, especially for the birthday boy.Its incredible. I couldnt ask for a better birthday present, said Olsen, who was paired with veteran defenseman Sean ODonnell at Wednesdays practice. Im happy to be back up here with the pro guys and hopefully Ill get in the lineup tomorrow. Hopefully Ill have a good game.Olsen was injured the first part of training camp. That, coupled with the fact the Blackhawks had eight defensemen already, meant there was no room for Olsen on the big-clubs roster. But Olsen said hes used his time wisely in Rockford and is ready for his NHL test.Im just working on the little things, shooting the puck, passing and gap control, said Olsen. Its been going well so obviously its paying off when I get the call-up. Ill keep doing my job and hopefully stay up here as long as I can.ODonnell said Olsen was catching on quickly.I just like to see a guy who comes up get the drills quickly. You didnt have to tell him things more than once. He looked in place, ODonnell said. For his first practice, he was real solid.Shaw got a double dose of good news too, getting the call up not long after he signed his new three-year deal.Weve been talking about this deal for the last two weeks, so when I signed it the other morning, a couple hours later I got the call, Shaw said. It was the most exciting day of my life.Shaw, who was on the top line with Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews at practice, brings that sandpaper quality that the Blackhawks will miss with Daniel Carcillos absence. He also has a scoring touch. Shaw has 12 goals with the Rockford IceHogs this season and had a career-high 54 points (including 22 goals) with the Owen Sound Attack the previous season.The 20-year-old is understandably excited to play with his linemates.Oh yeah, Im a little nervous. Its only practice so I can imagine what (Thursdays) game is going to be like, Shaw said. Ill just go to the net with a stick on the ice and good things will happen. Im going to be nervous, but theyre great players and theyll make great plays and make me look good.
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Richard Panik was coming off his first career hat trick last week when he was asked about solidifying his spot on the top line with Jonathan Toews.
“I wouldn’t call it mine, for now,” Panik said.
The right wing’s hesitancy was understandable: Outside of some Blackhawks veterans, your place on a line is only as good as your last game.
But considering how he’s playing right now and the amount of goals he’s scored, you’d think Panik will be a top liner for a little while longer.
Panik scored the game-tying goals against his former team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, with 88 seconds remaining in regulation on Saturday night. There was probably a little feeling of vindication for Panik on that goal – Panik spent last season with the Leafs’ minor-league team until he was traded to the Blackhawks. But no matter the opponent, Panik’s been a scoring threat.
“We didn’t expect six goals in six games but we knew he’d be an offensive threat for us,” Toews said. “He’s showing consistently. He had the hat trick – when you have a game like that, the puck keeps finding you and he’s making no mistakes around the net. He’s shown he can score goals in any which way.”
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Part of the reason Panik’s back on the top line was the Blackhawks wanted to get more balance among the forwards. Marian Hossa, a longtime sight on that line, is on the third. But again, it’s all in what you do with the opportunity.
“The position he ended up being in was probably more so [for] being ready every game, consistent, doing the right things,” coach Joel Quenneville said after Saturday’s game. “He has all the tools we look for. He’s coming up with loose pucks, hanging around the net, going to the hard areas, giving us some physicality and finish as well. That was a big one, for sure, so he’s been a very pleasant start for us and for himself.”
The Blackhawks will always take goals no matter who scores them. But it’s how and from where Panik’s scoring those goals that’s especially good for the Blackhawks. Constantly looking for a net-front presence, Panik’s providing it. Most of his goals have been within a few feet of the net.
“Yeah, I’m just trying to find the space in front of the net and the goals are scored from there,” he said. “That’s the area I want to go to and it’s working.”
In six games Panik has already reached the totals he had in his 30 games with the Blackhawks last season (six goals, two assists). Panik approaches every game on the first line like it could be his last up there, and considering how often the Blackhawks change combinations that’s a smart approach. But the Blackhawks were looking for more consistent scoring on that top line, and as long as Panik helps provide that, he’ll stay put.
“Consistency was my biggest weakness. I’m just focusing on that, bringing it every night,” Panik said. “I think I know what I’m capable of. I know I can play on this level. Now I have an opportunity. I just have to take advantage of it and keep playing this way.”