Positive news on Hawks' injury front

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Positive news on Hawks' injury front

Sean O'Donnell didn't see any of the Winnipeg Jets' home debut on Sunday, but he's got a pretty good idea of how the crowd reacted.

"I played for the (Minnesota) Wild that first year (in 2000) and the fans were so excited to have hockey back," the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman said. "We didn't have a great team but it didn't matter if we lost every game 10-0. They were so happy to have us back. It's a passion. I can imagine because I remember Minnesota."

And that's pretty much how the Jets, who will play the Blackhawks on Thursday, were received in their first home game: they got beat badly but it didn't matter. The fans, very few of whom left despite the blowout, gave their new Jets a standing ovation.

The city if Winnipeg is embracing its second chance at having an NHL squad. It was tough for them losing the original Jets in the mid 1990s, when exorbitant salaries were too much for the small-market team to handle. They wanted that again.

That was evident in September 2010, when the Blackhawks played a preseason game there against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena was packed, most fans backing the Blackhawks and plenty wearing the sweater of city native Jonathan Toews. And now Winnipeg can enjoy it all season long again.

For those who played against the old Jets, it was a welcome sight.

"You can tell how excited they are, be it at the draft or going into the (opening) game. Even getting beat at home the support is there," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "These guys live and breathe it every day. When we played that preseason game last year, there was definitely appetite of wishful thinking of getting a team. And it transpired in a positive way."

Winnipeg is part of the hockey landscape again. Yes, the team struggled out of the gate. But they are in a city that wanted hockey and will actually put butts in the seats for the sport.

"It's good to have any hockey market that can support a franchise," O'Donnell said. "As many teams as you can get in those markets, it's good for the game."

The big 4-0

Blackhawks defenseman Sean O'Donnell will celebrate his 40th birthday on Thursday. Patrick Sharp said they'll be sure to get the veteran something.

"We were joking earlier we're going to get a contact list of everyone's phone numbers except instead of the guys in the room it'll be our parents numbers so he has lots of people to hang out with after the games," Patrick Sharp said.
Injury updates

Corey Crawford (groin) missed a second day of practice but Quenneville anticipates him practicing Wednesday. He's still expected to start against Winnipeg on Thursday.

Ben Smith (concussion) practiced with the team on Tuesday. And while he wasn't cleared for contact yet, Quenneville thinks it could happen soon.

"Benny looked as good as I've seen him (on Tuesday) and felt good too. So he's real close to getting into the game," Quenneville said.

Viktor Stalberg (left knee) skated on his own on Tuesday and could join the Blackhawks practice on Wednesday.

Briefly

Former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien will be part of the Jets' lineup when they play the Blackhawks on Thursday. It will be the first game on the United Center ice for both since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

Daniel Carcillo was once again teamed with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa at Tuesday's practice.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Report: Former Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg to sign with Swiss League

Report: Former Blackhawks winger Kris Versteeg to sign with Swiss League

After struggling to find a new home this offseason as an unrestricted free agent, Kris Versteeg is expected to leave the National Hockey League and sign with SC Bern of National League A, better known as the Swiss League, according to TSN's Darren Dreger.

The former Blackhawks forward, who spent five seasons in Chicago from 2007-10 and 2013-15, scored 15 goals and 23 assists in 77 games last year with the Carolina Hurricanes and Los Angeles Kings.

It was his highest point total (38) in a season since 2011-12 when he tallied 54 with the Florida Panthers.

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There's no question Versteeg can contribute on the bottom-six for a contender in the NHL, but at 30 years of age and already with two Stanley Cups under his belt, perhaps he feels he can play a larger role elsewhere and will look to accomplish that overseas.

Bouncing around six different times (all via trades) certainly takes a toll, too.

In 550 career games, Versteeg has 131 goals and 182 assists across nine seasons in the NHL with the Blackhawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Philadelphia Flyers, Panthers, Hurricanes and Kings. 

He was drafted in the fifth round (No. 134 overall) of the 2004 draft by the Boston Bruins.

Blackhawks Marketing Department wins Golden Matrix Award

Blackhawks Marketing Department wins Golden Matrix Award

The Blackhawks organization doesn't only win on the ice.

The team announced Wednesday that their Marketing Department's #WhatsYourGoal campaign, specifically the #WhatsYourGoal: Jenny spot with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, was honored with the Golden Matrix Award for the Best Promotional Video at the 2016 Information Display Entertainment Association (IDEA) Conference for the second consecutive year. 

Additionally, the Blackhawks Game Operations Department and United Center Scoreboard Operations Department were named the NHL's Best Overall Video Display and Production for the second year in a row. These same departments also received the Golden Matrix Award for Best Overall Video Display in the NHL at the 2008 and 2009 IDEA Conferences. 

IDEA recognizes superior achievement throughout the large screen video and matrix display industry by awarding its Golden Matrix Awards (GMAs) at the annual IDEA Conference. The purpose of the GMAs is to recognize artistic and technical excellence in the programming of large screen video and matrix displays located at stadiums, arenas, racetracks, convention centers and other public assembly facilities.

Just last month, Blackhawks players Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin took home multiple awards at the NHL Awards ceremony for their impressive performances on the ice in 2016. Kane won the Hart Trophy for most valuable player, as well as the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's regular-season scoring leader and the Ted Lindsay Award as the league's most outstanding player. Panarin was named the Calder Trophy winner for top rookie in the NHL this past season.

Blackhawks to appear on NHL-high 21 nationally televised games

Blackhawks to appear on NHL-high 21 nationally televised games

The Blackhawks announced their 2016-17 regular-season national television schedule Thursday, and there will be plenty of opportunities (21, to be exact) for people across the country to catch a Chicago Blackhawks game on television this year.

The Blackhawks will be making a league-high 21 national television appearances starting with their season-opener on Wednesday, Oct. 12 when they host the St. Louis Blues at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.

Stay tuned for CSN to release the entire local television schedule, including the preseason broadcast schedule, at a later date.

Here is the full Blackhawks' national television schedule: