Positive news on Hawks' injury front


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.


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

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

Preview: Blackhawks host Flames Monday on CSN

The Blackhawks (3-3, 6 points) take on the Calgary Flames (1-4-1, 3 points) on Monday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Blackhawks Pregame Live at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final horn to get analysis and player reaction on Blackhawks Postgame Live.

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Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

Richard Panik fueling Blackhawks' top line

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.”