Time for Blackhawks to get back to business

655866.png

Time for Blackhawks to get back to business

KANATA, Ontario Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa experienced the pressure-free side of hockey this weekend at the 2012 NHL All-Star Game. It was fun, it was silly, it was the polar opposite of intense.

Well, the (All-Star) party is over.

As Kane and Hossa trek back to Chicago Sunday night, their minds get back on the regular-season task at hand: the Blackhawks face a nine-game road trip right out of the break, beginning with the always intense game against Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.

Did we mention the light-hearted party is officially over?

Its tough to go from a weekend like this to going right to Vancouver tomorrow. But its exciting, Kane said before heading back home, albeit briefly. Weve got 32 games until the playoffs. Were still fighting for a spot, fighting for a good one in the conference and just trying to have a good end to the season.

Theyre also trying to get back on the winning side after dropping two in a row to the Nashville Predators right before the break. The Blackhawks could have their full slate of players on Tuesday, or at least one of them. General manager Stan Bowman said Friday that Jonathan Toews is still targeted to return against the Canucks. Patrick Sharps status for that game is uncertain right now.

Itll also be the Blackhawks debut for Brendan Morrison, who was acquired from the Calgary Flames on Friday night. Morrison is certainly familiar with the Vancouver Canucks, having played eight seasons with them. Former teammate Henrik Sedin said the Blackhawks have a good one in the veteran center.

Hes a veteran guy who can play in a lot of different situations: power play, (penalty kill), hes good in the faceoff circle and hes great in the room, Sedin said. He does a lot of different things. I thought it was a good pickup.

If nothing else, the Blackhawks will be rested for this odyssey. Duncan Keith said prior to the break that taking care of themselves these past few days was important.

Youve got to get away a little bit, but this is all about getting rest and making sure were ready for the last 32 games, Keith said. You have to rest up, get strong and make sure were taking care of ourselves and feeling good when we come back.

Well, the Blackhawks are just about back. Theyll get tested right out of the gate, but this is what stretch-run hockey is all about: intensity, readiness and dealing with the pressure.

The break is officially over.

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews sets up game-winner as Team Canada wins World Cup

Jonathan Toews set up the game-winning goal to Brad Marchand as Team Canada rallied back to beat Europe, 2-1, to complete the two-game sweep in the final at the World Cup of Hockey.

After Patrice Bergeron tied the game with a tip-in on the power play late in the third period, Drew Doughty was sent to the box for tripping, giving Europe a power play for a chance to respond.

But midway through the man advantage, the Blackhawks captain retrieved the puck and carried it into Europe territory before dropping it off to Marchand, who snapped home the shorthanded game-winner with 43 seconds remaining in regulation.

It was the second goal in a span of 2:09, helping Canada capture their second straight World Cup title (2004).

Sidney Crosby was named MVP of the tournament after scoring four goals and seven assists in six games. 

Toews was fourth among all players in the tournament with five points (three goals and two assists).

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson knows landing roster spot with Blackhawks won’t be easy

Erik Gustafsson looked around the Blackhawks’ room at where fellow defensemen stalls would probably be as the season approached.

“You have Brian (Campbell) back, (Michal) Kempny here, obviously and all the other guys,” Gustafsson said. “It’s going to be tough, but I like it.”

The Blackhawks’ biggest Achilles heel last season was defense, especially after Trevor Daley was traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That opened the door for young players, including Gustafsson, to get bigger opportunities. This year the defense should be stronger with Campbell’s return. So for guys like Gustafsson, cracking this lineup just got that much tougher.

During the summer, assistant coach Mike Kitchen talked potential pairings as Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson, Campbell-Brent Seabrook, Kempny-Trevor van Riemsdyk. As of now, the team is expecting Keith to be ready for the season opener. Keith has been participating in a practice a day but whether or not he plays in any preseason games is uncertain right now.

If it starts out that way, Gustafsson would be on the outside looking in.

But first things first: Gustafsson is focused on building off experience gained last season — he played 41 games, recording 14 assists — and cleaning up a few errors committed in training camp practices.

“You know all the guys on the team, you know how they want to play over here and in the NHL. Just go out and show them. I didn’t do that [Saturday] but this was the first game,” Gustafsson said. “I felt good with the puck but I have to play more defense in my own zone. Just a couple of small things I have to be better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Nothing comes easy when you’re trying to make an NHL roster but it got that much tougher for a young defenseman with the Blackhawks this season. Hey, that’s the way it is, and players know it.

“Of course it’ll be tougher,” Gustafsson said. “It won’t be easy to take a spot. You just have to go out there, do your best and see what happens.”

BRIEFLY

- Patrick Kane could play in the Blackhawks’ game against St. Louis on Saturday. Assistant coach Kevin Dineen said, “don’t be surprised to see 88 politicking to get in the lineup. Pretty good chance we’ll see him on Saturday."

- The Blackhawks were off on Thursday. Artemi Panarin, Artem Anisimov, Marcus Kruger and Hjalmarsson were expected to join the team at Friday’s practice

- Alexandre Fortin, who signed a three-year contract on Sunday, played 12 1/2 minutes in Wednesday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins. That included about two minutes of power-play time. Dineen wouldn’t mind seeing Fortin in another game. “He showed himself well all camp and I think [Wednesday] we saw some good spurts out there, and we’ll find that consistency in a young player as we move forward.”