Toews eager to get back on the ice, forget the lockout

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Toews eager to get back on the ice, forget the lockout

Jonathan Toews spent four months talking about the lockout, about up-and-down negotiations and about what he was going to do if there was no NHL hockey this season.

So, was it nice for the Blackhawks captain to talk training camp and the upcoming Blackhawks season on Wednesday instead of the L word?

Sure is, said Toews, who along with Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Niklas Hjalmarsson, returned to Johnnys IceHouse West for informal skates.

Its just more of a relief, Toews continued. There are two sides of it. Theres the excitement just around the fact that we havent played hockey in so long, and were so excited to get back in front of our fans. But its also to be together on a daily basis.

Theyll soon be together plenty. League training camps are expected to begin on Sunday, and the Blackhawks will get a tough test out of the gate when they face the Stanley Cup-champion Kings in Los Angeles on Jan. 19.

For Toews, the frustration and anger for how long it took to get the season going again is still somewhat there. He said both sides need to learn from this lockout, to have a mutual understanding, respect and work hard together for the fans and for the good of the game. But after using the lockout to stay sharp physically and recharge mentally and not to play in Europe -- Toews is looking forward.

Some guys feel like they need to keep playing. For me, I felt it was good for my body and mind to rest and get myself in a place that Ill be in control of what Im able to do on and off the ice for the next handful of years, Toews said. I dont feel burnt out by any means. Im excited to play hockey.

Now the real fun begins: a short training camp followed by a 48-game regular season. As Patrick Sharp said on Tuesday, its whoever can adjust the quickest and get off to a good start. Toews said it could resemble the midway point of the 2010-11 season, when the Cup-defending Blackhawks were fighting for their playoff lives from winter to spring.

The next thing you knew we found ourselves in the playoff hunt with six or eight teams, whatever it was. It felt like a playoff game every single night from beginning of February to the end of the regular season, Toews said. I see some similarities there. Its a race to the finish.

Whatever it is, Toews is ready for it, as are the rest of his teammates. Its been a long time coming. But the focus is on whats coming up, not the dreaded L word that already took away too much of this season.

Im back to that place where I love the game and Im excited to show up to the rink every day. Sometimes to get away from it for a little bit was a good thing, Toews said. So for me, that was a huge thing to try and take my physical abilities to the next level. Now its time to translate that into how I play on the ice.

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Kevin Dineen is back with the Blackhawks but there were times this summer you wondered if another team would take him away.

The Blackhawks’ assistant coach was a major candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coaching job, according to the Denver Post, following Patrick Roy’s surprising departure. There were probably other inquiries, too.

“It’s always nice to go through a process of talking about the way you do your business. It’s also a reflection of where you are,” said Dineen following the Blackhawks’ White-Red scrimmage on Saturday. “No. 1, you have to get permission to do that, and the Blackhawks have been great about giving me the opportunity to go out and do that. But also, when you have success, a lot of people want to get your feedback or whatever it is.”

Dineen’s name will likely come up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. He coached the Florida Panthers from 2011-13 and coached Team Canada women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dineen will get another opportunity in the NHL but for now, life is good in Chicago.

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“For me, I couldn’t be happier right here,” he said. “I have a great person and hockey mind to work with in Joel [Quenneville]. But you know, down the line, those things play their way out and we’ll see where it goes.”

Arriving soon

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Michal Kempny will join the Blackhawks’ training camp on Tuesday. The three finished up round-robin World Cup of Hockey play with their respective teams on Thursday.

Dineen said there’s a chance one of the defensemen, Pokka or Kempny, play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“They’ll get into the swing of things here on Tuesday,” Dineen said. “So that’ll give them a good rest after a long, tough September, and we expect them to hit the ice flying.”

Briefly

  • Duncan Keith will skate during one of the Blackhawks’ practices on Sunday and Monday.
     
  • Team White defeated Team Red 4-3 in Saturday’s scrimmage at the United Center. Spencer Abbott led Team White with two goals.

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

Alexandre Fortin taking advantage of Blackhawks tryout

For Alexandre Fortin, the last few months have certainly been memorable.

It all started earlier this summer, when Blackhawks scout Alexandre Rouleau contacted Fortin’s agent: Fortin was invited to the team’s prospect camp. He did so well there that he was invited to the rookie tournament in Traverse City, Mich., last week. And now, the 19-year-old is here on a training-camp tryout.

Yeah, it was quite a summer. And now Fortin would like to turn it into just as memorable of an autumn.

Fortin assisted on a goal in Saturday’s scrimmage, part of the Blackhawks’ training camp festival at the United Center. The Blackhawks are going to be keeping an eye on Fortin, who’s been impressive since that July prospect camp.

“I like his willingness to learn. Those same things you talk about, immediately it translates right into the next shift,” Blackhawks assistant coach Kevin Dineen said. “He’s a smart, cerebral kid who has a nice offensive skillset he’s been able to show early. He’s off to a really good start and trying to find a way into one of our exhibition games.”

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Fortin had 19 goals in 54 games last season with Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Just to get a chance with the Blackhawks is motivation enough, although Fortin already had plenty. The Quebec native was passed over in two NHL drafts, much like former Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw.

“I had two years where I didn’t get drafted, and it’s always hard mentally. But some guys never get drafted and have a good hockey career,” Fortin said. “I worked a lot in the summer just to be ready to try and do the same thing I did in prospect camp.”

Fortin also got some advice from family; his uncle is former NHL goaltender Jean-Sébastien Giguère, who won a Stanley Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.

“For sure, I had a couple of meetings with him just before I came here. He had a great career. He helped me on that. I can call him every time, ask him questions,” Fortin said. “It’s good to see the veteran guys. You have to use them as an example. It’s what I want to do. I have to learn how to be a pro.”

Fortin doesn’t know what the future holds but he’s getting a chance with the Blackhawks, something he didn’t foresee when the summer began. And with that chance, anything can happen.

“You have to stay focused on your goal,” Fortin said. “You know my life has changed a few times just with what I’ve done here. We’ll see after, but I’ll keep doing what I’m doing now.”