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


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.

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Same mistakes resurface

COLUMBUS, Ohio – We’ll save you some time tonight. The Blackhawks lost another one in familiar fashion. You can guess what our focus will be, so let’s get right to it.

Here are Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

1. We’re trying not to pick on the penalty kill again, but… it cost them again. The Blackhawks gave up their 10th and 11th power-play goals in their first five games on Friday night. Opponents are planting themselves in front of Corey Crawford and, be it screens or tips, they’re capitalizing. Long-distance shots are getting through far too often. “I think our focus always has to be 5-on-5. When our effort and our energy and our work ethic is there it usually translates into our special teams and I don’t know. It’s frustrating," Jonathan Toews said. "We definitely have to keep pushing to find a solution. Even when it seems like we’re doing a good job bounces go against us. We deserve all the criticism and we just have to keep finding ways, dig deep and really try to dig ourselves out of this thing.”

2. The seven-defenseman set. Quenneville didn’t want Trevor van Riemsdyk sitting out too long, and for a few days it looked like Brian Campbell was going to be the odd-man out tonight. Instead the Blackhawks went with seven, which gave them the chance to rotate and put Campbell back on his natural left. With that, however, the forward lines were naturally skewed. Patrick Kane played nearly 29 minutes. Quenneville said earlier this season that it wouldn’t be something the Blackhawks would try often. Speaking of van Riemsdyk…

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

3. Van Riemsdyk hurt again. You have to feel for van Riemsdyk. He finally got healthy last season playing in all 82 games after knee and wrist injuries sidelined him the previous one. Now it looks like he’ll be out again after he went hard into the net late in the second period. Van Riemsdyk got tangled up and his right arm/shoulder collided with the post.

4. Tyler Motte gets his first. The University of Michigan product scored his first career NHL goal, a rebound off a Toews shot in the second period. Considering the game’s outcome, however, Motte’s enthusiasm was tempered. “It was exciting. It felt good to chip in offensively but obviously the real story is us losing another game,” he said. “We were better in the offensive zone but there are still some things to improve on. The most important thing is winning games.”

5. Brandon Saad great but stymied. The former Blackhawks left wing had some tremendous scoring opportunities on Friday. He had a team-high seven shots, most high quality, but Crawford stopped him every time. Just in case anyone needed a reminder of what the kid is capable of, regardless of which sweater he’s wearing.

Penalty kill struggles again in Blackhawks’ loss to Blue Jackets

Penalty kill struggles again in Blackhawks’ loss to Blue Jackets

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Blackhawks were trying a different look on Friday, going with seven defensemen. But at the end of the night, it was something all too familiar contributing to their downfall.

Tyler Motte scored the first goal of his NHL career but the Blackhawks gave up two more power-play goals in their 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. It was another night on which special teams doomed the Blackhawks; through the first five games of their regular season, their penalty kill has now allowed 11 goals.

And the loss could also sting them, personnel-wise. Trevor van Riemsdyk went hard into the post late in the second period and did not return. Coach Joel Quenneville said van Riemsdyk, who has had his injury issues in the past, “may be out for a bit.” Quenneville added that he’ll know more on Saturday.

Quenneville dressed seven defensemen to get everyone playing. Van Riemsdyk had been a healthy scratch the previous three games. It also gave him a chance to put Brian Campbell back on the left, his normal side. But regardless of the new defensive look, the penalty kill remained its unreliable self.

“It just seems a lot of times it’s a quick play off a faceoff and it’s in our net,” said Duncan Keith. “It’s a few different things and obviously, we as players, we need to take ownership of it and figure out a way to get the job done. You watch it, there’s lots of different things.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno was set up right in front of Corey Crawford on both of their successful power plays. On the first, a Zach Werenski goal, Foligno set the screen. On the second, he tipped David Savard’s shot. The Blackhawks’ confidence has to be shaken, and that never helps.

“It’s the same way 5-on-5: I think when you’re snake bitten you tend to try too hard and do too much. That can end up hurting you as well,” Jonathan Toews said. “As forwards I think that’s the No. 1 thing. We have to be better getting in shot lanes. It started on the road against Nashville, they scored two goals going right past our forwards and it kind of led one game after another to today.”

Still, the Blackhawks had a great chance to find an equalizer at the end. They got a power play with 3:26 remaining. Despite some good scoring chances, and Crawford pulled for an extra attacker, the Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize. Columbus goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 32 of 34 shots in the victory.

The Blackhawks can’t stop the bleeding on the penalty kill. It’s cost them in all three of their losses and it’s made their two victories closer than necessary. They know what the problems are. They have to fix them fast.

“Both plays could have been prevented, whether it was a block, clear, just got to get sharper, more determination and try to stay out of the box,” Quenneville said. “Starts from the faceoff to a clear to shots and recognize when there’s a chance to pressure. We had a couple of opportunities there. they end up in our net right now.”