Turning Things Around: 'Anything Little, it's Huge..'

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Turning Things Around: 'Anything Little, it's Huge..'

The Blackhawks were already in the process of taking the proper steps to get out of their losing streak. But as you and I and everyone else watched last Tuesday night, there was one final punch in the gut in Nashville. They had, by and large, played the type of road game needed against the type of opponent they were facing. Six minutes away from earning at least one point against one of the teams in front of them, Ryan Ellis' slap shot from the point got just enough of Duncan Keith's stick to re-direct the puck past Ray Emery.

"I thought Nashville was the kind of game that was a brutal ending. It was almost like, eventually, this has got to go in our favor. We got a great start in New York where maybe rock-bottom was Nashville coming out of it," said Joel Quenneville Sunday afternoon. "We thought the guys tried to view the next game in a positive fashion and brought energy to it, despite the frustration and the emotions of going through that stretch. We were all in the same place."

What happened next was the three-goal outburst in the first four minutes at Madison Square Garden that could potentially be the difference between this team struggling to make the playoffs these final seven weeks, or solidifying its case in, and perhaps climbing up the Western Conference playoff chase.

But as highlight-reel-worthy the three-in-four was, the Hawks have been talking all season about how they need to tighten up at the opposite end of the ice. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes six, seven straight bitter pills before a team seriously rolls up its sleeves and gets to work in true Chicago style.

"The 'details' part of our game has been enhanced through the recent stretch. I always think there's enough offense in our group," Quenneville continued after his team's third win in four days. "It's there, but it's the other end where we can be better, and I see signs that everybody's committed."

Sunday showed it's still a work in progress, they just didn't get burned by it. The Hawks' nine giveaways on the stat sheet surpassed their total from the three previous games combined. That will definitely need to tighten up again when Detroit comes knocking Tuesday night, but there's a greater awareness now.

"I think that tough streak just taught us a lesson that we can't take things for granted."

That's Dave Bolland, who's a plus-4 the last two games after being a minus-7 the previous eight.

"One little mistake, one little break, a turnover," he said, and here's the classic line from The RatGreyhound for its juxtaposition of words regarding the sanctity of puck possession and awareness:

"Anything little, it's huge," Bolland said, without thinking twice. "A team will pounce on that. I think we've been doing a good job of doing the right things and keeping it simple."

Added Quenneville: "Defensively, we've been more aware, better in areas starting in the offensive zone with commitment to our position - not only on the offnsive side of pucks. I thought our defense played very well the last three games, and 'Crow's' been rock-solid in net. You know, playing the score, playing the time in the game, and then staying with it."

Blackhawks: Abbott happy to be back after season in Sweden

Blackhawks: Abbott happy to be back after season in Sweden

Spencer Abbott enjoyed his short stint in Rockford, which came after he was acquired by the Blackhawks in February 2015. At the time, he thought staying here was his most likely plan.

Then he got an offer Frölunda in Sweden.

“I thought, ‘why not give it a shot? Maybe it’ll be a good experience and bring it back with me,’” said Abbott on Monday. “It was worth it, for sure. I have no regrets.”

Abbott, who’s back with the Blackhawks, had never been to Europe prior to getting that Frölunda offer. But his first trip across the pond was a good one as Abbott was part of Frölunda’s run to its Swedish and Champions hockey league titles. Abbott had 14 goals and 21 assists in 51 regular-season games. Abbott got plenty out of the games, but not nearly as much as he did in the team’s training camp.

“The first month and a half you’re over there, you’re there from 8 [a.m.] to 4 [p.m.] every day. I think over here there’s a rule against being here for more than 3-4 hours, but not over there. It’s like a 9-5 job for a month and a half, a lot of working out, a lot of bike riding. So for me, that was good because I had never been in that kind of shape before,” said Abbott, who added he’s trying to incorporate some of that into his routine here. “Training camps here are hard but they’re just different over there. There’s a lot of ice, bigger ice [overseas], so they really condition you. So my conditioning may be a bit better.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

As much as Abbott loved his time in Sweden, he ultimately wanted to be back in the NHL. So when the Blackhawks offered him a one-year deal, he jumped at it. He’s gotten off to a good start this training camp, scoring a few goals in the team’s early scrimmages.

“I wasn’t sure how it would play out, to be honest. I’m 28 and pretty early in the summer they were showing interest,” Abbott said. “This is one for the places I really wanted to come, because I did l really like the organization when I was here for that brief period of time. Now I get the full effect as long as they’ll have me. It’s such a good organization.”

Abbott probably could have kept playing overseas but he wanted another chance in the NHL. He’s happy it’s once again coming in the Blackhawks’ organization.

“It’s overwhelming. There are so many places to play hockey nowadays in Europe. There are tons of leagues over there. But it didn’t interest me,” he said. “I wanted to come back and give it one more shot.”

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Blackhawks: Keith unlikely to play first four preseason games

Duncan Keith was already deemed unlikely to play in many, if any, Blackhawks preseason games, when training camp opened. As of now, it doesn’t look like he’ll be in the first few.

Keith will probably not play in the Blackhawks’ first four preseason games, assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Monday’s training camp sessions. As for whether or not Keith will play in any, that’s still up in the air.

“That’s a question that Dunc and the medical staff, Stan [Bowman], Joel [Quenneville], we’ll all get to that. I wouldn’t foresee him certainly in these first four games. I would say that’s not going to happen,” Dineen said. “We’ll let him keep progressing on his timetable that he’s on now.”

Keith has been participating in one practice each day but has not been in any of the scrimmages. Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith has asked to skate in the team’s second practice each day – each session is about 20-25 minutes – but the Blackhawks have told him no. As of now, both Dineen and Kitchen figure Keith will be ready for the regular-season opener but the Blackhawks will continue to be prudent with him.

“He’s out there wheeling around, doing well,” Dineen said. “We had a good chat with him today. He feels like he has a lot of jump but not a lot of stamina right now. We’ll continue the way we’ve handled it so far. We’ll keep moving forward that way.”

Players returning soon

Patrick Kane, who was at the United Center on Monday afternoon, will skate with the Blackhawks on Tuesday. Defenseman Michal Kempny will also join Tuesday’s sessions. Dineen said Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger, Artem Anisimov and Artemi Panarin are expected to join the Blackhawks on Friday.

Neither Kane nor Kempny are expected to play Wednesday vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]​

Pokka is back

Defenseman Ville Pokka, who played for Team Finland in the World Cup of Hockey, skated with the Blackhawks on Monday.

“Anybody coming back from Toronto over the last two weeks is going to have a heck of a lot of confidence,” Dineen said. “A young kid like that getting the chance to represent his country on the international stage is a great honor and a pick-me-up heading into training camp and the season.”

First cuts made

The Blackhawks made their first round of cuts on Monday, sending Radovan Bondra, John Dahlstrom, Nathan Noel and Roy Radke to their respective junior teams. The active roster is now at 57 players.