After long layoff, Carcillo ready to hit the ice

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After long layoff, Carcillo ready to hit the ice

Daniel Carcillo had a lot of time on his hands this past year.

His last on-ice hit, on Jan. 2, 2012, was a painful one in two ways. Not only did he get a seven-game suspension for boarding Edmontons Tom Gilbert, but he also suffered a season-ending knee injury. The reconstructive surgery for that left knee was one year ago today.

Couple all that with four months worth of a lockout, and its been one long year for Carcillo. But the Blackhawks instigator used the time constructively, and not just rehabbing his knee.

I had a lot of time to myself and I looked at certain things I was doing in my life and decided to make changes, with and away from training, Carcillo said. It was a good reflection period. And it was good to grow physically and mentally.

Carcillo has worked on a few things during this long layoff, but he and the Blackhawks are still looking for him to keep that edge when the team opens its regular season Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Carcillo was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa throughout camp, a season after starting on the second line with Hossa and Patrick Kane. On that second line, he was agitating and, for the most part, kept on the right side of that edge.

Cars is an energy player, Hossa said. Basically, he can go hard to the net and get extra room for the chances, so its going to work out great for us. He gets his feet going and hes really a huge key in our line because he makes room for us.

The Blackhawks hope he does the same with Toews and Hossa.

He probably thinks won the lottery being with those two, coach Joel Quenneville said. We like his presence with that group. He started last year with Kaner and Hoss, and he was successful prior to injury. We want him to be a distraction for the goalie, be hard and be simple. Hes excited about being back.

Indeed, he is. Carcillo was skating with the Blackhawks in their informal workouts early in the fall. But once he was cleared, he was playing the waiting game just like everyone else. It wasnt always easy, before, during and after rehabbing that knee.

When something like that happens to you, you feel like you can go one or two ways: you sit and sulk about it or use it to drive you, said Carcillo, whos included meditation in his daily routines. I used (the time) to make changes in my life and its been good. When you have an injury like that, you just focus on yourself a lot more, you know? Im just glad to be back around the guys and be in this environment again.

And about that knee: it passed its first test on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks scrimmaged against themselves and several Rockford players. Physically, Carcillo is ready to go.

Im ready for the year, he said. That was a good test (Wednesday), and Im sure Saturday will be another one. Its just about getting back to being fast, being better.

And as far as the other changes, does that mean well see a calmer Carcillo?

I dont think so, he said. But maybe more in control, with more focused energy.

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

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AP

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Blackhawks Convention Opening Ceremonies

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, we're live at the 2017 Blackhawks Convention. 

Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp join David Kaplan and Pat Boyle to talk about returning to Chicago. 

Later Boyle, CSN Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers, Chris Kuc and Sam Panayotovich discuss the huge roster changes this offseason. 

Listen to the STL Pod below.