Blackhawks-Blues rivalry 'as good as it's ever been'

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Blackhawks-Blues rivalry 'as good as it's ever been'

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Pat Foley remembers Chicagos battles against the St. Louis Blues.

The Blackhawks longtime broadcaster smiles when he remembers the intensity in those games, be it regular season or playoffs. From the Dave Mansons and Mike Pelusos to the Tony Twists and Kelly Chases, from the angst among both teams fans to former Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan inadvertently locking himself in the Checkerdome office after an angry rant, it was one hell of a rivalry.

And as far as Foley is concerned, its getting like that again.

The Blues and Blackhawks rivalry is heating up, and the stakes will be high when the two squads meet on Sunday morning in Chicago as part of Hockey Day in America. The Blues and Blackhawks are fourth and sixth in the West, respectively, and the fight for prime a playoff spot just adds to the rekindled rivalry.

Its one thing to have the rivalry. Its another to have good teams in them, Foley said on Saturday. You dont want those guys to finish ahead of you and get home ice. Obviously that just puts a little bit more frosting on the cake in terms of how meaningful it is and how much those guys want it. In this sport, who wants it, how bad do you want it and what price are you willing to pay to go get it? Thats wonderful to see it come back.

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, whos been behind each bench through plenty of these Chicago-St. Louis games, agrees the intensity is rising again.

The rivalry grew and right now its probably as good as its ever been, he said. They play hard, play simple, play a strong team game and theyre a physical team. I dont think were comfortable that were finally home (on Sunday). Lets make sure we use the crowd for our advantage and lets be excited about importance of the game.

The Blackhawks have been back among the leagues elite for a few seasons now. Theyre not the physical squad they once were, instead leading with their speed and skill that has scored 186 goals, second best in the West this season.

Meanwhile, St. Louis latest renaissance began the November day general manager Doug Armstrong named Ken Hitchcock coach. The Blues, who have one playoff appearance since the lockout, are now among the Wests best. Theyve done it with defense, allowing a league-low 114 goals this season (tied with the New York Rangers) and getting 12 of their 36 victories by shutout.

St. Louis has done a great job all year, especially since Hitchcock took over. They play hard and play a good team game, Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith said. Everything weve talked about over the last month, and what weve done more so the last couple nights, is play together, play as a unit and play a good team game. We have to do that against St. Louis.

The recent Blues-Blackhawks games dont feature the fisticuffs that were so synonymous with the old-school matchups. Every now and then you see them, but its now more the Blackhawks skill vs. the Blues sandpaper. But the intensity never really left; and with the two jockeying for position among the Wests top eight, its starting to rise again.

Its not yet back to where it was when it was in the Checkerdome and the (old Chicago) Stadium. You knew it was great entertainment and it was going to be intense on a Tuesday night in November. You couldnt wait to get there, Foley said. But I think were heading in that direction again, which is awesome.

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun healthy, ready for another chance with Blackhawks

Kyle Baun couldn’t have asked for a better start to his second NHL season as he made the Blackhawks roster out of training camp.

It didn’t last long, however, as Baun was back with the Rockford IceHogs after two games with Chicago. As for that season in Rockford?

“That was a whole other story,” said Baun.

Indeed, Baun lost a good portion of his Rockford season when his right wrist was sliced twice by another player’s skate in mid-November. That, however, is all behind him. Now Baun hopes to replicate his 2015 camp performances and latch on with the big club longer.

Baun will play in his first preseason game this fall when the Blackhawks face the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. The 24-year-old skated is expected to start on a line with Tyler Motte and Tanner Kero, with whom he skated on Friday morning.

“I just want to simulate what I did last year, and it went well at the beginning,” Baun said. “I want to keep working hard, do what I did last year in the exhibition season and hopefully I can stick again.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Baun’s stint was short lived last fall; he was reassigned to Rockford on Oct. 16, and was looking to have a strong season there. Less than a month later, however, he suffered his right wrist injury that sidelined him for more than three months. Baun said he still wasn’t quite right even when he returned.

“I was trying to get back with the wrist and stuff, and I’m not sure it was 100 percent by the time I came back,” said Baun, who now wears Kevlar guards on his wrists. “So it was good to get a summer of training back in and get my legs under me.”

As for that wrist, Baun said it’s definitely “much better now.”

“The strength and dexterity is back,” he said. “It’s a small muscle, so to get the dexterity back was kind of tough.”

Baun is looking for another opportunity. Considering the opportunities for forwards this season, a good showing could lead to some more time in Chicago.

“I’m just trying to focus on my own game like last year. I think that worked for me, trying not to look too, too much into what everyone else is doing,” he said. “Consistency is the biggest thing here. They’re just looking for a guy who can come in, game in and game out, and improve.”

BRIEFLY

- Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Corey Crawford, who just wrapped up their World Cup of Hockey play on Thursday night, will probably get “three or four days off” before joining camp, assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “They’ve been going for a long time,” Kitchen said. “We’ll give them some time off.”

- Coach Joel Quenneville flew to Pittsburgh with the team.

Blackhawks agree to terms with 2015 second-round pick Graham Knott

Blackhawks agree to terms with 2015 second-round pick Graham Knott

The Blackhawks have agreed to terms with forward Graham Knott on a three-year, entry-level contract, the team announced Friday.

Knott, 19, scored 12 goals and 30 assists in 68 regular-season games last season with the Niagara IceDogs of the Ontario Hockey League.

He also added five points in 17 postseason contests.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Knott is a power forward who makes a living around the net with his big-body presence.

He was drafted by the Blackhawks in the second round (No. 54 overall) in the 2015 NHL Draft.