Chicago Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Brian Campbell 'shocked' at Gerard Gallant firing by Panthers

Blackhawks' Brian Campbell 'shocked' at Gerard Gallant firing by Panthers

When the Florida Panthers fired Gerard Gallant, there were plenty of folks in the hockey world who were surprised.

Count Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell among them.

Campbell, who played his final two seasons in Florida with Gallant at the helm, was stunned to hear Gallant was fired following the Panthers’ 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday night.

“Surprise. Probably a lot like everyone else, it seems, was pretty surprised at what happened,” Campbell said following the Blackhawks’ practice on Monday. “Gerard’s a great guy. I liked him. I thought he did a good job there. So yeah, I was surprised, shocked. I don’t know what else to say. They’re playing their game above .500 and they’ve had some injuries. I don’t think anybody thought that was coming.”

Gallant led the Panthers to the postseason last year. The Panthers are 11-10-1 entering Tuesday, when they’ll face the Blackhawks. General manager Tom Rowe will take over as the Panthers’ head coach. Campbell said he talked to some of his former teammates about the firing – “there were rumblings, I guess. Not coming from them, but stuff from behind the scenes and what you hear in the media.”

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Campbell called Gallant “a player’s coach.”

“For us, our practices were nice and short and hard and that’s what you want as a player. He gave you some guidelines to play around. He didn’t have too many highs, too many lows. It’s nice to come to the rink and be even-keel, today’s a new day and you keep going forward,” Campbell said. “We had some success there with him, and that’s the biggest part that’s surprising right now.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said he was watching hockey on Sunday night when he saw the news of Gallant’s firing.

“Very surprised,” Quenneville said. “I wish him well. Tough part of our business.”

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 win over Blue Jackets in preseason opener

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 5-2 win over Blue Jackets in preseason opener

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets in Tuesday's preseason opener:

1. Anton Forsberg sharp in debut.

The former Blue Jackets netminder who was acquired by the Blackhawks in the Artemi Panarin-Brandon Saad offseason deal shined in his first game action with his new club, stopping 38 of 40 shots he faced. Many of them were quality saves, too.

He was a perfect 14-for-14 in the first period, with eight of those coming while Columbus was on the power play, which also included a 5-on-3 stretch. He stood tall and looked comfortable in net, and it's an encouraging sign for the Blackhawks who are hoping he can become a reliable backup goaltender to ease the load off Corey Crawford.

2. Cody Franson, Jan Rutta stand out on defense.

The Blackhawks brought in Franson on a professional tryout agreement, and he didn't waste any time making his presence felt. The 30-year-old defenseman recorded four of the team's nine shots in the opening frame, all of which came on the power play, and the fourth one found the back of the net to open up the scoring. He served as a solid quarterback on the man advantage, and wasn't afraid to utilize his heavy shot.

Rutta was no different. He led all skaters with 23:52 of ice time, and was rewarded with a goal in the second period after his slapshot from the point bounced off the boards, ricocheted off the back of Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo's skate and trickled into the net. The 27-year-old Czech defenseman also registered two blocked shots and had two of the club's seven takeaways.

3. Nick Schmaltz's confidence and game continues to grow.

There is a noticeable difference in Schmaltz's confidence and game this year compared to last year. He looks bigger, faster and more confident with the puck, and his strong showing at training camp translated into the first preseason game.

Serving as the first-line center, Schmaltz led all Chicago forwards with 18:03 of ice time and spent time on both the power play and penalty kill units. He showed off his wicked wrist shot with a goal in the second period to make it 4-0, and displayed his playmaking ability by recording a primary assist on Franson's goal. He was one of four Blackhawks who had multi-point efforts in the win (Franson, Tomas Jurco and Graham Knott).

4. Blackhawks finish strong in faceoff department after rough start.

The Blackhawks ranked second-to-last in faceoff win percentage last year at 47.5, and they appeared to be headed down that path again. They opened the game 0-for-8 at the dot, but ended up finishing strong by winning 37 of the next 60 draws for a win percentage of 61.7. Matthew Highmore, Vinnie Hinostroza, Graham Knott and John Mitchell led the way by combining to go 19 of 25 (76 percent) at the circle.

5. NHL cracking down on several rules.

The league has made it clear about its intentions of laying down the law regarding a few rules and it was evident Tuesday that they won't be messing around. Seventeen penalties were called in the game, including five slashing and two faceoff violations.

Those are the two areas that will be focused on closely, the former in an effort to protect the NHL's stars and the latter to ensure a fair chance for both centers. Prepare for more whistles and power plays early on.

Pat Foley provides health update on Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk

Pat Foley provides health update on Blackhawks analyst Eddie Olczyk

Blackhawks hockey returned to CSN on Tuesday when the team visited the Columbus Blue Jackets for their 2017-18 preseason opener, but a familiar voice was missing from the booth.

That would be analyst Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed with colon cancer in August and will take time off while he undergoes treatment.

Pat Foley took some time to provide an update on his broadcast partner before the second period of Tuesday's game after speaking with Olczyk earlier in the day.

Check it out in the video above.