Blackhawks excited to reunite with rivals

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Blackhawks excited to reunite with rivals

Dave Bolland walked into the Blackhawks locker room with a grin on his face. Its a game against Vancouver tonight, a date that Bolland probably circled on the calendar.

I love this day. I think the guys always love this day, too, Bolland said. Were playing Vancouver, its a great rivalry and its going to be a hard, tough game.

The Blackhawks will be without Duncan Keith (left hand) again tonight, but that wont quell the buzz that always surrounds a Blackhawks-Canucks tilt. Its a rivalry that was born in the playoffs and bolstered every time they meet, be it regular- or postseason.

There are some games over an 82-game schedule that just feel like another game. This is the exact opposite of that, captain Jonathan Toews said. Ive said it multiple times. Theres a lot of motivation in a game like this.

Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks lineup will be comparable to what it was against the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning. The Canucks, meanwhile, will be without Sami Salo (groin) and Alex Burrows (back) tonight. Aaron Rome (finger) is a game-time decision.

The motivation for the Blackhawks is to keep doing what they have been over the first month of the season. The Blackhawks have been rolling right along, getting points in all but two games. But with the Canucks, theres always that extra incentive, whether youve been with the Blackhawks for years or you just got here.

People around the league get the sentiment, Toews said. The new guys have done a great job of just coming in here and playing and doing their job and being a part of this team. Im sure everyone is very aware of the rivalry between the two and were prepared to play our best game.

For the Canucks, its a little different right now. They bested the Blackhawks in seven games last season but theyre not thinking too much about that right now. The Canucks have struggled out of the gate and have lost four of their last six. So its not so much about beating Chicago as it is getting points.

(The Game 7 victory) seems like a long time ago now, Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. It was a really good game at the time, one of the biggest arguably in franchise history. It felt like we won the Cup after we won that game. But thats in the past now. Its not going to help us tonight.

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

When the Blackhawks traded to get Brandon Saad back, they also acquired Anton Forsberg, who they believe is ready to be their latest backup goaltender. On Monday they signed him to a two-year deal.

The Blackhawks inked two players on Monday, Forsberg, whose contract runs through the 2018-19 season, and Tomas Jurco, who agreed to a one-year contract extension.

Forsberg joins the Blackhawks having very little NHL experience – he’s played 10 career games at this level, going 1-8-0. But the Blackhawks’ previous two backup goaltenders, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, hadn’t made an NHL appearance before joining the Blackhawks. Forsberg led the Cleveland Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL-affiliate team, to a Calder Cup title in 2016; during that run he went 9-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

On Friday, when the Blackhawks acquired Saad and Forsberg from Columbus for Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte, general manager Stan Bowman said the team is, “optimistic about Anton’s potential.”

“We like his profile as a goalie,” he said. “He’s a big guy, takes up a lot of net, has that mobility and makes good positional saves as well as athletic saves. A year ago, led his team to the [Calder] Cup championships, so he knows what it’s like to put a team on his back. It was the AHL but he’s had a lot of success there. He’s earned the right to be an NHL goalie.”

Jurco, acquired by the Blackhawks from Detroit in February, played 13 games with them down the regular-season stretch. Bowman said shortly after the trade that Jurco would get a chance here.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” he said. “I think a lot of ways, sometimes guys need different opportunities. It doesn’t work out in every place. A fresh start will be great for Tomas.”

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”