Blackhawks focused during rare five-day break

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Blackhawks focused during rare five-day break

Thursday, Jan. 20, 2011
4:40 p.m.

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

This isnt like the Blackhawks were coming off summer vacation, whether it started in mid-June or mid-April. They took two of the first three days off this week but wanted to return to practice with a focus and purpose, given the caliber of opponent theyll face upon returning from this five-day break from game action. Its about benefiting from rest, and not being hindered by rust, during a high-paced practice Thursday at Johnnys IceHouse West.

It was great to have a layoff, but we want to be at the level we were at before the layoff, said defenseman Brian Campbell. We want to start right away when the pucks dropped in Detroit not wait a period, period and a half. Thats the biggest factor for us. We really need to gear up. Tomorrows practice is pretty important that way to get ready for a big, big weekend. Detroit, were pretty familiar with. Phillys obviously got a lot of the same guys back as last year. Its going to be a good test for us since we are probably playing some of our better hockey of the season so far.

READ: Campbell providing calm presence for Blackhawks

We dont want to go into games and get caught up and find the pace is too fast, added head coach Joel Quenneville. We dont want to be absorbing whats coming our way. We want to set the pace and try to dictate as much as we can. The first ten minutes in Detroit is important for us, but we cant anticipate we cancatch up in the middle of games. We want to make sure our minds turn that switch back on and today I thought they did a good job with it.

If its the ultimate rivalry weekend for the Bears and Packers, the Blackhawks wont be far behind, even if not as much is at stake. The Red Wings stir up the passions of Hawks fans six times per season, then here come the Flyers, wholl have something to prove after last spring. And look theres Chris Pronger, just back from foot surgery five weeks ago. On top of that, the Hawks need to be solid defensively since these are the NHLs two top-scoring teams.

We know were going to score goals with so much talent up front, according to winger Tomas Kopecky. We just have to play really good defensively against these guys. We cant take any penalties and have to play real disciplined."

The penalty-kill and defending odd-man rushes received their share of attention Thursday morning. After allowing five power play goals in as many chances earlier this month, the Hawks PK went 7-for-7, only to allow Nashville to score twice in its first three power play chances Sunday night. Detroit owns the NHLs fifth-ranked power play entering Thursday.

Then theres the matter of the Central Division race. While the Hawks had their early struggles with cohesion and injuries, the Wings got off to a red-hot start. Now the defending champs are healthy and have been playing better, while Detroits getting banged-up. If these Hawks can elevate another level, is it possible they can chase them down, since they trailed the Wings by just eight points heading into Detroits game in St. Louis Thursday? The final three meetings in the season series will be played over the final two weeks. You can guess how captain Jonathan Toews feels about it.

Its a long year. As long as we keep having success against them (1-1 so far) we havent played them too often yet. We obviously control that, so..its not going to take a miracle to catch them. Weve just got to play well.

READ: Chris Boden takes a look at the Blackhawks farm system

Quenneville wont think that far ahead.

Lets take care of first things first in our goals and ambitions as we progress. An original goal starting the year was wed love to win the division. Thats still in place. But moving ahead, what were looking forward to doing is getting out of that area where every day youre on that (playoff) bubble.

Card Sharkser, Hawks

Campbell said he didnt have an exact number, but he believed Tuesday nights Texas Hold Em celebrity poker event at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond may have raised about double the approximately 100,000 donated in the inaugural event a year ago. He passed along thanks to his teammates, volunteers, and all the Blackhawks fans who came through at the tables and via auctions. Proceeds through the defensemans Campbell for Kids charity are designated for the Chicagoland Chapter of Autism Speaks.

As for the winners and losers that night among the Hawks, Marian Hossa was first to get knocked out, admitting he was surrounded by players who know how to play like pros. I had three 8s and a King and didnt win, so it was a tough one.

Troy Brouwer won for a second straight year, this time over Corey Crawford, who showed up wearing shades, baseball cap pulled down low, and ear buds.

Yeah, I was ready, the goalie confirmed. Got myself mentally prepared. I think I had my best game out there, I just caught some bad luck. I got beat by a pretty good player.

We followed up to make sure he was talking cards, not goaltending.

Briefly

Every player was back at practice, including defenseman Nick Leddy, who was brought back up from Rockford after being sent down earlier in the week.

The pairings and lines looked the same as they did last weekend.

Crawford will start in goal Saturday afternoon, but Quenneville said no decisions been finalized about wholl start in net Sunday afternoon, or Tuesday against Minnesota, prior to the All-Star break.

Just as Bears head coach Lovie Smith reached out to Quenneville last spring to wish him luck and support during the Stanley Cup Finals, Quennevilles returned the favor to Smith this week.

Each locker had a navy blue Bears baseball cap, with an orange B on the front, hanging in it. Most players wore them (Kopeckys worn one just about all season). The biggest surprise: Packers fan Jack Skille wearing his backwards, and fellow Packer-backer Jake Dowell wearing his normally. After taking some good-natured ribbing a couple of days ago, both want to clarify its not about hatred for the Bears, just rooting for the team in the state they grew up in.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Blackhawks make another change, fire Rockford coach Ted Dent

Ted Dent was another longstanding member of the Blackhawks' organization. On Tuesday, he was the latest to be let go.

Dent, head coach of the Rockford IceHogs for the past six seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. Dent spent a total of 11 years in the organization; he was the IceHogs' assistant coach for five seasons before taking the head coaching job for the 2011-12 season.

Just over a year ago, the Blackhawks gave Dent a three-year contract extension that was set to run through the end of the 2018-19 season.

"The Chicago Blackhawks thank Ted for all of his contributions throughout his tenure with the organization," Blackhawks general Manager Stan Bowman said. "He played a major role in helping a number of players reach the NHL level with the Chicago Blackhawks, many of whom became Stanley Cup champions. We wish Ted and his family the best."

The IceHogs didn't have the depth this season they had in previous years, and they struggled all season en route to a 25-39-9-3 record. The struggles got worse after the March 1 trade deadline, when the Blackhawks sent Spencer Abbott and Sam Carrick to the San Diego Gulls (Anaheim Ducks AHL affiliate). At the time, Abbott led the IceHogs in points with 35 (15 goals, 20 assists) and Carrick was second with 28 points (11 goals 17 assists).

After the two were traded, the IceHogs went 4-12-1.

It's the second consecutive day in which the Blackhawks fired a member of their organization's coaching staff. Mike Kitchen, the Blackhawks' assistant coach since 2010, was fired on Monday. Kitchen and head coach Joel Quenneville have been friends going back to their NHL playing days, when the two were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was also part of Quenneville's coaching staff in St. Louis.

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

Blackhawks fire assistant coach Mike Kitchen

When Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman addressed the media on Saturday, he said that there would be change. That started on Monday when assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired.

The move came five days after the Blackhawks were swept out of the first round by the Nashville Predators. Bowman said in a statement that, “we believe this decision is best for our organization moving forward. Mike had an impact on two different Stanley Cup championship teams during his tenure in Chicago. We appreciate his many contributions and wish he and his family success in the future.”

Kitchen has been a member of coach Joel Quenneville’s staff since 2010. The two go back to their playing days, however, when they were teammates with the Colorado Rockies and also the New Jersey Devils. Kitchen was Quenneville’s assistant when the two were with the St. Louis Blues and when Quenneville was fired as Blues coach midway through the 2003-04 season, Kitchen was promoted to head coach.

As part of the Blackhawks’ staff Kitchen’s focus on special teams, mainly the penalty kill. That kill finished the regular season 24th overall in the league, although that has to come with an asterisk. The penalty kill started the 2016-17 season so poorly that it was never going to get too far out of the basement. It did get stronger as the season wore on, and it was fourth overall during the Blackhawks’ short stay in the playoffs.