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.

Why Blackhawks fans might want to tap the brakes on Alex DeBrincat

Why Blackhawks fans might want to tap the brakes on Alex DeBrincat

This is public service announcement regarding Alex DeBrincat and his potential this season with the Blackhawks:

Tap the brakes.

We’ve relayed this address a few times the past few seasons, most notably with Teuvo Teravainen as people eagerly anticipated his professional debut. We’re pretty sure when he was recalled for the first time, exultant trumpets played faintly in the background. But it bears repeating now with DeBrincat, who might or might not do fantastic things right out of training camp.

This warning, however, comes not only because DeBrincat might not be ready for the grand stage play-wise. It’s also because the Blackhawks might not have room for him.

Take a look at CapFriendly.com for the Blackhawks’ current situation: As they enter the fall they’re roughly $35,000 over the $75 million salary cap, but it’s not so much about money as it is the roster setup. There are 22 players currently listed on the Blackhawk’s CapFriendly roster, but only five defensemen. Also, of the 14 forwards listed, only one could be sent to Rockford without going through waivers (Nick Schmaltz).

So if there’s no room for DeBrincat, don’t be surprised.

Still, it’s going to be interesting to see what DeBrincat does at training camp this fall. You understand why the hype is there. DeBrincat is coming off three stellar seasons with the Erie Otters, with whom he had 127 points (65 goals, 62 assists) last season. DeBrincat is hopeful that a strong training camp could lead to opportunity, but he understands it might not be right away.

“I’m confident in my abilities,” DeBrincat said. “But they have a plan for me and I’ll do whatever they want me to do. I’ll stick with their plan.”

But the Blackhawks will take the slow-and steady approach with him as they did with past younger players. He’s only 19 years old, so there’s no need to rush his development. Playing time in the American Hockey League could be very beneficial for him as he makes the jump from the OHL to the pros. As former Otters coach Kris Knoblauch said earlier this summer, dealing with bigger and stronger players at this level is going to be the toughest hurdle for DeBrincat.

“It’s not that he’s afraid; he’s very good at battles. But just playing against the opposition, against five strong, fast players and just finding out how much time he has, where the room is,” Knoblauch said in early June. “One-on-one battles in our league, there are strong guys and he does fairly well. But when you have a unit of guys, it makes the game a little more difficult.”

DeBrincat will have his time with the Blackhawks. It just might not be right away, and for several reasons, including the current roster setup. So let’s tap the brakes. For now, anyway.

Boston University coach predicts breakout year for Blackhawks prospect Chad Krys

Boston University coach predicts breakout year for Blackhawks prospect Chad Krys

Chad Krys was like any other freshman college hockey player last season. He had his ups and downs and improved as the season continued. In a few months the Blackhawks prospect will be heading to Boston University for his sophomore year, and his coach believes he can be one of college’s best defensemen next season.

“Now that he’s comfortable and knows what’s expected of him, I don’t want to put too much pressure on him but I think he can have a breakout year,” said Boston Terriers coach David Quinn. “He’s played a lot of hockey, and I really think he has the elite talent, the work ethic continues to improve and his conditioning really improved.”

Krys, the Blackhawks’ second-round selection (45th overall) in the 2016 NHL Draft, is working toward that at this week’s Blackhawks prospect camp. Krys was part of what Quinn said was the youngest team in the country last season. The Terriers, who had nine freshmen in their lineup, fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the West Regional last March.

Even through the ups and downs, the lessons were valuable.

“Like coach Quinn said, our biggest problem was our immaturity but we couldn’t help that. We were all 18 and 19 years old. But I think it’ll be good for us having a lot of guys coming back and being returning players,” said Krys, who added the accelerated learning curve should help, too. “Going through that with everyone, especially in my class, there were a lot of us in a similar situation, trying to get to the next level. So I think we experienced a lot of team things.”

As a freshman, Krys had five goals and six assists in 39 games for the Terriers. He said he focused on trying to improve his overall defense last season, and Quinn said he took steps forward in that department.

“He’s always been a really good, gifted player and had the puck an awful lot. But most kids as they climb the hockey ladder, they haven’t had to defend a lot because they’ve had the puck a lot. At the higher level you have to play both ends of the rink,” Quinn said. “He had better defense, particularly off the rush and he did a better job down low defending. He also did a better job getting involved offensively.”

Considering Quinn’s outlook of Krys, it’s no surprise he’s pegging the young defenseman to be one of the Terriers’ leaders next season and beyond. Krys has an affable personality — at the 2016 NHL Draft he brought his GoPro and interviewed Alex DeBrincat, who was selected six picks prior to Krys. That, combined with his play make him a strong potential leader. Krys is fine with being that guy.

“That first year you’re a freshman and you’re just trying to find your way,” he said. “The second year I want to be more dynamic and more of a go-to guy for the team.”

All the potential is there for Krys to have a strong future with the Blackhawks – “I’d be more surprised if he didn’t play than he did. He’s a legit prospect,” Quinn said. Until then, his coach feels Krys is on the cusp of having a big season with Boston.

“The jump to college hockey’s big, and he’s feeling his way through it. He had a good first half but a better second half,” Quinn said. “There’s no reason he shouldn’t be one of the better defensemen in all of college hockey.”