Blackhawks gear up for opener with team scrimmage

983821.png

Blackhawks gear up for opener with team scrimmage

Call it a simulated game. Call it a dress rehearsal. The Blackhawks called it their best chance to have a game-type situation in this shortened training camp. And they didnt mind what they saw.

The Blackhawks played the, um, Blackhawks in front of youth hockey kids and their parents on Wednesday night, with Red beating White 3-2. For the Blackhawks, it was an opportunity to look at their new lines and new power play combinations. For the players, it was a chance to play as close to a game as some of these guys have done since last April.

And all things considered, the dress rehearsal wasnt too bad.

The first period was a definite wakeup call for me, said Daniel Carcillo, who got his first real game-like test on that surgically repaired knee since he was injured last January. The second felt better and so did the third. You just have to get rid of the bad habits and start playing. Its positioning and those start-and-stop battles. And even with those, youre hesitant to make a big hit; you have teammates out there. But as the game went on, I think everyone in this room felt a little better.

Patrick Sharp concurred.

I now I felt better every period, every shift, he said. Its good to know the legs and conditioning are there. We just have to tune up a few little things.

The Blackhawks did power-play work during their morning skate on Wednesday, and got two power-play goals in the evening practice (Marcus Kruger and Patrick Kane). Coach Joel Quenneville liked what he saw from both units.

I liked the power play, Quenneville said. We were shooting the puck more as the game went on. We missed some empty nets but I liked the overall emotion and movement we had. It seemed like the guys, off those levels, should get better.

Yes, it was something to simulate a game. It certainly wasnt the real thing; the Los Angeles Kings will provide that come Saturday afternoon. But everyones in the same boat this training camp, every teams just trying to get an idea of what theyve got entering the season. The Blackhawks were liking that dress rehearsal, and wishing they could get another one in before it all starts counting.

Plays on the boards and getting it into the middle on the forecheck, I thought (the timing) was good, Carcillo said. It wouldve been nice to get a couple of those (scrimmages in), to be honest. It was really good.

TIDBITS

Steve Montador (concussion) is still out. Coach Joel Quenneville was uncertain when he would return.

Defenseman Sean ODonnell, who played last season with the Blackhawks, announced his retirement on Wednesday after 17 seasons in the NHL. ODonnell was part of the Anaheim Ducks Stanley Cup season in 2007.

The Blackhawks will have one more practice here tomorrow before heading to Los Angeles.

Fast Break Morning Update: Hawks smash Penguins; Are Cubs better than last year?

Fast Break Morning Update: Hawks smash Penguins; Are Cubs better than last year?

Big first period paces Blackhawks over Penguins

On paper, have Cubs put together a better roster than last year's World Series team?

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

Tyler Saladino, Jose Abreu homer as White Sox tie Padres in Arizona finale

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

NBA Buzz: Nikola Mirotic making Bulls' offseason decision tougher

Cubs finalize Opening Day 25-man roster

Bears Chairman George McCaskey sets 2017 demands for Ryan Pace, John Fox

Comfy Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

White Sox pitching staff nearly complete with prospect Zack Burdi headed to Triple-A

Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

usatsi_9979827.jpg
USA TODAY

Comfortable Kero: Quick hits from Blackhawks-Penguins

PITTSBURGH – Well, that looked more familiar, didn’t it?

The Blackhawks put talk into action on Wednesday night, storming out to an early lead and never letting up in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. They’re sitting in a good spot right now, sporting a nine-point lead over the Minnesota Wild – yes the Wild still has that game in hand – and, with five games remaining, they once again played the complete game they’d been missing.

The schedule doesn’t let up, so let’s get to the notables.

What Worked: The Blackhawks’ first period. If there’s such thing as a statement 20 minutes, the Blackhawks made it in Pittsburgh. If the Penguins made a bad pass, the Blackhawks turned it into an opportunity and, a few times, a goal. The Blackhawks had a similarly sharp first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. On Wednesday, however, they didn’t lose any steam later.

What Didn’t Work: The power play. Yeah, you really have to reach to find something that didn’t work for the Blackhawks in this one. Their power play, however, didn’t do much. Their best chance on it was a Jonathan Toews shot on their second power play; that shot was blocked before it got to Marc-Andre Fleury. Their third power play, which came on a phantom tripping call on Conor Sheary, was their quietest of the night.

Star of the game: Tanner Kero. The kid’s been alright at second-line center, and he did a little bit of everything on Wednesday night. Kero had five shots on goal, the secondary assist on Artemi Panarin’s early goal and added a breakaway goal of his own early in the third period. He also won five of 11 faceoffs. Centering Patrick Kane and Panarin could be daunting but in his short time there, Kero’s handling it very well.

He Said It: “It’s a nice opportunity that he’s taken advantage of in a short amount of time. You get a little more defensive responsibility. The upside with him is we wanted him to get better offensively as well, so it’s been a good couple of games.” Coach Joel Quenneville on Kero.

By the Numbers: 

850 – Career coaching victories for Quenneville.

524 – Career goals for Marian Hossa, who scored his 25th of the season late in the first period.

39 – Time, in seconds, in which the Blackhawks scored two goals late in the first period (Marcus Kruger at 19:05 and Marian Hossa at 19:44).

6 – Consecutive victories for the Blackhawks over the Penguins. They’ve outscored the Penguins 20-8 over that span.