Blackhawks have fun practice, defend Coach Q

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Blackhawks have fun practice, defend Coach Q

With the 1,800-pound gorilla also known as an eight-game losing streak weighing on his team as it took the ice for a practice at Johnnys West before departing for Nashville to open the final leg of their nine-game road trip, Joel Quenneville encouraged what else? a little fun.

We tried to have a pulse thats positive, Quenneville said. Coming off two tough road trips here, the moods down, and low, and we tried to instill some positive things, some fun drills, and try to get a little life.

The Hawks ignored the too-many-men-on-the-ice rule and skated up and down, clogging every lane and zone possible to begin the session, and goals were met with whoops and hollers. Leading the way was Mr. Light-hearted (and team prankster) Patrick Sharp, who ended the 50-minute workout flicking a puck or two up to young fans in attendance.

I try to keep it light, have fun, goof around. I feel I play my best when its loose, and the team does, too, the alternate captain said.

That said, theres one of many schools of thought citing with regards to Sharp, Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as the guys who will have to lead the way out of this with so many areas springing leaks. Hossa went into the All-Star break with a nine-game point streak, but has exactly zero in the six games since.

100 percent (that its up to the stars to lead the way). We say we need everybody but we have to be the couple (of players) and lead this team, Hossa agreed. Im expecting myself to be better and help the team get a win after a long time.

In being outscored 34-15, the goals-against average now sitting at even 3 per game, the power play 1-for-21 during the skid, and the penalty kill just 17-of-24 starting with the two meetings with Nashville prior to the break, there are a multitude of areas that need improvement, and the trade market remains dormant. That has led many to believe Quennevilles job could be in jeopardy, something general manager Stan Bowman denied in a Monday interview with Comcast SportsNet.

Asked his reaction after practice, the head coach who reached 600 career regular-season wins earlier this season remained focused on whats directly in front of him and his team.

Im confident in what I do and look forward to the challenge of instilling in our group a way to win and an environment in having to get better as we go along. Coming out of this were going to need everybody to find a way to be together, and when we look back over time, hopefully we can talk about being better as a team and I can be better as a coach. Its something you dont think about as you go along as a coach, but with the situation, it can be a reality.

Theyre trying to do everything I think they should do, Hossa said. I think the coaching staffs doing a great job addressing what we have to do. We just have to do it on the ice.

Theres no doubt about Joel in our locker room, Sharp stated. Id tell you if that happened (Quenneville getting fired), thered be a lot of guys in this room upset with themselves. We know as players were the ones who put the puck in the net and need to keep it out of our net. Theres no question Joels our leader.

News and notes

Keith was given a maintenance day and was not practicing, but will face Nashville Tuesday night. Defensemen Niklas Hjalmarsson and Steve Montador (upper body injuries) were not on the ice and did not travel with the team to begin this portion of the road trip. Ray Emery will get his second-straight start in goal.

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

Blackhawks re-sign defenseman Ville Pokka to one-year deal

The Blackhawks signed Ville Pokka to a one-year contract on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old Pokka played in all 76 regular-season games for the Rockford IceHogs last season, recording six goals and 24 assists.

The Blackhawks’ defensive depth has already taken a hit this offseason, with Niklas Hjalmarsson traded to Arizona – Connor Murphy came here in the deal – and Trevor van Riemsdyk, selected by the Vegas Golden Knights, then traded to the Carolina Hurricanes. While the Blackhawks will probably explore free-agent options this offseason, Pokka could vie for an opportunity at training camp.

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks don’t extend qualifying offer to Dennis Rasmussen

Dennis Rasmussen was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Blackhawks, a source confirmed on Tuesday. Rasmussen will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

Rasmussen was coming off a one-year deal worth $575,000. He was expected to be among those the Blackhawks extended qualifying offers – the deadline was Monday afternoon – but he was not.

The 26-year-old played 68 games for the Blackhawks this past season, recording four goals and four assists. He gave the Blackhawks some options, as he also played some wing and was part of the penalty kill. But he was a surprise healthy scratch more often than not as the regular season continued.

The Blackhawks will enter this season without Rasmussen and, if Marcus Kruger is traded, the team will have some holes to fill at center.