Blackhawks' Quenneville returns to practice

352550.jpg

Blackhawks' Quenneville returns to practice

Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011
Posted: 11:17 a.m. Updated: 3:39 p.m.
By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

Coach Joel Quenneville came onto the ice around 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Within a few minutes, it was just business as usual for the Chicago Blackhawks coach, from practice to diagnosing his own injury.

I was on IR for a week. Well call it an upper body injury and were all good to go, said Quenneville with a laugh. The only pain I was in last week was sitting in the hospital watching games.

As the Blackhawks head to Nashville to play the Predators on Thursday, Quenneville is ready to assume all his normal duties again after going to the hospital a week ago with internal bleeding related to an ulcer. Quenneville said he feels great after being treated for the ulcer, which he said was caused by the daily aspirin hes been taking for years for other reasons.

He added that he figured he was getting the same flu bug the rest of the team had last Tuesday night before heading to the emergency room.

I actually didnt feel that bad, particularly, that night, he said. I thought I was coming down with the flu like everyone else. We were waiting and all of a sudden it wasnt just the flu.

Quenneville said he learned a few things in his down time and his stay in the hospital, from where he was discharged on Saturday.

I got to observe the value of teamwork (in the hospital) and you watch that process and equate it to what we do, he said. We know how fortunate we are and the position we are in and the team that we can be. Its a different perspective sitting back and observing it from a different angle. There are some things you can take from it.

Quenneville missed four games, during which the Blackhawks went 3-1-0 under assistant coach Mike Haviland. Quenneville said he felt good enough to come back for the last three games, but we had to get our blood work up to a different level.

The Blackhawks were obviously happy to have their coach back on Wednesday.

Its good energy. It looked like the first day of training camp for him, defenseman Brian Campbell said. (His return) is definitely going to help us. It brings a fresh person in the locker room after having a few days off, so its good to see.

Troy Brouwer said having (Quenneville) back brings familiarity to the group, line calls and play calls. He expects us to continue to play like we have been. He jumped right back into it; he was excited and moving pucks. We had the usual practice.

Quenneville hopes the Blackhawks learn from this latest surge, and from the final 40 minutes they played against St. Louis on Monday. The Blackhawks enter Wednesday night in 10th place in the West, and

(The Monday victory) puts you at 68 points, where everybody is. There are six or seven teams fighting for that space, so that really put us in a good spot, Quenneville said. Weve got games against teams that are all in the airspace were in, so lets gather that momentum from St. Louis.

Pisani better

Fernando Pisani (concussion) practiced on Wednesday and has been cleared to play. Pisani has been out since sustaining his injury against the Dallas Stars on Feb. 11.

I skated for a couple of days and havent had any problems. I feel 100 percent, said Pisani, who hasnt seen replays of that Mark Fistric hit that knocked the back of his head into the bench railing. I felt it, so I dont think I need to see it again. Its one of those hits where I got caught in vulnerable position and my head hit the boards. I feel good now and thats the focus.

Quenneville said Pisani is a game-time decision against Nashville on Thursday.

Leddy ill

Defenseman Nick Leddy was sick and did not practice on Wednesday. Leddy was sent to Rockford on Tuesday and was set to be recalled on Wednesday but his illness scratched that. Quenneville said Leddy could be recalled Thursday for the game.

Briefly

Corey Crawford will start against the Predators.

Nashville is 3-2-0 against the Blackhawks this season.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya finds a new home in Eastern Conference

Johnny Oduya is headed to the Eastern Conference.

The 35-year-old defenseman signed a one-year, $1 million deal with the Ottawa Senators. The contract could be worth up to $1.25 million with incentives.

Oduya, who the Blackhawks re-acquired prior to the trade deadline last season from the Dallas Stars, finished with two goals and seven assists in 52 games between the two teams.

It comes to no one's surprise that the Blackhawks didn't re-sign the veteran defenseman.

After being swept in the first round of the playoffs last season by the Nashville Predators, Stan Bowman has made it clear the Blackhawks are headed in a different direction, and their offseason has been plenty of busy so far. Headline deals included trading Oduya's linemate Niklas Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes for 24-year-old defenseman Connor Murphy and re-acquiring Brandon Saad from the Columbus Blue Jackets in exchange for Artemi Panarin.

Oduya heads to a Senators team which got ousted in the Eastern Conference Final in seven games to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Confident Blackhawks youth ready to take the next step

Ryan Hartman likes how he feels approaching this season, his sophomore stint with the Blackhawks. Scoring 19 goals, earning the trust of the coaches and gaining a good deal of responsibility in your rookie season will do that for you.

“It’s feeling like I should be there,” he said on Friday. “Maybe sometimes when you first get called up, you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m here,’ and you’re still thinking about that. Now it’s just feeling like hockey for me and how it’s always supposed to be.”

More confidence is there for Hartman, as well as a few other young Blackhawks players who cut their teeth last year. That’s good, because those guys, having shown what they can do, will likely get more responsibility this season.

That includes Nick Schmaltz, who will either get first crack at the second-line left wing vacancy or help the Blackhawks at center, which he says is his preference “but I’m fine with wing, too.” Schmaltz struggled to start last season but following a few games in Rockford, he returned a more confident player. He played well with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik on the top line and filled in for Artem Anisimov later in the season.

“I was nervous coming in. I didn’t know if it was going to work and I gained confidence game by game and felt more comfortable,” he said. “I was making the plays I’m used to making.”

When Tanner Kero was recalled right before Christmas, it was because of Anisimov’s injury. But outside of a bye-week return to Rockford Kero turned that call-up into a full-time gig, giving the Blackhawks another bottom-six center option and earning himself a two-year contract. With Marcus Kruger and Dennis Rasmussen no longer here, Kero is expected to have that third- or fourth-line center role; thanks to experience gained last season, Kero’s more comfortable now.

“It was great,” he said. “Going in, you’re not sure. It’s day-to-day to start and you just want to prove yourself and get those opportunities, get trust and more ice time. As the season went on I got more confident, trusted my game more. Going into the season I’m going in with a lot more confidence.”

John Hayden felt fairly comfortable when he joined the Blackhawks last spring thanks to his senior season at Yale – “I needed that fourth year as a player and a person,” he said. Still, getting in some NHL games, getting a feel for the pro level and gaining familiarity with the Blackhawks will benefit him in September.

“It’s important considering it’s my first training camp and I’ll know a lot of the guys, which helps a ton. From an on-ice standpoint, I have that experience,” he said. “I’ve spent a ton of time addressing areas in need of improvement all in all I’m excited for training camp.”

But Hartman and others don’t see it as weight on their shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s pressure,” Hartman said. “When you look back you want to see improvements every year, you want to see yourself becoming a better hockey player. That’s something I want to do, I want to be able to look back and say I had a good career my first year but each year I got progressively better. That’s where my mindset is at.”

There’s more opportunity for the young players but Hayden says that’s true of everyone.

“I don’t really analyze opportunity. Regardless of the team, it’s going to be competitive,” he said. “Every summer you have to have a hard-working mindset and do what you can to show up in the fall in the best shape of your life.”

The Blackhawks’ young players have all set the bar at a certain level and will be expected to improve. It takes confidence to take that next step. Thanks to experience gained last season, they’re feeling good about taking it.