Brouwer's physical presence a game-changer

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Brouwer's physical presence a game-changer

Wednesday, Feb. 2, 2011
2:47 p.m.

By Tracey Myers
CSNChicago.com

COLUMBUS, Ohio Troy Brouwer was ready to drop the gloves after watching Mark Methot land a hit on Patrick Kane on Tuesday night.

They were starting to get a little momentum, scoring chances, a power play or two, Brouwer said. We needed something to make sure we could hold on to that game.

It wasnt a lengthy fight, or one of those where one or both combatants end up bruised and bloodied. Brouwer just stood up for a teammate, took a few whacks and got the Blackhawks focus back where it needed to be.

Brouwers supplied a bulk of the Blackhawks physical presence this season, mainly with hits. Hes been a protector of sorts for linemates Jonathan Toews and Kane, dishing out punishment in the hopes that those two dont have to take any.

Coach Joel Quenneville said his fight with Methot was a timely one.

I thought it was perfect how the whole situation played out; he handled himself well, Quenneville said. But I still think he makes his presence gong to the net, being physical. He compliments the two guys hes working with and he did what he had to do as well.

Brouwer said he asked Methot ahead of time.

He looked a little bit surprised but he was wiling and ready, he said. It was a good, clean fight.

Brouwer isnt really known as a fighter. His one on Tuesday was just his second this season. He recognizes theres a time to drop them and a time to just walk away.

You cant be running after guys all the time, Brouwer said. It happens once in a while. After every hit, I dont know. It depends on who the player is, stuff like that. I guess you just make sure (some hits) wont be tolerated.

Keiths offense

Duncan Keiths goal on Tuesday was just his first in the last 15 games, but it couldnt have come at a better time. The Blackhawks were in the closing seconds of a lengthy 5-on-3 power play which wasnt producing much pressure or many shots.

Its nice to score on the 5 on 3, because it wasnt looking so hot, Quenneville said. A lot of times thats the difference in the game and it was a big one. Whether its his offensive part of game or his speed, it helps the whole game.

Briefly

Jake Dowell did not practice on Wednesday after blocking a shot off his ankle. Quenneville said he should be OK.

Quenneville said he hasnt decided yet whether Marty Turco or Corey Crawford will start against Vancouver on Friday night.

The Blackhawks plan to practice in Vancouver on Thursday afternoon.

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.