Chicago Blackhawks

Dennis Rasmussen 'fired up' after leaving Blackhawks for new role with Ducks

Dennis Rasmussen 'fired up' after leaving Blackhawks for new role with Ducks

Dennis Rasmussen wasn’t sweating free agency. The Swedish forward, who turned 27 on Monday, had heard from his agent that there were some opportunities there. Between that news and his first trip to Wimbledon, Rasmussen was enjoying his summer.

On Friday he got a new deal with his new team, a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks. And as much as Rasmussen enjoyed his time with the Blackhawks, he’s ready to see what he can bring out west.

“I got some calls from my agent; he said there were a couple of possibilities, some interest from other teams. But after talking I really got fired up for the Ducks,” Rasmussen said in a phone interview on Saturday afternoon. “I’m really happy about it. I’m fired up to start right away.”

As the summer progressed all signs pointed to the Blackhawks extending Rasmussen a qualifying offer; but as the deadline for doing so approached, the Blackhawks didn’t. Multiple reports said Rasmussen turned down an extension in March; he was a healthy scratch in seven of eight games from March 4-21. Rasmussen said, “with respect to Chicago and my agent,” that he didn’t want to discuss that.

“I have nothing bad to say about Chicago,” he said. “It was great to play there, the coaching staff, the organization, everything. It was really good for me and I’m happy with the opportunity I got there.”

[MORE: Moving forward, who are the Blackhawks’ center options?]

The Blackhawks lose one more potential center with Rasmussen gone. As for Rasmussen, he’s eager to see what he can do with the Ducks. He doesn’t expect the transition to be too difficult. Rasmussen knows a few players there already, including forward Jakob Silfverberg.

“Silfverberg and a few other Swedes are probably going to take care of me,” he said. “Of course it helps a lot. Especially off the ice, it’s really helpful for someone who speaks your own language and know how it works.”

While he’s mainly known for his two-way game in the NHL, Rasmussen would like to have the production he did back home. He had 16 goals and 24 assists in his final season with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League.

“I feel I have more to give on the offensive side,” he said. “I played better offensively in Sweden, and that’s something I hope I can bring in the NHL, too.”

Rasmussen will likely head to California in late August. He’s grateful for the time he had with the Blackhawks but he’s ready to see what he can do in Anaheim.

“My biggest dream was to play in the NHL, and I got the opportunity in Chicago to do that. There are a lot of things I learned [with the Blackhawks] and thankful for that,” he said. “At the same time, I’m really pumped to go to Anaheim and excited about the opportunity.”

Blackhawks' Alexandre Fortin finding form again after offseason surgery

Blackhawks' Alexandre Fortin finding form again after offseason surgery

Alexandre Fortin was grateful to be back on the ice this weekend, back in Chicago where he wowed the Blackhawks last fall and nearly found a spot on the regular-season roster.

His thoughts are on repeating that camp performance. What he has to keep his mind clear of, however, is the sports hernia and surgery that sidelined him for part of the summer.

“It’s normal. You don’t want to get hurt again,” he said. “When you’re starting in camp like that, everyone’s good so you just have to get to a high level quick. At the same time, you just have to [listen to] your body and do things right.”

When Fortin has been on the ice, however, he’s been impressive. Following Sunday’s outing coach Joel Quenneville talked of the young forward showing the abilities that made him such a pleasant camp surprise in 2016.

“He’s coming off that injury, missed a day and change but [Sunday] all of a sudden he had his legs, his stride back,” Quenneville said. “He’s a fast player who can back off defensemen and this year, this camp, at least we got him out there and captured that speed. He can be useful.”

Fortin had sports hernia surgery in late June; he was present at the Blackhawks’ prospect camp in July but, because of the recent surgery, was limited to off-ice workouts. He was back on ice at the team’s prospect tournament in Traverse City, Mich., where the Blackhawks claimed the tournament title. That helped Fortin feel more comfortable again as he returned for his second Blackhawks camp, but he’ll keep an eye on things to make sure he doesn’t re-aggravate his hernia.

“I’m in good hands here and they know what to do with me,” I just do what they ask me. Camp is long, so we’ll just keep improving every day.”

The good thing is the Blackhawks are again happy with what Fortin is doing, even in his limited work at camp. The problem is there probably won’t be room for him, at least in the early going. The Blackhawks’ depth signings in early July mean a lot of one-way contracts, and other young guys – Alex DeBrincat and John Hayden among them – are also vying for a roster spot.

Fortin will mind his injury but still wants to go through this camp the same way he did the last one, playing his strongest game and looking for an opportunity. Whether it happens now or later, he’s happy to get it.

“I mean, camp is long so you have to focus on what you can see,” Fortin said. “Like [general manager] Stan Bowman and Joel said at the beginning of camp, everybody’s here to make the team and just try to find a way to do that. That’s my plan and I’ll do what I can do and see after.”

BRIEFLY

As they usually do, the Blackhawks will send most of their young players to their first preseason game on Tuesday night in Columbus.  Asked if he would send the Alex DeBrincat-Nick Schmaltz-Patrick Kane combo that has been together the last few days at camp, Quenneville said, “maybe one of those three will go.”

The Blackhawks will start cutting their training camp roster either Wednesday or Thursday.

Blackhawks tidbits: Anisimov on the move, DeBrincat in the 'lottery spot'

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks tidbits: Anisimov on the move, DeBrincat in the 'lottery spot'

There are very few things ever set in stone but entering this training camp, Artem Anisimov at second-line center was as solid a bet as you could make. But Nick Schmaltz’s strong camp has coach Joel Quenneville thinking, tinkering and considering the 21-year-old for that spot alongside Patrick Kane.

A bit of a surprise, for sure, but Quenneville likes the chemistry of Schmaltz and Kane, who have been skating together for part of the summer. As for Anisimov, if he’s the third-line center, he won’t sulk or change his game.

“I’m just going to go out and play and try to score goals and make plays,” he said following Sunday’s scrimmages.

Anisimov is back to 100 percent after admitting he wasn’t that when the Blackhawks entered the first-round series against the Nashville Predators last spring. The center had suffered a leg injury vs. Montreal in mid-March that sidelined him until Game 1 of the playoffs. He’s ready to go after the long offseason, although who his playing partners will be is now somewhat up in the air. On Sunday Anisimov centered Ryan Hartman and Patrick Sharp as Quenneville continues to look at options, not only for the top two lines, but to bolster bottom-six depth as well.

“I think every team needs good depth at center and have a strong three or four lines,” Anisimov said. “It’s helpful in a team game.”

DEBRINCAT’S CHANCE

Alex DeBrincat teamed with Patrick Kane and Nick Schmaltz during Sunday’s scrimmages, as Quenneville gave the 19-year-old a chance in what he’s calling this season’s “lottery spot.” It was just a first glance at the trio but Quenneville liked what he saw.

“The upside of that could be really big,” said Quenneville. “He’s one of those guys who his instincts are high and he’s playing with a couple of guys who have the same type of instincts. The reading and anticipation off plays, communicating without having to communicate, they know where it’s going to go next and that’s something that will only get better as they get accustomed to playing together.”

Quenneville added that, “we’ll have a couple of days to look at him a little more.” The Blackhawks’ first preseason game is Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

ROZSIVAL’S STATUS

General manager Stan Bowman said on Friday that defenseman Michal Rozsival did not pass his training-camp physical. Quenneville specified on Sunday that Rozsival has an upper-body injury. Asked if Rozsival could miss the season, Quenneville said, “we’ll see.”