Familiarity could lead to success

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Familiarity could lead to success

When the Chicago Blackhawks look around the room, they see something thats been a bit foreign to them: familiar faces.

Sure, those teams leading up to the 2010 Stanley Cup were full of them. But since then, its been a turnstile of players joining and leaving the organization. Until now. Because after two seasons of much turnover and many personnel changes, the Blackhawks made very few moves this offseason. That has led to familiarity in the locker room.

Considering how short training camp was and how little time teams will have to adjust during this 48-game season, that familiarity could be a good thing.

We know its mainly the same team from last year but were a year older with a year of experience under our belt, Patrick Kane said after Fridays practice. Last year we still had a good season; we had over 100 points. We didnt have a good (postseason) but we felt we had a team that could make a good run. Its the same group, but a little more experienced.

Marian Hossa agreed.

There are just a couple of new names, not many, he said. Guys are more familiar with the system, and in a short season that should help us be on the same page.

Indeed, outside of adding Sheldon Brookbank and Michal Rozsival on the back end, the Blackhawks should know each other well. Its a far cry from two seasons ago, when the post-Cup dismantling gave the Blackhawks a very different look. The 2011-12 season featured its share of new faces, too, with Andrew Brunette, Sean ODonnell, Steve Montador and Jamal Mayers among the new acquisitions.

In the second half of last season several Rockford players started to emerge, namely Andrew Shaw and Brandon Bollig. Theyre back. So is just about everyone else, save ODonnell and Brunette. So the Blackhawks havent had to introduce as many new bodies to their system.

It helps, system-wise, coach Joel Quenneville said. Weve always changed the lines and the new look gives you a little excitement. But as far as knowing where we have to be, predictability with or without the puck, you have a lot of freedom to do what you feel whats right. But the one area we all should be excited about is improving on our special teams as well.

Yes, the forward lines will likely change a few times this season these are the Blackhawks, after all. But no one is a stranger to each others game anymore, so even when combinations are switched, they wont be completely foreign.

When you dont make as many changes, you dont have to make new friends or get to know how other guys play, Dave Bolland said. These guys were all here last year. Were all pretty comfortable here and I think its going to be a great year.

The Blackhawks are on the same hectic schedule as every other team in the NHL. But theyre on the same wavelength. And with little time to adjust and prepare for this season, the few changes could be beneficial.

We were disappointed at the end of last year, Quenneville said. Lets rectify that. We have something to prove.

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Blackhawks sign defenseman Michal Kempny to extension

Michal Kempny was in and out of the Blackhawks lineup last season but he’ll likely get a bigger opportunity this coming season. On Saturday, he was assured of coming back to get that chance.

Kempny and the Blackhawks agreed to a one-year extension, the team announced on Saturday morning.

“Michal’s style of play is an asset to our defense,” general manager Stan Bowman said in a statement. “He is the type of player who will continue to improve now that he has transitioned to the National Hockey League. We look forward to his continued development on the ice for the Blackhawks.”

Kempny was part of a very crowded blue line last season — he was one of eight defensemen at the start of it — and played 50 regular-season games. He recorded two goals and six assists in those contests but did not play in the Blackhawks’ four postseason contests. With Johnny Oduya and Brian Campbell likely not returning, however, Kempny should get a bigger opportunity this season.

The 26-year-old Kempny also had two goals and an assist in eight games for the Czech Republic team at the 2017 World Championship.

Blackhawks announce plans for NHL Draft Fan Fest

Blackhawks announce plans for NHL Draft Fan Fest

With exactly a month to go until Chicago hosts the 2017 NHL Draft for the first time ever, the Blackhawks and league announced Wednesday their plans for Fan Fest held outside the United Center on June 23 and 24.

A handful of Blackhawks players and alumni will be in attendance and made available for photo opportunities, as will the Stanley Cup. Fans will also be able to explore the NHL Centennial Fan Arena, "a 53-foot museum truck with an innovative interior featuring more than 1,000 square feet of interactive digital displays, original video content, one-of-a-kind historical memorabilia, unique photo moments and a social media wall," according to the press release.

A full list of activities, special guest appearances and schedule will be posted at a later date.

Friday's events will run from 3 to 9 p.m. while Saturday's festivites will go from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Parking Lot C, north of the United Center.

Additional passes for the weekend will be made available to the public starting June 9. For more information, visit chicagoblackhawks.com/fanfest.