Hawk Talk: Fighting through Flu-bruary


Hawk Talk: Fighting through Flu-bruary

Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2011Posted: 4:20 PM

By: Chris Boden

Jake Dowells done with his bout with the flu, and Joel Quennevilles optimistic the same can be said of Patrick Kane in time for Wednesdays opener of a crucial three-game homestand.

Kane missed a second straight day of practice with apparently the same bug thats bitten Corey Crawford, Fernando Pisani and Marian Hossa over the past couple of months. It comes as Kane was starting to heat up, with four goals and seven points over the previous four games (including being held off the scoresheet Saturday night against the Coyotes).

With Kane out, Viktor Stalberg moved up in practice Tuesday to share line time with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp. While Toews, Kane and Sharp have provided the expected production since Quenneville put them together in Edmonton, the other lines, five-on-five, have sputtered. Thats why he has high hopes for the trio of Dave Bolland, Hossa and Michael Frolik. Theres potential for them to jump-start each other offensively, with Bolland being the most productive of the three lately, despite enduring a three-game point drought sandwiched between 10 over the previous nine games and a pair of power play assists Saturday.

We want to get the best from everybody, Quenneville said after Tuesdays practice. Fro, Bolly, Hoss. All three have the potential to make a real nice line for us. We need that group to be effective and hopefully they can all max-out for us.

Frolik seems really skilled and sees the ice well, according to Hossa. Hopefully, we can get things going. We need it, especially five-on-five goals.

A familiarity between Frolik and Bolland comes from the YoungStars Game at the 2009 All-Star Weekend in Montreal, when they opposed each other, aside from the two meetings between the Hawks and Florida Panthers some nine months later in Helsinki. Froliks now in a 25-game goal drought, while Hossas lit it up just four times in his last 24 games. Each desperately needs a spark from which their team would greatly benefit.

Hes an incredible player and hes done so many things here, Frolik says of his fellow eastern European. Its so much of an experience to play with him, especially for me to play on the same line.

Seven of the next eight games are against Western Conference teams in the same playoff dogfight. After an Edmonton paper last week hinted the defending champs have spent all season talking the talk but not walking the walk, the right things continue to be said in the locker room now that theyre back home, looking to improve on a 16-13 record. It starts with the team that handed them that 13th loss in their last home game three weeks ago, the Minnesota Wild.

Brent Seabrook: Yknow its one of those games thats a must-win. Weve got to come out, have a really good start to that game, then put in a full 60 minutes.

Hossa: The race is tight and we can climb up, but we need, from these games, two points. Thats the only way were going to climb up and it starts tomorrow.

Bryan Bickell: Weve gotta come after em hard and quick. We need the two points to at least get going on this homestand.

Quenneville: A lot of teams have had their runs and put us in a spot now where we have to do something about it. Were looking for our own run ourselves to put us in a spot we really want to be.
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Besides Kane, the only practice absentees were Fernando Pisani and Ryan Johnson. Theres been no update on their progress from injuries sustained Friday in Dallas.

Corey Crawford makes his second straight start in net. Four even-strength shots got past him versus the Wild in the final game before the All-Star Break.

Frolik had never been to Chicago before coming back with the team from Phoenix, so Wednesday will be his first United Center experience.

They say its an incredible atmosphere and a great hockey town, so I cant wait for that, he said.

The Wild have won 9 of their previous 11 heading into Tuesday nights home game against league-leading Vancouver. Both losses during the run have been by one goal. John Madden scored the deciding goal (one in the ninth round of a shootout) in back-to-back wins last week.

Chris Boden is the host of Blackhawks Pre and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet.

Michal Rozsival ready to take whatever role Blackhawks give him

Michal Rozsival ready to take whatever role Blackhawks give him

Michal Rozsival didn’t think he’d be back this season.

The veteran defenseman didn’t know what the future held for him, but he trained as if he’d get a chance somewhere. And while he knows he may have a different role with the Blackhawks than he has in years past, he’s happy to do whatever the team asks.

“Obviously with my age, I’ve been in this role before. My last two or three years here I didn’t know what my role will be. But always told the coaches and management that I’ll play and if they need me I’m ready,” said Rozsival following the Blackhawks’ opening day of training camp on Friday. “I’m ready to do what they want me to do, whether it’s play 20 games, 30, 40 or 50 games.”

The Blackhawks’ defensive depth is stronger this season, thanks in large part to the Blackhawks signing Brian Campbell this offseason. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson gained experience last year and the Blackhawks hope to see Michal Kempny, signed this offseason, make an impact.

General manager Stan Bowman, speaking in early July, said, “Rozsival’s at a different stage but he brings a lot to the table. His role won’t be the role it was in previous years in terms of minutes or games but he can still play.” Rozsival can also help fellow Czech Kempny adjust to his new home and language. Rozsival said he doesn’t know Kempny very well yet but has seen him play.

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“I feel he’s a good hockey player and he’s had some good seasons in Europe. So I’m just waiting to see what it’ll be like when he gets here and how he’s going to adjust,” Rozsival said. “But he’s a good hockey player so I’m thinking he won’t have a problem adjusting.”

Asked if he was willing to be a translator for Kempny, Rozsival said, “I’ll do my best, for sure.”

First impressions

With several players still at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, the Blackhawks coaches saw what some of the prospects had to offer on Friday. One to watch for is Alexandre Fortin. A native of Quebec, Fortin impressed during the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this summer. He scored a goal in the team’s scrimmage today.

“Nice set of hands,” said assistant coach Mike Kitchen of Fortin. “He’s here on a tryout so we’ll keep a close eye on him. He had a good day today. Good speed, stick. We’ll keep a close eye.”

Not here yet

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Kempny were not at Friday’s training camp opener. Kitchen said the three may get some down time before joining the Blackhawks.

“We’re just going to give them some time off, play it by ear,” he said. “They’ve been going since September 1, and even prior to that. We have to make sure we say to them, if they need time [take it], especially Kane with the amount of time he gets with us, the responsibility and what he went through at the World Cup. Guys like Pokka and Kempny might want to get on the ice a little bit earlier, although Patrick’s a rink rat and loves to be on the ice. That may be a coach’s choice.”

Blackhawks' Duncan Keith feeling encouraged at Day 1 of camp

Blackhawks' Duncan Keith feeling encouraged at Day 1 of camp

Duncan Keith wasn’t feeling right about a month ago.

It was that right knee, the one on which he had surgery last October, so Keith decided not to play for Team Canada in the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto. Instead he focused on getting that knee fully healed and preparing for this season with the Blackhawks.

A month later, it’s turning out to be a wise decision.

Keith won’t play in Saturday’s scrimmage but he practiced on Friday when the Blackhawks opened training camp at Johnny’s IceHouse West. While he won’t be doing everything this preseason — assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith may not play in any scrimmages — Keith is feeling better than he did when he bowed out of World Cup.

“It's just kind of been basically going on for a while now. I tried to use some time this summer to rest it and do some different things. Once I started skating it didn't react very well so I had to do a few different things to try and get it ready,” Keith said. “It was disappointing I wasn't ready to go for the World Cup. But maybe I wouldn't be where I am right now if I didn't take the time to let it rest and not start skating again until a couple of weeks ago.”

Brent Seabrook wasn’t surprised that Keith didn’t show much of an issue.

“That guy is amazing. It looks like he hasn’t missed a step. But that’s Dunc for you,” Seabrook said. “He’s one of those kind of guys.

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Keith said he’s been skating for about a month now, so the 25-minute practice on Friday was no problem.

Assistant coach Mike Kitchen said Keith “should be fine” for the season opener. Kitchen added that they won’t push Keith this preseason, They’ll also leave it up to Keith to decide if he wants to play a later scrimmage. Considering how much Keith plays during the season, Kitchen said they’re going to be as cautious as possible these next two-plus weeks. And they’ll try to rein in the workaholic Keith as much as they can.

“He wanted to go out for two practices, and we said, ‘No, just go one,’” Kitchen said. “We’re so early in camp. There’s no reason for us to push him at all.”

As far as Keith’s fitness level, Kitchen has no worries in that department, either.

“He brought that up the other day. I watched him before camp started and he was really pushing himself. I said, ‘How can you push yourself so hard? You’re a fit guy anyway.’ You don’t lose it. Those kind of guys don’t lose their fitness and are so conscious of it,” Kitchen said. “He’s at such a high level and it doesn’t take much for him to maintain that level.”

Keith was disappointed to miss World Cup of Hockey but naturally he likes what Team Canada is doing there thus far — “I think they’re going to win, but we’ll see what happens.” But Keith had to do what was best for him and the Blackhawks. Right now, he’s optimistic he’ll be ready to start the season.

“There's no concern to be honest with you. It's just like any type of thing you go through where you do the rehab and you get it ready, and when you're ready to play you're playing and there's no excuses by then,” Keith said. “I'm confident, I feel strong out there. I feel like this offseason has given me a lot of time to basically recover from six, seven, eight seasons prior to that. Since I haven't skated in a long time and getting back on the ice back here in September, I think that's all it is, is just kind of shaking some of that rust off and making sure my knee is getting better and better.”