Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

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Hawk Talk: There will be more of Morin

Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
9:18 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

So it looks like there will be just one 19-year-old helping the Blackhawks begin defense of their Stanley Cup Thursday night in Denver after Jeremy Morin was sent back to Rockford of the AHL for a little more seasoning. Nick Leddy may have been there along with him if not for Brian Campbell's sprained knee, but that injury created more of a need to fill what Campbell usually brings to the blue line.

Both Leddy and Morin showed their capability of playing at the highest level the last two weeks. It's now the former Golden Gopher's task to prove he has staying power going against a full NHL lineup, gameplanning against the Hawks' style in hostile environments, and under the great expectations when the champs are in their very own building.

Morin's game seemed to plateau a bit during the second week of games, but it was still pretty solid. If, in fact, a roster spot came down to him against Viktor Stalberg, the latter seemed to gradually pick up his game toward the end of camp. Provided Morin, Kyle Beach and a couple of others on the cusp take care of business in Rockford, they're a phone call away, something the 3rd- and 4th-line guys here will be well aware of.

How quickly and effectively the new faces mesh into their roles will be the ongoing storyline to watch the next six months. There are sure to be bumps in the road, and I think most Hawks fans are smart enough not to expect the kind of franchise-record regular season numbers their team put up last season. While this team wants to - and believes it can - win every night, the bigger picture will be about how effective that depth will be by the time April rolls around. By then, Morin could very well be a part of that mix.

Alright, so now it's time to get those preseason predictions on the record that we can all look back on in April and laugh at:

The Hawks will at least finish in the top four in the West for home ice in the first round of the playoffs.

I see Detroit gunning for it all this year, and edging the Hawks out in the Central. To do that, their deep but aging roster must stay healthier than last season (it has to, right?), and sophomore goalie Jimmy Howard can't slump. The others in the top four will again be San Jose and Vancouver. The Sharks still haven't replaced Rob Blake (though they tried with Niklas Hjalmarsson) and have their share of post-season ghosts. Speaking of which, the Canucks have playoff skeletons in their closet, too, courtesy of the Hawks. We'll give them the regular season conference title based on the moves they made to improve their defense and depth. We'll even crown them Stanley Cup favorite in the West based on their roster. They then have to convince us that crown isn't too heavy, and Roberto Luongo has no excuses for any playoff flameouts now that he's not wearing the "C" and now that Dustin Byfuglien won't be standing in front of him for an entire series. I'm not sure if he - and they - can, once the Real Season begins. All bets are off, and if the Hawks are healthy and found answers for all four lines, I don't believe any team would want to face the defending champs.

For my other four playoff teams in the West - once the annual mad scramble for seeding and spots settles April 10 - I'll go with the Kings, Blues, Predators, and....hmmm...OK...Avalanche. I won't bother with a specific order, but that should be enough to put on record. It was between Colorado and Phoenix. Ilya Bryzgalov or free agent-to-be Craig Anderson? What leaned me in the Lanche's direction was their young core (where have we heard that?) that was key to their surprising success last year, taking the next step. I like St. Louis' young talent that took a dip last year (ya listenin', Colorado?) to rebound and start to grow into their potential while Jaroslav Halak guards the net. And I'm thinking Barry Trotz coaches around the continued lack of offensive firepower in Nashville to get his team in behind Pekka Rinne and that pesky Preds "system." Yes, four teams from the Central in the West's top eight.

So there it is. Now, never go back and look at this again.
Remember: "Stanley's Summer Vacation" Saturday night at 6 on CSN for some yet-to-be-seen footage from our coverage of Jonathan Toews's and Patrick Kane's days with the Cup this summer. Then, an hour-long "Chevy Blackhawks Pregame Live," beginning at 6:30 from the United Center concouse, ahead of the banner-raising ceremony and the home opener against Detroit

Dennis Rasmussen looks to build off experience

Dennis Rasmussen looks to build off experience

The Blackhawks’ offseason moves have once again left holes, especially among the forward lines. Considering the experience Dennis Rasmussen gained last season, he could certainly grab the third- or fourth-line center spot.

But Rasmussen isn’t going to pencil in anything yet.

“I don’t really think that way. I always think I have to play as good as possible to earn a spot, and that’s what I think this year, too,” said Rasmussen on Day 3 of Blackhawks training camp. “But it’s really up to me. I have to play well to earn my spot here. That’s what I’m trying to focus on.”

After trading Andrew Shaw, Teuvo Teravainen and Bryan Bickell this offseason, the Blackhawks will be looking for several players to step up and fill voids. Center is one of those spots, and Rasmussen played 44 games there with the Blackhawks last season. Rasmussen spent the long offseason prepping for this campaign, focusing on one thing in particular.

“I always try to work on getting faster, that’s the part of my game I can really improve,” he said. “I can improve everything. But especially getting quicker, that’s what I’m trying to focus.”

Anything else Rasmussen has to do to take that next step?

“I think he’s got to be a little more proactive than reactive out on the ice,” Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “Kind of be a little bolder in different areas whether it’s in the offensive zone if you’re down between the hash marks, hey, try and take a guy on 1-on-1. But if you’re a neutral zone, you got to be a little more responsible. If you got to pick up the wide winger and come back and play good defensive hockey, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

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Rasmussen showed that when he made his NHL debut last season. The Blackhawks recalled him in early December, when they were looking to bolster their bottom six; any offense added was a bonus. He scored three of his four goals in his first seven games – his first came in his NHL debut vs. Nashville.

“He can make more things happen out there,” Kitchen said. “I think he understands that too because he wants to do whatever it takes to make the team.”

Rasmussen wants to be part of this group. He gained some great experience last year, and he hopes it serves him well in trying to get that roster spot this season.

“It was great for me. I got to play a lot, think I played in some important situations sometimes and I was really happy with last year. It gave me a lot of confidence, a lot of experience too,” Rasmussen said. “So hopefully I can bring that into this year.”

Alexandre Fortin signs three-year deal with Blackhawks

Alexandre Fortin signs three-year deal with Blackhawks

After earning a couple of invites from the Blackhawks this offseason, Alexandre Fortin earned a contract on Sunday.

Fortin agreed to terms on a three-year contract with the Blackhawks, who had invited him to prospect and training camp. The 19-year-old, who was passed over in two NHL drafts, was hoping to latch onto the Blackhawks’ organization.

“You know, it’s a nice day for me. I’ve been working on that since I was young, so now it’s just Step 1 and I’m very excited for the future,” Fortin said following Sunday’s training camp sessions. “I have to thank the Chicago Blackhawks. It’s the first team that really believed in me. It’s awesome.”

Indeed, Fortin was just looking for a chance and he could get it here eventually.

“I think it’s a real plus,” Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen said. “I think he earned a contract. Right from the start, he stepped up and played. He’s been very consistent in every scrimmage. He’s been a threat to score out on the ice. I think he’s done a terrific job. He’s got to be very, very happy about the whole situation. It’s great for the organization: get a free agent who comes in and earns a three-year entry-level contract.”

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The most likely scenario is he’ll head back to his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team, the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, after logging some training camp time with the Blackhawks. He could get into a preseason game, too. But the future definitely looks bright for Fortin.

“It’s, for sure, just Step 1. My real goal is to play pro,” Fortin said. “So I’ll keep learning, keep doing what coaches want, I’ll watch (the players) who I have to be like and keep working on that every day until my real dream comes true.”

Keith doing fine

Duncan Keith participated in one of the Blackhawks’ two practices again on Sunday, and Kitchen said Keith did just fine.

“The first day, Duncs, he got through the practice no problem. He didn’t have any issues. Talked to him the next day, the festival game day, and he said he was fine. Today was a little tougher day for defensemen, so we were asking a lot of them. There was a lot of 1-on-1, 2-on-1s, 2-on-2s. Duncs said after practice the forwards had it off and the D had the work day today. But he responded well afterwards,” Kitchen said. “He even asked if he could come out for the other practice, but we said no.”