Hawk Talk: Work ahead for Hawks

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Hawk Talk: Work ahead for Hawks

Monday, May 24, 20103:37 PM
By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.comAs seen in two previous playoff wins over the Nashville Predators and Vancouver Canucks, the Chicago Blackhawks have practiced long-term vision on the 2010 playoffs.

Such thinking allowed for smiles and congratulations at the end of the clubs Western Conference finals sweep over the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, but the realization ran rampant that the teams true goal is still four wins away.

The dressing room postgame Sunday was all hustle and bustle, but that was mainly due to a torrent of media let into the room to record the Hometown Heroes every reaction and memory. The players themselves were decidedly muted and reflective, particularly veterans like Patrick Sharp and John Madden, who were even more soft-spoken than usual.

We understand that theres been a lot of hype over this team here in Chicago, said Madden, a veteran of two Stanley Cup wins with the New Jersey Devils. Weve still got to focus. Whatever happens in the East, we go back to work in preparation.

Patrick Kane, speaking freely with the media for an extended stretch, fielded questions that ranged everywhere from whether the tension was palpable on ice (one third-period shot I let loose on so hard I thought I might kill somebody) to whether hell play his own NHL 10 video game to prep for the Philadelphia Flyers or Montreal Canadiens (Ive been playing Mario Kart like crazy, thats all the Blackhawks play). He also pulled back the curtain on how challenging the playoff grind can be, and how much relief a few days off could provide.

Im just going to relax, he said. Im pretty tired right now. Even the celebration takes something out of you. Its all emotionally draining.

The celebration -- too much of it -- can be a concern. Kane, Brian Campbell and other Blackhawks have admitted that last years team was a little surprised to play deep into the playoffs and were happy with earlier-stage success. But nine-time Stanley Cup winner and winningest coach in NHL history, Scotty Bowman, sees two sides of celebration.

It can work both ways, said Bowman, now a senior advisor to the Blackhawks. Youve got to keep your priorities in order, but playing it too straight doesnt work, either.

Strangely enough, the solemnity that Chicago is practicing today has been a hallmark of rookie Antti Niemis approach all season long. The ascendant star goalie has been humble to the core, refusing even to engage in so much as phone calls with family or friends back at home in Finland during the WCF (finally, now we can enjoy talking a little, he said with a smile after Sundays game). His game plan for the run-up to the Finals was par for the course.

I have no idea how long well have to celebrate the win, he said. We shouldnt be celebrating too long, though. Theres still more to play.

Not to say that everythings structured and planned out in Chicago. Game 4 and WCF hero Dustin Byfuglien was asked about Stanley Cup preparation before he had much of a chance to enjoy getting there, and his speculation was as good as anyones. Im guessing the trainers are going to have something going on, dont you think?

The Blackhawks arent exactly making it up as they go along, but playing into June is uncharted territory for this generation of Redshirts. And given the solemnity theyre approaching the Finals, poor preparation and loss of focus wont be their downfall.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Coyotes tonight on CSN+

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Arizona Coyotes tonight on CSN+ and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. A high-scoring affair?

In three meetings last season, the Blackhawks amassed 18 goals and captured victories in all three of them by final scores of 7-5, 5-4 (OT) and 6-2. The Blackhawks could use a high-scoring game, having scored only one goal or fewer in six of their last eight games. Of course, they could also use a win to avoid losing three straight for the first time this season. The good news is, they've had their way with the Coyotes for a while now, owning a 9-1-2 against them since the start of the 2012-13 season.

2. Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin.

The dynamic duo of Kane and Panarin gave the Coyotes headaches last year, combining for four goals and eight assists in those three contests. Even before that, Kane has given them problems. The reigning Hart Trophy winner has 10 goals and 26 assists in 29 career games against the Coyotes, averaging 1.24 points per game. It could be a long night for Mike Smith.

3. Get shots on net.

The Blackhawks have been outshot in six of their last seven games, which isn't exactly a formula for success despite them having a 3-3-1 record during that span. The Coyotes are coming to town as the worst team in the league, by far, in shots allowed per game at 35.4 and gave up 60 shots on goal to Columbus over the weekend. This should be a confidence-building game for the Blackhawks.

4. Control the puck.

To get shots on goal, you have to have the puck. Luckily for the Blackhawks, they should have it a lot tonight. The Coyotes are the worst puck possession team in the league, controlling only 44.6 percent of the even-strength shot attempts while the Blackhawks rank near the middle of the pack at 50.4. There's no excuse for the Blackhawks not to be in the offensive zone more than their own.

5. Rookies gone quiet.

Ryan Hartman, Vinnie Hinostroza and Tyler Motte all stepped up in large roles during the Circus Trip, but have been quiet on the scoresheet since the Blackhawks returned to Chicago. With Corey Crawford and Jonathan Toews out, two of the Blackhawks' most important players, it's crucial to get contributions from every player to make up for those losses. The veterans have been leading the way lately, but it hasn't been enough for an offense that has dried up. Perhaps one of the young guns can provide that spark the team is looking for.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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Blackhawks prospects Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys named to USA's preliminary World Juniors roster

Blackhawks prospects Alex DeBrincat, Chad Krys named to USA's preliminary World Juniors roster

Blackhawks prospects Alex DeBrincat and Chad Krys were selected to Team USA's preliminary roster for the World Junior Championships, USA Hockey announced Monday.

They're two of five players that have been brought back after helping USA take home the bronze medal at last year's tournament.

DeBrincat, the Blackhawks' 2016 second-round pick (No. 36 overall), leads the Ontario Hockey League this season with 28 goals and ranks second with 56 points in 26 games with the Erie Otters. The 5-foot-7 winger, who turns 19 on Dec. 18, had one goal in five tournament games last year.

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Krys, the Blackhawks' 2016 second-round pick (No. 45 overall), has one goal and one assist in 14 games so far during his freshman year at Boston University.

He's no stranger to international hockey.

Krys, 18, most recently sported the red, white and blue sweater last year with the U.S National under-18 team in the United States Hockey League, where he scored three goals and added 26 assists in 53 games.

The players will attend training camp from Dec. 16-20 in Buffalo followed by an additional camp from Dec. 20-24, which will include pre-tournament games on Dec. 21 against Switzerland and Dec. 23 against the Czech Republic, both of which will take place in Ontario.

The 23-man roster is expected to be finalized by Dec. 24.