Hawks get Coach Q 600th win; Seabrook 'seems OK'

616298.png

Hawks get Coach Q 600th win; Seabrook 'seems OK'

The Blackhawks have had a successful formula working lately: good defense and goaltending and across-the-board scoring contributions. It was working again on Sunday night.

Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist and Joel Quenneville got his 600th career coaching victory in the Blackhawks 4-2 triumph over the Calgary Flames. The Blackhawks have now won five games in a row and seven of their last eight.

But it came with a scary moment early. Brent Seabrook was hit from behind by Rene Bourque late in the first period and did not return. Quenneville said Seabrook seemed not bad after the game.

Well find out more tomorrow. I just talked to him. He seemed all right, he seemed OK, said Quenenville, who is hopeful that Seabrook can make the trip to Pittsburgh for Tuesdays game.

Still, another high hit on Seabrook, who has had three head injuries already in his NHL career, was a concern.

When a guys got his back turned and you have more speed than him, it comes down to respect, said Jonathan Toews, who added he saw the hit as it happened but hadnt seen a replay yet. Head shots and head injuries arent going anywhere if we keep making plays like that, and that goes for everyone in the league.

Meanwhile, it was business as usual for the Blackhawks, who helped Quenneville become the second-fastest coach to reach 600 NHL victories (in 1,114 games). Toews presented Quenneville with the game puck afterward.

I just told them, what it means is Im getting old, Quenneville joked. Ive been with some good teams and some great organizations. Im fortunate in a lot of ways. Im in a great spot here.

And for the most part, he likes how the Blackhawks are playing right now. The offensive balance was there again, as four different Blackhawks scored. Hossa, Patrick Kane and Steve Mondator scored, as did Niklas Hjalmarsson, who got his first of the season.

I had a couple of good shots today, but sometimes they go in and sometimes they dont, Hjalmarsson said. I had a couple of good shots before, this season that just havent really gone in. So sometimes you have luck on your side.

The Blackhawks also got on top early again, something theyve made a point of doing in recent games. And despite losing Seabrook, the five remaining Blackhawks defensemen were strong through the rest of the game.

I just think it gives everyone that much more confidence in their own job, said Duncan Keith, who logged 28:33 of ice time, five shots on goal, three blocked shots and an assist. Sometimes a little save or a small play can make a huge difference in the game. Its given our team a lot of confidence.

The Blackhawks just keep rolling along. After a ho-hum November theyre now 7-0-1 in December. Theyve got a league-leading 46 points.

I just think were doing all the small things really well, said Hjalmarsson. Were getting pucks deep, forwards back-checked really hard and the (defense) got the puck out of our own zone. Were just real careful out there the way we play, and we play hard.

Briefly

Patrick Sharp had an assist, extending his point streak to a career-long nine games (7 goals, 6 assists). It is also the longest streak in the NHL this season.

Hossas goal and assist gives him a five-game point streak (4 goals, 6 assists).

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.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

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.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your Blackhawks gear right here]

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.”