Hawks leaning on each other during slump

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Hawks leaning on each other during slump

NEW YORK Jonathan Toews gave a few smiles on Wednesday, an expression thats been hard to display considering the Blackhawks past few weeks of games.

Trouble sleeping, conversations on hockey and nothing but hockey, Toews and the Blackhawks are experiencing a lot of that right now. Nobody understands the life of a struggling athlete more than another struggling athlete. So with the pressure to win leaning on them heavy, the Blackhawks are leaning on each other.

The Blackhawks will look to snap their nine-game winless streak on Thursday, when they take on the surging New York Rangers. Its been a long haul on an already long road trip for the Blackhawks, who are dazed at whats happened the last three weeks. But theyve tried to take advantage of their time around each other, talking it out and trying to keep each others spirits high.

Every day were reminding each other that were teammates, friends and family. Well pull through it together, Toews said. Were not holding any of the bad luck or discouraging things against each other. Thats the biggest thing.

Dave Bolland said hes never been through a skid like this, dating all the way back to his junior hockey days. Keeping spirits high has been difficult, at best. But he said the team dichotomy has to pull the Blackhawks out of this off the ice as well as on it.

We go down as one and we win as one, he said. When one guys down, you boost him up. Were always helping teammates. Thats the one thing with this team: were a family. If anybodys down and anything happens, theres another guy to bump him up or say something.

And for those who think the Blackhawks are just turning off the hockey thoughts as soon as they leave the rink, guess again. Toews talked about having some sleepless nights lately. Patrick Sharp said the conversation is all hockey all the time, from on the ice to at the dinner table its not like you punch out of the rink and clear mentally, Sharp said. We take our job seriously.

The Blackhawks say theyre pulling together during this slump. They have to. Other teams are still gunning for them and nobodys feeling sorry for them.

They were a tight group when they were winning. They have to be just as tight, if not tighter, to start winning again.

It does get to be tough when youre losing to come to the rink. Nobody likes talking about it; everybody likes to stay away from it. But we do talk about it, Bolland said. Its never fun being in one of these and its tough. For us, talking and anything we can do to get out of it is positive.

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.