Shaw is ready for center stage

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Shaw is ready for center stage

Playing center isnt really new to Andrew Shaw. Playing checking-line center isnt really new to Andrew Shaw, either.

Playing checking-line center in the NHL? Well, thats somewhat new to Andrew Shaw. But judging from camp lines, it looks like Shaw will get a chance to at least start off there.

Shaws play last season and his ability to play center, coupled with Dave Bollands move up to the second line, gives him the opportunity to be the Blackhawks new checking-line center. For Shaw, its a different look. Well, at this level, anyway.

Ive been preparing myself. I played center in Rockford on the shutdown line, so it shows they have confidence in me, Shaw said after Tuesdays practice. And knowing that raises my confidence. Ill just battle on every shift and my linemates will help.

Shaw is flanked by Bryan Bickell, whos been a checking liner for a while now, and Viktor Stalberg, who hasnt. Coach Joel Quenneville likes the combination so far, and what Shaw can provide with it.

He did a nice job on the wing last season, and we like that versatility as we go along. I didnt mind that line, with the speed along the walls, Quenneville said. Last year in a short amount of time and in a different role a lot of the nights, (Shaw) just welcomed the opportunity and took off with it. Well see how he does. But we think hes a player that can excite you.

The center spot is nothing new for Shaw; while he played wing at Rockford and in Chicago last season, hes played center otherwise. Shaw said its just a bit of a readjustment to get used to it again.

Its just more defensive-zone positioning, Shaw said. You have to be all over the ice and always supporting your wings. You just play solid defensively.

Granted, its going to be a trial by fire for Shaw. The Blackhawks will be facing teams with some strong offensive weapons in the early going, including the Los Angeles Kings in the season opener on Saturday. Still, Shaws never been one to back down from a challenge, or be intimidated at this level. He stormed out to a memorable start when he joined the Blackhawks last winter, and will use that experience to motivate him moving forward.

(The confidence) is there, Shaw said. Last year was an amazing year for me. It just shows you if you keep working your heart out, keep doing what youre doing, things come your way.

Shaw will be adjusting once again this season. Hell be in a bit of a different role. But some things wont change.

(They) just want me playing solid defense, keep playing that gritty, in-your-face way Ive been playing, Shaw said. Ive just tried to focus on small details, better details in the defensive zone. And always supporting all over the ice.

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Blackhawks notebook: A busy draft, free agency and RFAs

Eight draft picks in about 3 ½ hours. It was a busy Saturday for the Blackhawks, and when general manager Stan Bowman talked that afternoon about the team’s Day 2 haul, he came prepared.

“I have my little cheat sheet,” Bowman said of the paper on which he had written the Blackhawks’ eight newest prospects.

After a few days’ worth of moves the Blackhawks focused on the future, taking nine players over two days at the NHL Draft. It was a successful weekend for the Blackhawks, who hosted the draft for the first time and built up assets, especially on the blue line. Five of the Blackhawks’ nine selections were defensemen.

“One of the things we talked about was looking at the market. There’s a high value on defensemen. We’re not necessarily looking at the draft but our team this year and over the next couple of years; those are the assets that are valuable around the league,” Bowman said. “Look at the trade Calgary made [for Travis Hamonic], defensemen are a valuable commodity. That was a priority coming in and we were able to accomplish it.”

What comes next

The Blackhawks got what they wanted at this weekend’s draft but the focus will soon shift, as free agency opens on July 1. It remains to be seen what the Blackhawks will have cap-wise come a week from now. Currently, according to CapFriendly.com, they’re $1.445 million over the $75 million cap. It’s doubtful the Blackhawks apply the long-term injured reserve tag on Marian Hossa during the offseason. It’s possible they could still trade Marcus Kruger to gain some space. Bowman said, one way or another, “there will be some movement.”

“We’ll bring some players in, I don’t know how many, what position or what level,” he said. “This is where there’s a lot of activity, the couple weeks in the middle of June until the middle of July. That’s when the most changes happen. We’ll go to work, now that we’re past this.”

Wait for it

The Blackhawks also have to decide whether or not to qualify restricted free agents Dennis Rasmussen and Tomas Jurco. Bowman said that’ll be decided by Monday.

“I’ve had discussions with both agents,” he said. “I don’t have an answer right now but we’ll have that worked out in the next day and a half.”

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson reflects on time with Blackhawks: 'I had the best time in Chicago'

Niklas Hjalmarsson heard some of the rumors, but not to a large degree. The former Blackhawks defenseman wasn’t spending a lot of time on the internet reading up on his potential fate. He figured he’d still stay put in Chicago.

“But when my agent called me about the 10-team list, I understood it was serious. Stan [Bowman] wouldn’t ask for that unless they made up their mind already,” Hjalmarsson said via conference call on Saturday. “That’s when it hit me that I’m probably not going to put the Hawks jersey on anymore.”

Indeed, Hjalmarsson’s next jersey will be that of the Arizona Coyotes, who acquired him in exchange for defenseman Connor Murphy on Friday. Hjalmarsson’s departure marks the end of the line for another Blackhawks core player, and this one is jarring in how it will change the team’s defense.

Speaking of change, Hjalmarsson faces a lot of it himself now. Sure, there’s the obvious change for a guy who’s played his entire career in one place. It’s new surroundings and a new team, on which he knows former Blackhawks teammate Antti Raanta and fellow countryman Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

But the Coyotes have dealt with a lot of upheaval lately. Goaltender Mike Smith is gone. So is veteran Shane Doan. On Thursday, head coach Dave Tippett and the Coyotes parted ways.

“They’re on a rebuild, a lot of new faces, lot of changes,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s tough to know what to expect but I think they’re a hungry organization that wants to win like other teams. I’m looking forward to try to contribute with playing my game, just try to get the organization back in the playoffs.”

Hjalmarsson should find chemistry with Ekman-Larsson – the two were teammates in the Winter Olympics in Sochi – and Hjalmarsson will likely play a bigger role with the Coyotes. Arizona will probably look to Hjalmarsson a lot during its rebuild, given his Cup-winning history.

The first 24 hours were full of mixed emotions of Hjalmarsson. With his limited no-move clause, he was always a likely candidate to be moved from a Blackhawks team laden will full no-move clauses. He’s turning a page, but he won’t forget his time in Chicago anytime soon.

“I’m trying to always be a positive guy,” Hjalmarsson said. “I spent my whole 20s in Chicago, 10 unbelievable years. I didn’t think I’d win three Cups. Hopefully I can get one more before my career is over. I had the best time in Chicago, enjoyed every single year, playing in front of the best fans in the league. I’ve been spoiled. Now it’s time for me and my family to move on and seize the opportunity in Arizona and create some new fond memories.”