Young Hawks gearing up for season

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Young Hawks gearing up for season

Brandon Bollig and Andrew Shaw hit the ice early at Johnnys IceHouse West on Tuesday, joining fellow Chicago Blackhawks who have been skating here these past few months. The Rockford IceHogs forwards were told to get up to Chicago and get familiar with the players again.

For Bollig and Shaw, who spent most of the second half of the 2011-12 season with the Blackhawks, its a chance to get reacclimated. Because when the brief training camp starts, its going to be a fast and furious fight to grab a roster spot.

RELATED: Current, former Hawks ready to go as season returns

Yeah, especially with guys not playing as much as they usually would be during normal training camp, said Bollig. Its unfortunate the circumstances coming out of the offseason and not having a (normal) training camp. But if guys are lucky enough to be invited now, hopefully they can get it done and show what they have. Otherwise, its just part of being a pro to be prepared for whatever comes at you.

Shaw, Bollig and Marcus Kruger came up from Rockford on Wednesday and are likely to be here through the week to prep for training camp; NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly told several media outlets that training camps are likely to open on Sunday. Krugers spot is basically set. Shaw and Bollig certainly left their marks on the squad last season, but does that mean theyre guaranteed a spot this season?

MORE: Blackhawks feeling pressure of shortened season

Its likely a few others will get called up from Rockford before camp begins. Nick Leddy, whos established here already, should be back soon. And one would assume Brandon Saad and Ben Smith, who has the second-most points for the IceHogs (25), could get their opportunities.

Players who are vying for a spot will have to impress quick. But theres no doubt, with so much play in Rockford, theyll be competition ready.

Its been a great opportunity to play in the AHL, said Shaw, who has 14 points in 28 games this season. Weve stayed pretty focused down there. Coming up here, well push guys and theyll push us.

Said Bollig, theres no shape like game shape. I would think that most of us who have been playing feel pretty good.

Itll be interesting to see if any other players from Rockford come up to Chicago in the coming days. The IceHogs host Grand Rapids on Wednesday night Bollig, Shaw and Kruger are likely not playing in that game and the influx could increase after that.

Bollig and Shaw made some statements with their play last season. Thats likely to help them during this short camp.

Obviously its going to be a hectic time getting rosters set, Bollig said. It should be interesting, exciting to see whats going on.

Ed Belfour reflects on fulfilling 'childhood dream' of playing for Blackhawks

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AP

Ed Belfour reflects on fulfilling 'childhood dream' of playing for Blackhawks

While Troy Murray was attending summer school at the University of North Dakota he was also working out in offseason skates and practices there. Getting goaltenders for those skates wasn't easy. But a guy from Carman, Manitoba would drive down to Grand Forks, N.D., play in those games and then drive back home that night.

That guy was Eddie Belfour.

"He'd come in, put his gear on, and we thought this was just some kid that came from somewhere and, ‘Hey, thanks for coming, kid.' Little did we know, that's how he was making himself better," said Murray, who would later play with Belfour with the Blackhawks. "He walked onto UND, made there and the rest is history in how good he was at the collegiate level and as a pro."

The drive was there for Belfour then and it lasted throughout his career, which included eight seasons with the Blackhawks, a gold medal with Team Canada in the 2002 Olympics and a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999. On Thursday night the Blackhawks honored Belfour in their latest installment of "One More Shift."

For Belfour, it was a chance to be back where it all started – "it's always emotional coming back to Chicago. I had a lot of great times here," he said – with his favorite childhood team.

"The fans are always fantastic for me here in Chicago. I'll never forget the "Eddie, Eddie" chant. They're the ones who started it," Belfour said prior to taking his shift. "For me, getting a chance to play in Chicago stadium in front of the fans and how close they were and how loud the building was and the anthem was amazing. It was boyhood dream come true."

Ask Belfour's former teammates how best to describe the goaltender and the answer was pretty unanimous: intense.

"Intense is a good word. I think competitive is a really good word, too, because he was one of the few guys, few goalies who took working out very seriously [then]," Steve Konroyd said. "He used to train for triathlons, and this was in the late 80s, early 90s. For NHL players that was probably odd, but for NHL goaltenders that was crazy. He was ultra-competitive, different in ways but in a good way. He was a real character."

Denis Savard said Belfour's preparation for games was, "second to none."

"He always came prepared for a game, from focusing on that night and sharpening his own skates. He'd work on his own skates after practices sometimes for two hours. He was very meticulous about everything," Savard said. "We already know goaltenders are on their own program with how they prepare, but he was a special one. He was a battler, he was a winner and he was a great goalie for a long time."

Murray would face Belfour in 1996, when Murray was with the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Colorado Avalanche and Belfour was still with the Blackhawks. Patrick Roy got the best of that postseason series (Belfour led the Stars past the Avalanche in 1999 and 2000 playoff matchups). But Murray remembers Roy's confidence no matter who was in the other net, and Belfour had that same mentality.

"You need that as a goaltender. You want that challenge," Murray said. "You have to have that mindset because if you think you're second best, you're not going to succeed. That's what drives all these great players and Eddie had that mindset."

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For Belfour, those Chicago days were bittersweet. His first trip to the Stanley Cup final came with the Blackhawks. There were a lot of great times. There were a lot of tough times. But it was all worth it.

"Going to the Stanley Cup final was awesome to do in my first couple of years. Unfortunately, we didn't win and that's probably my biggest regret is that we didn't play well. It still haunts me some days," Belfour said. "But that happens sometimes when you're a younger player and you learn from it and get better. That's what I tried to do."

Belfour's body of work speaks for itself. The kid who first started honing his craft in pickup games at North Dakota had a tremendous NHL career. As for that competitiveness, he's still got it – even in jest.

"I was joking, ‘If I'm doing this [One More Shift], I gotta play at least five minutes,'" he said.

Blackhawks, Tanner Kero agree to two-year contract extension

Blackhawks, Tanner Kero agree to two-year contract extension

The Blackhawks have agreed to terms with Tanner Kero on a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2018-19 campaign, the team announced Thursday.

Kero, 24, has five goals and seven assists in 38 games with the Blackhawks this season, along with six goals and nine assists in 55 games across two seasons.

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He has become a reliable, versatile forward on the bottom six for Joel Quenneville and has also played a role in the team's penalty-kill unit that has been terrific in March after a rough start to the year.

Kero signed a two-year deal that carries a $667,500 cap hit with the Blackhawks on April 2, 2015, as an undrafted free agent.