Chicago Blackhawks

Fire to kick off season in Montreal

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Fire to kick off season in Montreal

When MLS says Bienvenue to its 19th franchise, Le Feu will be there.

The Fire will start its season on St. Patricks Day in Montreal according to the 2012 schedule released by the league Thursday. The Impact makes the jump from NASL to MLS and the Men in Red will be their first opponent at Olympic Stadium. (No word as to whether or not Youppi will be in attendance.) The Fires home opener is one week later when the Union visits Toyota Park.

With the leagues membership now at an odd number, the clubs 34-game unbalanced schedule will feature 25 matches against Eastern Conference rivals but theyll play each Western Conference team just once. The best news with this schedule is that the Fire wont have to visit raucous Qwest Field in Seattle where theyve only earned one point from three league matches and lost the U.S. Open Cup there last year. They will instead host the Sounders April 28th. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and the MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy visit Toyota Park on Sunday, July 8th. The Brimstone Cup will be up for grabs in Bridgeview May 23rd when FC Dallas pays visit. On Oct. 3rd, the club will celebrate the 15th anniversary of its founding when former Fire midfielder Peter Nowak brings his Union side back to Chicago on Oct. 3rd.

The Fire are scheduled to appear 13 times on national television, including 5 matches on the brand, spankin new NBC Sports Network (shameless corporate plug!!!) beginning with an April 21st date at Toronto FC. The Men in Red will make their first ever appearance on NBC Saturday, Oct. 6th when they visit Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls. The Fire will have to save its best for last with the last 12 matches of the season against Eastern rivals ending with a home date against DC United Oct. 27th on NBC Sports Network. (You should watch that channel, you REALLY REALLY should!)

The entire schedule is below. Plan your travel accordingly, Section 8.

DATEOPPONENTTIMETVSat., March 17
at Montreal1:00 PM
Sat., March 24
vs. Philadelphia
7:30 PM
Sunday, April 1
at Colorado
6:00 PM
GalavisionSunday, April 15
vs. Houston
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, April 21
at Toronto FC
2:30 PM
NBCSNSaturday, April 28
vs. Seattle
7:30 PM
Friday, May 4
at Chivas USA
10:00 PM
ESPN Deportes
Wednesday, May 9
vs. Real Salt Lake
7:30 PM
Saturday, May 12
vs. Kansas City
7:30 PM
Sunday, May 20
at Portland
6:00 PM
GalavisionWednesday, May 23
vs. FC Dallas
7:30 PM
Saturday, May 26
at Columbus
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, June 2
at New England
6:30 PM
Sunday, June 17
vs. New York
4:00 PM
NBCSN
Saturday, June 23
vs. Columbus
7:30 PM
Friday, June 29
at Kansas City
7:00 PM
NBCSNTuesday, July 3
at Houston
7:30 PM
Sunday, July 8
vs. Los Angeles
2:00 PM
ESPNSaturday, July 14
vs. Vancouver
7:30 PM
Wednesday, July 18
at New York
12:00 PM
Saturday, July 21
at Toronto FC
3:00 PM
Saturday, July 28
at San Jose
9:30 PM
Saturday, Aug. 4
vs. Toronto FC
7:30 PM
Sunday, Aug. 12
at Philadelphia
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, Aug. 18
vs. New England
7:30 PM
Wednesday, Aug. 22
at DC United
6:30 PM
Sunday, Sept. 2
vs. Houston
6:00 PM
GalavisionSaturday, Sept. 15
vs. Montreal
7:30 PM
Saturday, Sept. 22
vs. Columbus
7:30 PM
Friday, Sept. 28
at Kansas City
7:30 PM
NBCSNWednesday, Oct. 3
vs. Philadelphia
7:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 6
at New York
2:30 PM
NBCSaturday, Oct. 20
at New England
6:30 PM
Saturday, Oct. 27
vs. DC United
6:30 PM
NBCSN

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

Five Things from Blackhawks-Blue Jackets: Shots and slashes

It’s preseason: you don’t need a lot of build-up. Let’s just delve right in, shall we?

1. Lots of shots, but…

The same Joonas Korpisalo that the Blackhawks’ youngsters scored five goals against on Tuesday was on top of his game on Saturday. The Blackhawks peppered him with 54 shots but only two got through, and the second was a 6-on-4 power-play goal in the final two minutes.

“I thought we could have gotten a little more traffic in front of him," Nick Schmaltz said. "I thought we were playing along the outside. I mean we had some great looks. He made some big saves. Some nights you get the bounces and some nights you don’t.”

2. Bérubé’s Blackhawks debut.

Jean-François Bérubé had a tough sequence early in the second period, when he gave up two goals in a 28-second span. This was against a Columbus team that didn’t send many of their top players. He also didn’t see a ton of action in this one; the Blue Jackets fired just 21 shots his way.

3. Growing pains.

Alex DeBrincat had his up and down moments on Saturday night. His turnover led to Columbus’ first goal, he took a slashing penalty and he fought the puck quite a bit. You still saw glimpses of that skill, though, especially with his quick release. Hey, he’s a 19-year-old guy getting his first taste of the NHL. Nights like this are going to happen.

“We all make mistakes,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You gotta be safe in certain areas and you learn from that.”

4. Slash-o-meter.

Four more were called on Saturday night. Don’t be surprised if that number starts dwindling sooner rather than later, though, because the edict has apparently changed already. Sportsnet’s John Shannon reported earlier on Saturday that the league told officials to ease up on slashing and faceoff violations. But we all figure that’s going to happen once the regular season begins anyway, right?

5. Notre Dame bound.

The destination is familiar but the Blackhawks threw it into their second week of camp this season. It’ll be bonding time for the Blackhawks, who will send a smaller group for several practices there this week. Quenneville figures it’ll be a productive time. “We’ll get some bonding in, play golf together, have a nice outing, couple of road games and a nice campus.”

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

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USA TODAY

Nick Schmaltz's confidence, hold on second-line center, continues to grow

Nick Schmaltz seemed to be everywhere the puck was on Saturday night. Great pursuit of the puck, great passes to Patrick Kane or Alex DeBrincat and an all-around confidence that’s becoming more apparent by the game.

So has coach Joel Quenneville seen what he’s needed to from Schmaltz at second-line center?

“And more.”

It’s been a pretty impressive showing for Schmaltz this month. The 21-year-old has played in all three of the Blackhawks’ preseason games and keeps getting better in each one. The uncertainty Schmaltz understandably showed as a rookie is gone; the NHL game no longer feels uncomfortable.

“I feel like the game’s slowing down for me, just seeing plays,” Schmaltz said. “I know what I’m doing with the puck before I get it. It feels good and just trying to get better every day.”

Schmaltz and his fellow second liners didn’t connect for goals in the Blackhawks 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday but it wasn’t for lack of trying. The three combined for 12 of the Blackhawks’ 54 shots on goal – Kane and DeBrincat each had five – and the chemistry continues to build between the three.

Jonathan Toews talked on Saturday morning of how much more relaxed Schmaltz looks with the puck now, and that was evident again later that night.

“He’s really starting to get comfortable physically at this level,” Toews said. “He thinks the game so well, puts himself in good spots, much like Kaner where he can skate with the puck and use his speed. He has his head up so he backs guys off. Those two were making great plays tonight and Brinksy was fitting in well. They couldn’t buy a goal but Schmaltzy’s getting better and better, and you’re’ seeing that calm poise that he has really come out the more he gets comfortable.”

Schmaltz was likely getting a second-line audition in some capacity this fall; the original thought was at left wing in the wake of Artemi Panarin’s trade. But Schmaltz has always felt at his best at center. He’s showing that. And more.

“It’s always fun to play no matter if it’s preseason or regular season," he said. "I’m always happy to play, especially when you’re playing with great players. I feel like I’m more comfortable in the middle, able to use my speed a little bit more, create more offense that way.

"I think it’s going well. Wherever I end up, I’ll be happy.”