Chicago Blackhawks

Ross looking to show Blackhawks what he's got


Ross looking to show Blackhawks what he's got

Garret Ross name had barely been announced as a Chicago Blackhawks draftee when he got a call from his fellow Saginaw Spirit teammate Brandon Saad.

He actually called me no more than five minutes after, said Ross, who the Blackhawks took in the fifth round at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. He was yelling into the phone. We were pretty excited.

Flash forward to this week, as Ross is teammates with Saad again as he participates in his first Blackhawks prospect camp at Johnnys IceHouse West. For Ross, its a chance to show the Blackhawks what hes got: a well-rounded game with some offense (54 points last season with Saginaw) and some sandpaper.

The 20-year-old Ross said being on a line with Saad for part of last season was a great experience.

The first couple of years it was mainly go out there and hit and try to fight. But this season me and Saad were together half a year. He brings the best out of you and hes great to play with, Ross said. I feel that Im a two-way guy. Ill play some offense and defense, bring some energy, make some hits and stick up for my teammates.

Saad said Ross wont back down from anyone.

He has that grittiness to him, Saad said. You should look forward to watching him this week.

And look forward to seeing Ross at training camp this fall, when hell be reunited with a former fighting foe: Andrew Shaw. Ross and Shaw had their share of bouts you can find at least two of them on the web when Shaw was with the Niagara IceDogs in the OHL.

Yeah, we went a couple of times, Ross said with a grin. I definitely dont mind dropping the gloves.

So there could be some sparring between the two come training camp?

Im sure you guys will see something, Ross said.

Ross plays with an edge and can also bring some offense. Hes reunited with his Saginaw teammate Saad, and Saads experience with the Blackhawks last season motivates Ross. Still, he knows he has to be himself to impress the Blackhawks brass.

Learning is the main thing. I just come out here and play my game, he said. Thats the reason why Im here, so Ill just stick to my game.

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


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.”