Chicago Blackhawks

Hawks welcome Morrison, start him on second line

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Hawks welcome Morrison, start him on second line

VANCOUVER Brendan Morrison made the all-too-familiar walk through Rogers Arena on Monday afternoon. The newest Chicago Blackhawks forward, acquired from Calgary on Friday, spent eight seasons with the Canucks and is well aware of their game.

As far as this intense matchup between the Canucks and the Blackhawks, hell get a first-person account of that soon enough.

Morrison will be in the lineup, possibly on the second line, when the Blackhawks play the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday night. The veteran center said he feels good and is ready to go against his former team. And hes got a pretty good idea what kind of game its going to be.

Theyre very heated. Even as a fan those are fun games to watch. They have a pretty intense battle going, Morrison said. Theres nothing like jumping right into it tomorrow night. It should be a pretty good atmosphere.

Morrison did indeed center the second line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in his first practice with the Blackhawks on Monday. Whether that stands for Tuesdays game Sharp is questionable for the game is uncertain. But no matter who Morrisons linemates are, coach Joel Quenneville said he wants the veteran to just play his game.

He doesnt have to do more than what hes always done: keep it simple and hell just grow with the group, he said. That line has the potential to really improve.

Morrison had some great years with the Canucks. He had career bests in goals (25), assists (46) and points (71) with them in 2002-03; he also put up his best postseason numbers that season, with 11 points in 14 games.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said parting with Morrison was tough.

I was a big fan of Brendan. He was a real piece of the foundation of this organization. Sometimes you have tough decisions to make and that was one of the tough ones we had, he said. I hope he does well, except for tomorrow night.

The game will certainly be intense. But Morrison will bring the calm demeanor and smart hockey sense hes had his entire career. And the thought of possibly playing with the likes of Hossa are appealing.

I dont know how much more help he needs; hes third in scoring in the league, Morrison said. But Ive been pretty lucky. Ive played with some high-end, talented guys. Ill just do what I do and try to get them the puck.

But the opportunity is there, and Morrisons ready for it. Hes done plenty in his career, save hoisting that Stanley Cup over his head. Now he has another shot at that.

I thought when I was here (in Vancouver) there was a good chance Id finish my career here. Since that time, who wouldve thought; the experiences Ive been able to have, Morrison said. As far as chances go this is as good a chance as Ive probably seen.

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.”