READ: Bolland, Smith won't play Friday
VIDEO: Brunette likes Hawks' chemistry
Blackhawks have depth on 'D'
Shop Blackhawks gear
Jonathan Toews was answering everything with a smile on his face on Thursday afternoon. A day away from the Chicago Blackhawks' season opener and fresh off a restful summer, Toews looked like he was mentally counting the hours until puck drop.
"I haven't been this excited to play hockey in a long time," he said.
It was a simple statement that said plenty, and he isn't the first to echo that same sentiment.
From their coach to their captain, there's a strong feeling of excitement and anticipation going through the Blackhawks right now. This is not last season, when the Blackhawks were battling a Cup hangover -- yes, it does exist -- facing a large influx of young new faces and figuring out where to put them all.
This year is different. There's no wondering who is going to defend the skill guys -- please see Jamal Mayers in his preseason debut. Everyone knows their role. The core players, the ones who won the Cup two seasons ago, are rested and excited about this game again. There are more vocal leaders.
Other than nursing a few early injuries -- and Dave Bolland could return Saturday night for the home opener -- the Blackhawks are feeling like they've rejoined the Cup contender talk again.
And as some of the core guys will tell you, the influx of veterans is helping plenty. Players like Sean O'Donnell, Andrew Brunette and Mayers have been there, done this. After having too many young guys take too much onto their shoulders last season, general manager Stan Bowman got the pieces he needed to fill those voids. This is an older, wiser group, and young players are already noticing a difference.
"They've been around so many games. They just add a calmer and more reassuring feel in the room," said goaltender Corey Crawford. "Our guys are confident, but a quiet confidence. We're not cocky in any way. We're just geared to go."
That rekindled confidence and experience should become evident early. Two of the Blackhawks' biggest problems last season were inconsistency and losing games late. With calmer heads out there, the Blackhawks need to start October on a higher note.
"Going into this year, there's definitely a different appetite a different attitude," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Getting up for the season's in place. The motivation is behind us as well."
The Blackhawks want to get back to where they were two seasons ago. Toews has said this team has the potential of that championship team.
He can't wait to find out for sure.
"Having some veteran guys who know what it takes to have everyone on the same page and having chemistry around the locker room, that's something that's going to help us for sure," Toews said. "Whether you're young or more experienced, everyone's as hungry as the next guy to win."
Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information.