Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen’s focus remains on what he can control


Blackhawks: Dennis Rasmussen’s focus remains on what he can control

Dennis Rasmussen’s attitude and approach never changed.

When the Blackhawks recalled the Swedish forward in early December, Rasmussen took it for what it was: an opportunity. He didn’t know how long it would last, so he played like his time with the Blackhawks could end as quickly as it began.

“I’ve felt like that my whole life, though. It’s not that I’m being called up right now and I feel like that. When I played in Sweden, when I was younger, too, it was about taking it day by day. I never look two games ahead,” Rasmussen said. “But of course in the beginning, you’re feeling that even more.”

Three months later, Rasmussen is still here. He’s been a reliable fourth-line center for the Blackhawks, strong defensively and adding a few points (four goals, four assist). And while Rasmussen knows he could be out of the lineup as injured Blackhawks return, he’s focused on the present, not the potential future.

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“It’s been a fun ride, I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “You get more comfortable, even if you feel the pressure to be good every day and I don’t take anything for granted. I just want to be good every practice, every game.”

Rasmussen has filled a big void for the Blackhawks these last few months. While he’s played with several players in his time here, Rasmussen has been the one constant on that line. Coach Joel Quenneville said the 25-year-old has done well.

“I know it’s a big jump from the American league to this level. He came in and gave us some size in the middle, predictability as well, and defensively he was solid,” Quenneville said. “That line scored some goals as we progressed. We started seeing more scoring on all four lines and his line was doing what we would hope they’d do: be defensively reliable and score some goals, and he was part of that.” 

Rasmussen played 73 games with the Rockford IceHogs last season. Prior to that he played three seasons with the Växjö Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League. Rasmussen said the Lakers play the same style of hockey the Blackhawks do, so his time there was valuable. He also learned from time on nation teams; Sweden won bronze at the 2010 World Juniors and at the 2014 IIHF World Championships.

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“I had three years in the top league there, played pro, played a lot of minutes, power play, penalty kill and stuff like that. But I also think the national team prepared me a lot,” he said. “I played some international games and a championship. That really helped, too.”

Rasmussen knows the business side of this. He knows he may not be in the lineup much longer, especially when Marcus Kruger returns. Rasmussen will worry about that then. Right now, he has his next game for which to prepare.

“It’s a boring answer, but I do take it day by day. We have a game and that’s the only thing I’m focusing on,” Rasmussen said with a smile. “That’s all I can do: play well on the ice.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start


Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."