Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Jan Rutta embracing Chicago both on and off the ice

Blackhawks' Jan Rutta embracing Chicago both on and off the ice

Jan Rutta spent no time in America prior to Blackhawks training camp but he loves what he’s seen in Chicago thus far, from a walk along Michigan Avenue to seeing his favorite band, the Offspring, at a recent concert to taking in the Bears season opener last Sunday.

And he’s a big American football fan now — “Oh yeah,” he said. “Big time.”

Be it the city or training camp, they’ve both had the same impact on the Czech defenseman.

“The city’s quite big, that’s a difference,” said Rutta, who hails from Pisek, a small town about 90 minutes from Prague. “Here [at camp], it’s also bigger, everything is bigger and faster. But everyone’s been kind to me, so that helps a lot.”

Rutta’s transition to Chicago has been a relatively smooth one. It helps that he has a few fellow Czechs here at camp, including Michal Kempny and David Kampf. Kempny, who paired with Rutta at Sunday’s scrimmage and was a national teammate of his in the past, has been especially helpful. Language isn’t a problem, either, as Rutta already has a strong command of English. He credits that in part to former Chomutov Pirati teammate and close friend Brett Skinner, a Canadian defenseman who also spent some time with the Rockford IceHogs in 2013-14.

The on-ice adjustment hasn’t been so bad, either. As with anyone coming over from Europe, playing on the smaller ice surface is always a question. But Rutta said that’s not the big concern.

“I’d say it’s more about the players because they’re faster. You just have to make plays faster,” he said. “That’s the main thing.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said Rutta’s had a very steady presence in his first few days here.

“Sometimes you talk about defenseman a guy quietly goes about his business and you say he didn’t jump out at you. But I find those defensemen who are very predictable, safe and reliable, they’re getting the job done,” Quenneville said. “I like his size, the way he thinks the game, the way he moves. Getting acclimated to the smaller ice is a work in progress but he’ll only get better as we go along. It’s been a good camp for him.”

Where Rutta fits in on the Blackhawks roster — or if, right now — remains to be seen.

He’s enjoying his time in America, off and on the ice. Obviously he’d like to be part of the Blackhawks starting roster but whether he’s here or in Rockford, he’s ready to adjust his game on this side of the pond.

“I came here to give it a shot, to try my best and I’m not going to quit after a camp either way it goes,” Rutta said. “Hopefully I’ll be with the Blackhawks. I’ll just do my best.”

Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

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Lance Bouma's second chance has meant steady work with Blackhawks

Lance Bouma took his place at fourth-line left wing as the Blackhawks rolled their forward rushes on Tuesday morning. As the Blackhawks have tinkered with their trios, Bouma, whose final two seasons with the Calgary Flames were filled with uncertainty, has found a consistent role in this lineup.

“Obviously I was brought here for a reason,” Bouma said. “Things didn’t go the way I wanted them to in Calgary. To come here to Chicago and have that role, it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

The Blackhawks knew what they wanted from Bouma and his fellow fourth liners: some physical play, some energy and if there are any scoring opportunities, bonus. It’s a second chance for Bouma, whose contract was terminated by the Flames on June 30.

“I think it’s definitely a motivator knowing that you get in that situation where all of a sudden, ‘OK, I have to almost start over again and I have to prove to a new team that I belong in this league and I can play,’” coach Joel Quenneville said on Tuesday. “There are always circumstances where teams make decisions like that. We’ve been a part of it. And moving forward as a player, you’ve gotta look at it as a fresh opportunity. It’s an opportunity to get back to playing your game.”

After recording 16 goals and 18 assists in the 2014-15 season, Bouma signed a three-year, $6.6 million deal with the Flames. The next two seasons didn’t go as planned as Bouma dealt with injuries, inconsistent play and healthy scratches. So getting that call from the Blackhawks was a huge lift.

“I was just looking forward to a fresh start and something new,” he said. “I just was ready to come into camp and have a great season and it’s been great so far.”

[MORE: Eddie Olczyk expected to return to broadcasting booth this week

Tommy Wingels, who has centered the Blackhawks’ fourth line the last several games – and will again vs. St. Louis on Wednesday – said Bouma looks “refreshed” this season.

“Obviously whether it’s a team doesn’t want to bring you back or it’s a trade or buyout, there’s certainly something that deep down gets you going,” Wingels said. “I think it was a good summer for him mentally to come to a new organization, come to a new group of guys and re-establish his game. It’s tough when you’re with the same coaches, same team for so long; maybe what you do gets taken for granted. He looks good and he’s skating really well and I think he moves really well for a big man. He’s strong on the pucks and he’s a good asset for us.

Bouma isn’t here to be a top-six player. He’s not here to fulfill a contract that he no longer has. The Blackhawks needed depth, energy and a physical presence and in brining that, Bouma has earned steady work.  

“We knew the player coming in that we wanted him to play that style and he’s done a good job of it, too,” Quenneville said of Bouma. “So it’s something we were looking for in our needs and it fit perfectly."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Nick Schmaltz isn’t the only one returning; guess who is back in the booth?!

On the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Tracey Myers and Pat Boyle discuss Nick Schmaltz returning to the Blackhawks line-up on Wednesday night and which player is looking forward most to his return?

They also weigh in on Corey Crawford’s incredible start to the season and why he’s the major reason why the Hawks begin the week in first place in the Central.

They also discuss who is the biggest Hawks rivalry right now, which new defenseman has impressed the most and how is Connor Murphy dealing with being a healthy scratch at times this season?

Plus, they discuss someone other than Nick Schmaltz returning to work on Wednesday night.

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below: