Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Kyle Baun trying to make 'best impression'

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Blackhawks: Kyle Baun trying to make 'best impression'

Kyle Baun’s eyes lit up when he talked of playing in his first preseason game with the Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

“I’m super excited,” he said after Tuesday morning’s skate. “It’s a great opportunity, especially with the lineup we have. I’m just trying to make the best impression I can.”

He didn’t make a bad one.

Baun scored the game’s opening goal and was part of a solid fourth-line combination in the Blackhawks’ 5-4 overtime victory over the Detroit Red Wings. Baun is one of several young Blackhawks vying for a spot on the team this season.

[MORE: Blackhawks take preseason opener from Red Wings with OT win]

Baun signed with the Blackhawks last March and made his NHL debut on April 7 against the Minnesota Wild. Baun looked pretty calm that night. As for his first day in the Blackhawks’ locker room, Baun was in awe.

“It was definitely surreal, pretty cool and intimidating for sure,” he recalled. “It didn’t sink in until my first skate: you’re looking at all the last names and thinking, ‘wow, every single one of these guys is like a name player.’ It was an unbelievable experience. I hope it will be again this year.”

Quenneville was impressed with Baun’s three games at the end of last season. After the Stanley Cup run, Quenneville mentioned Baun as a player who could have a great opportunity this season. Baun entered the summer with that in the back of his mind.

“You try not to do anything too, too different [training-wise]. But there’s more motivation this summer, knowing the opportunity ahead of me,” Baun said. “So to an extent, you try to stay more focused, maybe not going out quite as much with the friends and stuff, and just work harder.”

Coach Joel Quenneville reiterated that possibility for Baun recently.

“He certainly a guy we’ve been watching closely,” he said. “There are a number of guys in a similar situation, there’s opportunity there. He made a real good impression on us last year going down that stretch. This year, we’ll see.”

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Yeah, about that competition: it’s definitely there this season for Baun. The Blackhawks already had some sandpaper guys on their team last year when Baun debuted, especially Andrew Shaw and Andrew Desjardins. Both are back this season and the Blackhawks also acquired Ryan Garbutt from the Dallas Stars as part of the Patrick Sharp trade. The three were line mates on Tuesday against the Detroit Red Wings.

“It definitely gets you up for every game,” he said. “Every time you’re on the ice it’s exciting. But I can only do my own thing and not try to worry about that too much.”

There are spots to be had this season with the Blackhawks but there will be several players vying for them. Baun has as good a chance as anyone. He just has to make the most of his training-camp audition. He didn’t have a bad night on Tuesday.

“It went all right. It’s good to get a goal. It’s nice to get that under the belt. Then I thought I played physical, kept it simple,” Baun said. “I thought our line was playing pretty well and buzzing around the net, had a few good chances. Overall, I thought it was a good game.”

BRIEFLY

— Marcus Kruger should arrive in Chicago on Wednesday. Quenneville said Kruger will skate with the Blackhawks on Friday.

— Artemi Panarin (upper body) will probably not play in a preseason game until next week, Quenneville said.

— The Blackhawks released forwards Hayden McCool, Radovan Bondra and Roy Radke from training camp on Tuesday. Their roster is now down to 59 players (33 forwards, 21 defensemen and five goaltenders). 

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

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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

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USA TODAY

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."