Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival, ankle pass back-to-back games 'test'

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Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival, ankle pass back-to-back games 'test'

Michal Rozsival felt a little apprehensive entering last weekend’s games.

Certainly, the Blackhawks defenseman was emotionally and mentally ready to get back to the lineup. He was physically ready, too, after six months of rehabilitating his fractured left ankle. Still, he was wondering how he would react to back-to-back games.

“You hope, you know, you did everything you could in the rehab process, which I think we did, and I felt great into practices. But going into games is obviously a different situation,” Rozsival said on Monday. “You basically have to go all out, put a lot of stress in that leg and at any given moment you need to. I did feel a little unsure going into it.”

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His concerns, however, diminished with each passing shift. Now, instead of thinking about his ankle, Rozsival is just thinking about games and what the rest of this season could bring.

Rozsival played in back-to-back games last weekend, his first games since fracturing his left ankle in Game 4 against the Minnesota Wild last May. It was a long wait for Rozsival, and immediately going in for a back-to-back was a heck of a debut for him. But it all turned out well.

“It was a good challenge; it was a great test for the ankle and for myself,” Rozsival said. “I felt OK, you know? I didn’t feel my best, but OK. Obviously there are still some things I need to work on still, but overall I think I did OK. But most important we won both of the games. That’s what makes me happy the most.”

Rozsival played 13 minutes against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, then close to 14 minutes against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. He said he came out of those games feeling no ill effects.

“As far as my ankle, everything looks fine,” he said. “Everything was OK even on back to back nights, which is a lot for an ankle to come back after six months. But it held up pretty good.”

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Rozsival and Duncan Keith’s return this weekend provided a big boost for the Blackhawks. Keith was back supplying the big minutes. Rozsival gave the Blackhawks a veteran option they’ve been missing and some steadiness on the last pair.

“I liked his game, really appreciate his though process out there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He did some good things, defended well and added experience to our back end as well; a lot of direct plays, patience with the puck.”

Rozsival’s recovery took a while; he finished on the end of the 4-to-6-month window given for the injury. It wasn’t an easy time, from his summer of being able to do very little to the workouts and extra skates he participated in to play again. Now that his focus is back on the game and not his injury, however, all the work was worth it.

“You kind of forget about the thrill of getting ready for an NHL game,” he said. “It’s been a long time; six months is a long time. I’ve been around but it’s not the same. You’re not playing, not preparing. The adrenaline before the hockey game and playing the hockey game and winning hockey the game, it’s really a special feeling. It was great to be back.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should Blackhawks' One Goal be to tank?

On the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Seth Gruen (Big Ten Unfiltered) and Jason Goch (SB Nation Radio) join Kap on the panel. 

The Blackhawks drop their 8th straight. So should their “One Goal” be to tank?

Plus, Jon Lester isn’t a fan of the new pace of play proposals. Is he right?

Listen to the full SportsTalk Live Podcast right here:

With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

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With playoff chances all but over, what can Blackhawks do at trade deadline?

After losing their eighth straight game and falling 12 points out of a wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Blackhawks' playoff chances have dipped to a season-low 0.2 percent. It would take a miracle for them to extend their postseason streak to 10 at this point, where getting just one win seems like a monumental task.

The Blackhawks were probably never really going to be buyers before the Feb. 26 trade deadline even if they were still in the hunt, but it's hard to imagine they had plans to be sellers. Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman has reiterated over and over again that he's confident in this group, one that's getting younger and faster.

But now they've reached a territory where they have to consider selling off spare parts simply to coup some draft picks or prospects that they could perhaps retain or use as sweeteners in the offseason.

So which players could the Blackhawks realistically sell?

Let's start with the two players getting rewarded with top-six ice time as of late: Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels.

These are two players that play with high energy and go to the greasy areas, something that's important in the playoffs when scoring goals becomes more difficult. They can clean up rebounds. Wingels, particularly, likely has more value and it's showing given his recent success on the power play as a net-front presence guy. He also isn't a stranger to the playoffs with 54 games under his belt compared to Bouma's five.

Both of them are pending unrestricted free agents and are making $1 million or fewer, which certainly works in the Blackhawks' favor considering they won't cost much and their cap hits are easy to fit in on any interested team.

Maybe a team would like to take a flyer on Tomas Jurco, who's a restricted free agent at the end of the season, but that would be a move somebody makes as more of a longer term project than strengthening your depth for a playoff run this spring.

On the back end, Michal Kempny and Jan Rutta could be in play for a contender looking to ensure some depth as a sixth or seventh defenseman. Again, each of them are making less than $1 million so it's a low-risk situation for clubs whose Plan A or B fall through and may be interested in at least getting something.

While they don't have much NHL experience, they're both 27 years old and have played the sport long enough to know what they can bring to the table.

Once Feb. 26 passes and potential roster spots open up, expect the Blackhawks to start calling up the kids. 

Matthew Highmore deserves a look after leading the Rockford IceHogs with 20 goals and 32 points. John Hayden has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in 15 games since joining Rockford, and belongs in the NHL. Even Anthony Louis, who's taken a step forward, should get a taste of the action as he continues his development.

Carl Dahlstrom is getting his shot now. Erik Gustafsson is in that process as well. Gustav Forsling had another extended look during the first half of the season before the team decided it would be wise to continue his development in Rockford, where he can play top-pairing minutes.

All of this would give the Blackhawks a better indicator of how they can approach the upcoming offseason, and which young guys they can possibly add into the mix for 2018-19. But first, we have to see how the end of February plays out before making those calls.