Blackhawks: Panarin more at ease after preseason debut


Blackhawks: Panarin more at ease after preseason debut

Artemi Panarin settled the puck down near the red line, winning the keep-away game between he and a few Dallas Stars before passing to line mate Patrick Kane.

It was some nifty stick handling, and it left his Blackhawks teammates impressed.

“I mean, for being his first game, he looked really relaxed on theice. He looked comfortable with the puck,” Marian Hossa said. “You could see the dangle on that shift, go through the three guys and get the puck back. He’s so slick, and we’ll see a lot of this from him.”

It’s moves like that that made the 23-year-old Panarin so sought after last spring, when he eventually signed with the Blackhawks. And while an upper-body injury kept him out of preseason action until the finale on Saturday night, that one showing was a promising one.

Panarin had two assists and had great early chemistry with Kane and Artem Anisimov in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the Stars on Saturday night. Panarin’s dress rehearsal gave him some confidence going into the regular season, which begins on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers.

“In the beginning it was a little tough. It took a couple of shifts to get into it. He didn’t touch the puck much in the beginning but then it got easier as he went along,” Viktor Tikhonov said for Panarin. “He has a little bit of an understanding. Getting ready for the [preseason] game, he didn’t know what to expect. Now he knows. Everything’s OK.”

[MORE: Patrick Sharp has emotional return to Chicago]

Kane said it was a heck of a debut.

“It was obviously a good first step for him,” he said of Panarin. “You can see by some of his moves out there he’s going to be an exciting player to watch. It’s a little tough communicating with him and talking to him – good thing we have Anisimov to translate everything between us. But it was a fun first night and hopefully we keep getting better.”

As coach Joel Quenneville has said, he and the Blackhawks had a pretty good idea what to expect from Panarin. The adjustment to the North American game, however, was still going to be a hurdle. Couple that with Panarin missing so much of training camp with his injury, and he was going to have to catch up fast. The one game is a small sample size, but it was nevertheless encouraging.

“He looks like he’s got some skill, got some ability,” Quenneville said after the game. “He has a terrific shot, real good instincts. I like that line. It could be fun to watch; the kid’s got a real nice gift of finding pucks and getting it off quickly.”

Panarin will probably have his growing pains this season. He’s adjusting a lot, from learning English to adapting to the United States and the North American hockey game to knowing when he’s been honored for Three Stars after a game – Panarin got that honor on Saturday night, and Brent Seabrook helped him on where to go to be recognized. But as starts go, Panarin’s off to a promising one. The Blackhawks like what they see early here from Panarin. Others likely will, too.

“For not being on the ice he looks really relaxed. He’s great with the puck, has nice moves and I think we’ll see a lot of this,” Hossa said. “He has unbelievable skill. People here in Chicago are going to have a good time watching this guy dangling.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?


Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: