Blackhawks

Dennis Rasmussen 'fired up' after leaving Blackhawks for new role with Ducks

Dennis Rasmussen 'fired up' after leaving Blackhawks for new role with Ducks

Dennis Rasmussen wasn’t sweating free agency. The Swedish forward, who turned 27 on Monday, had heard from his agent that there were some opportunities there. Between that news and his first trip to Wimbledon, Rasmussen was enjoying his summer.

On Friday he got a new deal with his new team, a one-year contract with the Anaheim Ducks. And as much as Rasmussen enjoyed his time with the Blackhawks, he’s ready to see what he can bring out west.

“I got some calls from my agent; he said there were a couple of possibilities, some interest from other teams. But after talking I really got fired up for the Ducks,” Rasmussen said in a phone interview on Saturday afternoon. “I’m really happy about it. I’m fired up to start right away.”

As the summer progressed all signs pointed to the Blackhawks extending Rasmussen a qualifying offer; but as the deadline for doing so approached, the Blackhawks didn’t. Multiple reports said Rasmussen turned down an extension in March; he was a healthy scratch in seven of eight games from March 4-21. Rasmussen said, “with respect to Chicago and my agent,” that he didn’t want to discuss that.

“I have nothing bad to say about Chicago,” he said. “It was great to play there, the coaching staff, the organization, everything. It was really good for me and I’m happy with the opportunity I got there.”

[MORE: Moving forward, who are the Blackhawks’ center options?]

The Blackhawks lose one more potential center with Rasmussen gone. As for Rasmussen, he’s eager to see what he can do with the Ducks. He doesn’t expect the transition to be too difficult. Rasmussen knows a few players there already, including forward Jakob Silfverberg.

“Silfverberg and a few other Swedes are probably going to take care of me,” he said. “Of course it helps a lot. Especially off the ice, it’s really helpful for someone who speaks your own language and know how it works.”

While he’s mainly known for his two-way game in the NHL, Rasmussen would like to have the production he did back home. He had 16 goals and 24 assists in his final season with the Vaxjo Lakers of the Swedish Hockey League.

“I feel I have more to give on the offensive side,” he said. “I played better offensively in Sweden, and that’s something I hope I can bring in the NHL, too.”

Rasmussen will likely head to California in late August. He’s grateful for the time he had with the Blackhawks but he’s ready to see what he can do in Anaheim.

“My biggest dream was to play in the NHL, and I got the opportunity in Chicago to do that. There are a lot of things I learned [with the Blackhawks] and thankful for that,” he said. “At the same time, I’m really pumped to go to Anaheim and excited about the opportunity.”

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

Gustav Forsling showing improvement in his second season with Blackhawks

On two consecutive Saturday evenings the Blackhawks were looking for a little more offense. On two consecutive Saturday evenings they got some from Gustav Forsling, whose shots got through to either tie a game (vs. Carolina) or take a lead (vs. Pittsburgh).

Forsling isn’t the big go-to guy when it comes to points but he’s nevertheless getting them for a Blackhawks team that’s starting to find its offense again. But this is more about Forsling’s overall game which, not long after he made the Blackhawks roster last fall, plateaued. This season he’s been more consistent and more confident from the start, and he and Jan Rutta have formed a pair that coach Joel Quenneville trusts and has kept together for most of this season. The 21-year-old defenseman talked of working on the mental side of his game entering this season and said he feels the difference.

“I’ve been working on it this summer and I feel a little bit better,” he said. “[Just] more confident with the puck and confident in myself and pretty much everywhere.”

Quenneville has seen the difference.

“I think he’s getting better with his reads,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a better gap. [Being] quicker all over the ice is part of that and nice to see him pound one that goes through because his shot can be a lot heavier than it’s been and we want him to use it a little bit more, too.”

Forsling says he feels comfortable playing with any of the Blackhawks’ defensemen but there’s no doubt he and Rutta have been good together. The two clicked immediately, and at times they’ve been the Blackhawks’ second pair.

“I think we’re thinking the same way out there on the ice. We have a great conversation out there and everything’s worked out fine,” Forsling said. “He’s a funny guy and we get along well.”

Forsling’s offensive contributions are welcomed but so is his defense. When the Rangers were looking for the game-tying goal late in the third period on Wednesday, Forsling was on Corey Crawford’s left side to prevent David Desharnais from scoring it. Seventy-six seconds later, Artem Anisimov’s goal gave the Blackhawks a two-goal lead.

“Great play by him,” Crawford said. “For us, we want to cover the short side there and it’s great or him to get over quick and get his stick there. Definitely a great stop by him.”

Forsling’s playing with more confidence. He’s added a little early offense. The Blackhawks wanted Forsling to reach another level this season and so far, he’s doing that.

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' 2-1 win over Penguins: Power play becoming a strength?

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 2-1 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night:
 
1. That's how you start a game.

The Blackhawks haven't had the best of starts over the last couple weeks or so — aside from their recent four-goal first period against New Jersey. But they flew out of the gates in Pittsburgh.

Chicago recorded 27 shot attempts (11 on goal) in the opening frame compared to Pittsburgh's 13 attempts (nine on goal), and led in the even-strength scoring chances department 11-2.

Two of those chances were breakaways from Nick Schmaltz and Jonathan Toews, but both were denied by Matt Murray. The Blackhawks cashed in on one of two power play opportunities, however, and took a 1-0 lead into the second.

2. Power play strikes again.

Speaking of power plays, the Blackhawks came up empty on their first one of the game, but they were handed another one 44 seconds later at the midway mark of the first and capitalized when Gustav Forsling slipped one five-hole past Murray. 

It's the third consecutive game the Blackhawks have scored on the man advantage, something they hadn't done since Oct. 7-12 when they scored in four straight. It's also the second consecutive game the power play unit netted the game winner.

The Blackhawks are 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) on the power play in their last three games after going 5-for-53 (9.4 percent) in their previous 12. 

3. Should Blackhawks have pushed back immediately following Corey Crawford injury?

A scary moment occurred in the second period when Evgeni Malkin swiped Crawford in the mask while racing for a loose puck, forcing the Blackhawks netminder to exit before returning a few minutes later.

Malkin was given a two-minute minor penalty for goaltender interference, but should the Blackhawks have stood up for Crawford at the expense of getting tagged with a penalty themselves?

No question a power play opportunity with a chance to make it a two-goal game at that stage of the game — and against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions who hadn't lost in regulation at home this season going into the matchup —  is important, but the Blackhawks' lack of retaliation was a bit surpising. 

It wasn't a dirty play by Malkin by any means, but there's a principle involved when your goaltender gets hit like that. Those are the kinds of penalties you shouldn't mind taking, and at the very worst it would've been 4-on-4 hockey with one of Pittsburgh's best forwards in the box.

4. Artem Anisimov stays hot.

The goals keep coming for No. 15.

After the Penguins tied it up at 1-1 in the third period with a shorthanded goal, Anisimov scored 21 seconds later on the power play to put the Blackhawks back in front 2-1.

Anisimov now has nine goals in his last 10 games after scoring just one goal in his first 10 to start the season. He also has four game-winning goals on the season, all of which have come this month. Brandon Saad leads the NHL with five.

5. Alex DeBrincat extends point streak.

Lost in the shuffle was the Blackhawks' top rookie getting on the scoresheet once again.

With an assist on Forsling's power play goal in the first period, DeBrincat extended his point streak to four games. He has four goals and two assists in that span, and is averaging a point per game over his last nine (six goals and three assists).

DeBrincat also moved into a three-way tie with Richard Panik and Toews for second on the team with 13 points.