Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Pre-Game Notes from Nashville

Hawk Talk: Pre-Game Notes from Nashville

Thursday, April 22, 2010
4:00 PM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With the biggest game of the Chicago Blackhawks season looming, mere hours away, heres a snapshot of whats happening with the team, and the mood of some of the key players tonight:

Dirty Dozen: Just 12 Blackhawks skated today, along with goaltender Cristobal Huet: Kris Versteeg, Adam Burish, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Duncan Keith, Brent Sopel, Troy Brouwer, Colin Fraser, Nick Boynton, Tomas Kopecky and Bryan Bickell.

Vincent Van Go: Joel Quenneville was not on the ice to run the morning skate. Taking the lead role was skating coach Paul Vincent, known for running a tight ship and drilling players hard. Today was no different, as the 12 skaters ran a short but tough practice emphasizing stick-handling and footwork. Blackhawks assistant coach John Torchetti was also on the ice, working individual drills, such as feeding Boynton on some blue line slap-shot runs.

Howlin Burish: Burish hit the ice for warm-ups and immediately let out a loud howl.

Fourplay: Nashville Predators coach Barry Trotz and assistant Peter Horachek were in the stands watching the Blackhawks practice, and Chicago wasnt giving anything away with regard to its lineup tonight. There were none of the standard extra skating drills for tonights scratches. Instead, Burish, Bickell, Brouwer and Fraser remained on the ice for front-of-net shooting drills against Huet.

It would appear, then, presuming Eager was excused from practice and will be active, that the final two forward spots are up for grabs among these four players. With all the hype of having Burish back and Bickell getting to contribute, it looks like Brouwer and Fraser are the scratches.

Two funny notes from this end-of-practice drill. First, Bickell kept getting pucks past Huet. Huet would slam his stick after each one, finally screaming out, F--- you, Bicks!

Afterward, Bickell told me that he seems to have a good record against Huet, with a big smile. On the flip side, Brouwer couldnt buy a goal, and on the very last shot of the drill, he broke through, raising his stick and shouting to celebrate.

Who Are You?: Trotz and Horachek left together and were talking about the Bon Jovi concert that took place at Bridgestone Arena last night. Trotz said he offered Quenneville a ticket, and that Q had refused, profusely. The two had a big laugh over Cool Hand Q at Bon Jovi. I told the two that Q is more a Who guy, and they said, Oh, yeah? So be prepared, that if theres a postseason rematch in 2011 and the Who have embarked on a 14th or 15th farewell tour, Qs got a line on some tix.

Finally, some post-practice quotes:

Bickell:

Its been an up-and-down season for me. Its been a good learning experience to be here with the team. Ive been learning a lot.

On Quenneville stating before the playoffs that Bickell will remain with the team throughout, active or not: That was nice of him to build me up. Its nice to hear a coach say things like that, and I want to give him my best game as a result.

Burish:

At the end of the day its about the bleeping guy across from you on the ice. He isnt going to help you.

Winning in the playoffs is about your will. If you out-will the guy across from you, youll be successful.

Winning isnt just about skating fast or making the pretty pass, its about chipping pucks in, getting traffic to the net. Playing a simple game.

Winning in the playoffs can be smacking the puck in off your butt. Those are the things that win games. Those little things are in here.

Phoenix has been playing like caged animals, crazy men, and look what theyve done.
We gotta find a way to snap Nashvilles momentum. We gotta find a way to take it back. We gotta squish their momentum.

Advice to Brian Campbell upon his return? Dont get in a fight.

Quenneville:

We have to throw that last game in the garbage can. Weve got to get back to some passion and emotion.

Were excited to play tonight. We expect to compete hard.

Brett Ballantini isCSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnikon Twitter for up-to-the-minute Hawksinformation.

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

Welcome back: Return to the booth is Eddie Olczyk's 'best medicine'

ST. LOUIS – Eddie Olczyk’s morning at Scottrade Center was full of hugs and handshakes, of questions and encouraging words, of smiles and even some tears.

It was a busy morning but a good one for Olczyk, who Wednesday night will do his first hockey broadcast since being diagnosed with colon cancer in August. For the first time in a while, Olczyk felt like himself.

“It feels normal. It feels comfortable,” said Olczyk, who will be alongside Doc Emrick when the Blackhawks face the St. Louis Blues. “I just feel invigorated. Seeing a lot of familiar faces, guys busting chops and a lot of well wishes.”

Olczyk went through his usual game-day routine, including quick chats with Blackhawks players following skate. On Wednesday those talks were that much more special, for both sides.

“Great to see him,” said Ryan Hartman. “When I first saw I was pretty excited to see him back. It’s definitely a presence you know when you’re watching games, that voice you heard growing up. He looks good, looks healthy. He’s in a battle but he looks really good.”

Olczyk will also be in the booth on Thursday night when the Blackhawks host the Edmonton Oilers. Past that, he’ll play it by ear. He’s talked to NBC and Blackhawks president John McDonough, who Olczyk said gave him an “open canvas” in terms of scheduling. If Olczyk feels good on Saturday and the Blackhawks play on Sunday, he’ll try to get back in the booth.

“We think about him every day and we’ve had the pleasure of having him come by a couple of times. Having him be here today for a road game is great to know,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “But he has a tough battle ahead of him and he’s doing everything he can to fight it. We support him every single day.”

Olczyk started chemotherapy treatments in September and he has his good and bad days. Those will continue for a while. So will his fight to completely beat this. But for at least the next two nights Olczyk gets to return to a normal routine, and that’s the perfect panacea for a trying time.

“I’m overwhelmed with everybody,” Olczyk said. “But this is the best medicine I’ve had in a long time.”

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

bouma.jpg
USA TODAY

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."