Michal Rozsival didn’t think he’d be back this season.
The veteran defenseman didn’t know what the future held for him, but he trained as if he’d get a chance somewhere. And while he knows he may have a different role with the Blackhawks than he has in years past, he’s happy to do whatever the team asks.
“Obviously with my age, I’ve been in this role before. My last two or three years here I didn’t know what my role will be. But always told the coaches and management that I’ll play and if they need me I’m ready,” said Rozsival following the Blackhawks’ opening day of training camp on Friday. “I’m ready to do what they want me to do, whether it’s play 20 games, 30, 40 or 50 games.”
The Blackhawks’ defensive depth is stronger this season, thanks in large part to the Blackhawks signing Brian Campbell this offseason. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson gained experience last year and the Blackhawks hope to see Michal Kempny, signed this offseason, make an impact.
General manager Stan Bowman, speaking in early July, said, “Rozsival’s at a different stage but he brings a lot to the table. His role won’t be the role it was in previous years in terms of minutes or games but he can still play.” Rozsival can also help fellow Czech Kempny adjust to his new home and language. Rozsival said he doesn’t know Kempny very well yet but has seen him play.
“I feel he’s a good hockey player and he’s had some good seasons in Europe. So I’m just waiting to see what it’ll be like when he gets here and how he’s going to adjust,” Rozsival said. “But he’s a good hockey player so I’m thinking he won’t have a problem adjusting.”
Asked if he was willing to be a translator for Kempny, Rozsival said, “I’ll do my best, for sure.”
With several players still at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, the Blackhawks coaches saw what some of the prospects had to offer on Friday. One to watch for is Alexandre Fortin. A native of Quebec, Fortin impressed during the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this summer. He scored a goal in the team’s scrimmage today.
“Nice set of hands,” said assistant coach Mike Kitchen of Fortin. “He’s here on a tryout so we’ll keep a close eye on him. He had a good day today. Good speed, stick. We’ll keep a close eye.”
Not here yet
Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Kempny were not at Friday’s training camp opener. Kitchen said the three may get some down time before joining the Blackhawks.
“We’re just going to give them some time off, play it by ear,” he said. “They’ve been going since September 1, and even prior to that. We have to make sure we say to them, if they need time [take it], especially Kane with the amount of time he gets with us, the responsibility and what he went through at the World Cup. Guys like Pokka and Kempny might want to get on the ice a little bit earlier, although Patrick’s a rink rat and loves to be on the ice. That may be a coach’s choice.”