Vinnie Hinostroza looks to build off Blackhawks debut


Vinnie Hinostroza looks to build off Blackhawks debut

Vinnie Hinostroza sprinted down the ice, breaking away from several Columbus Blue Jackets in pursuit. But Andrew Shaw's pass was just out of his reach.

Hinostroza was still thinking about the opportunity a few minutes after Saturday’s game.

“Yeah, I saw that coming. I’ve been dreaming about that for forever so I think I got too excited. I just have to take a deep breath and catch that,” Hinostroza said. “It was a great pass by Shaw but I think I was too excited, looking too forward instead of just catching a pass.”

Well, things like that happen, even to those who have played plenty of games. For Hinostroza, who made his NHL debut on Saturday, the night was an overall success. The Bartlett native, who was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs on Friday, centered the Blackhawks’ third line with Teuvo Teravainen and Ryan Garbutt. Coach Joel Quenneville was happy with Hinostroza’s debut.

“I liked him,” Quenneville said. “He has speed, he was dangerous and he was a threat. I thought that line was much improved from that last game; it looked quick. I thought we had better rotation and sustained four lines, contributing on both sides of the puck. I thought Vinnie had a good start."

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Hinostroza was one of several Blackhawks prospects still in Chicago in the waning days of training camp. He had his impressive outings; Quenneville pointed to a preseason game against Detroit as a strong one for Hinostroza. Still, he didn’t make the cut out of camp; fellow forward Kyle Baun did. But Baun didn’t make the impact at regular season’s start as he had in camp. So on Friday, Baun went to Rockford and Hinostroza came here.

The 21-year-old thought he had a solid first night.

“It was good, I think,” he said. “I didn’t expect much. I didn’t want to come in and make a huge impact. I just wanted to come in, make some energy with these guys and do well on my shifts. And I feel like I just need to keep building every shift, every game.”

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Will Hinostroza be in the lineup again on Thursday, when the Blackhawks host the Florida Panthers? It seems likely at the moment. Quenneville got closer to having four lines rolling on Saturday, and he doesn’t like to change lineups when that happens. He also rarely changes when the Blackhawks are coming off a victory.

Saturday was just the start for what Hinstroza hopes is a long stay with the Blackhawks. He said on Saturday morning he didn’t want to be here for just a game or two. He’s played just one game but he’s feeling good about that debut and hopes it leads to more opportunity.

“Yeah, it does build confidence because you get to this level and you see, ‘Hey look, I can play here, I can make plays, I can play with these players.’ Just a few adjustments and I feel it’ll be good,” Hinostroza said. “It was a great experience.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start


Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."