Where Quenneville, Blackhawks stand on eliminating morning skates


Where Quenneville, Blackhawks stand on eliminating morning skates

Marian Hossa is all for it.

The veteran forward was talking about morning skates, and how at least two NHL teams, Colorado and the New York Rangers, have stopped having them for the most part. To Hossa, it sounds like a pretty good idea.

“I’d love it. I wish they’d put it in the CBA,” Hossa said with a laugh.

All kidding and future CBA considerations aside, you wonder if full-team morning skates could become a thing of the past. Avalanche coach Patrick Roy decided this season to not have them, as long as the team practices the day before the game. The New York Rangers started eliminating them in the second half of last season and have continued that this early season.

The Blackhawks are already one of the lighter practicing teams. Coach Joel Quenneville either has short and energetic practices or none at all. So they may not be getting rid of them as quickly as teams that may practice longer and more often.

“You see the way Joel is: He gives us so many days off as far as practice days. It seems like, by the end of the year, we’re a little more fresh than other teams,” Patrick Kane said. “I don’t know. Some guys have their routines where they like to go out there, shoot some pucks, move their feet a little bit. But I think all of us probably wouldn’t be opposed to having that [morning skate] off.”

[MORE: Blackhawks place Duncan Keith on LTIR]

Considering the few practices the Blackhawks already have, it’s unlikely they’ll get rid of morning skates – at least right now.

“I think if we didn’t have morning skates we’d never practice,” Quenneville said with a grin. “If there’s one thing our team will never be accused of is being worked too hard as far as practice times and days go along. Sometimes we feel if we get the day off before the day of the game, there’s nothing wrong nothing wrong with going out in the morning and getting loosened up, and a goalie needs to see and feel pucks.”

Still, there are always individual exceptions. Quenneville said Joe Sakic, who played for the Colorado Avalanche when Quenneville was an assistant coach and later head coach, usually didn’t participate in morning skates. Some Blackhawks veterans, Hossa and Duncan Keith among them, have taken off skates in the past.

“Some guys, we leave it up to them,” Quenneville said. “But the majority of the time, they don’t mind being up there.”

Jonathan Toews said it depends on the situation whether or not the team should have morning skates.

“If you’ve had a lot of games throughout the week and it’s a back to back, I agree, you don’t have to be on the ice. But sometimes on that game day it’s good to get into that mindset, come to the rink, go through those motions, make sure the body and mind are ready,” Toews said. “We get that treatment where sometimes we don’t get practices the day before, but game days we’re expected to be ready. So it’s either/or. Our coaching staff does a good job of judging that.”

Marcus Kruger understands why some teams are taking that route.

“Every team’s trying to find ways to get advantages and having fresh legs every night,” he said. “It’s such a long season. Teams will try to figure out ways to get that better.”

[NBC SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

So would he be OK if the Blackhawks nixed them?

“If we would do it, I’d be OK with that,” Kruger said with a smile.

Who knows if no morning skates catches on league wide. Every team is always looking for an edge. The Blackhawks don’t sound like they’re going that route right now. The Rangers and Avalanche have chosen to do away with morning skates. Ultimately, be it with those two teams or with other teams, it probably comes down to what the majority of players prefer.

“Everybody’s different. Some guys are used to doing that. But everyone would get used to it if the whole league didn’t have them,” Hossa said. “Me, personally, I wouldn’t miss that. If you practice today, tomorrow we would just come for the game at night. I don’t think it would be a huge deal.”

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."

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?