Nick Schmaltz

Second line back? Anisimov, Kane, Schmaltz looking to build on wonderful Wednesday night

Second line back? Anisimov, Kane, Schmaltz looking to build on wonderful Wednesday night

Artem Anisimov was creating at the net, much like he did on a regular basis the last two seasons. Nick Schmaltz looked as comfortable on the wing as he did at center, and Patrick Kane was getting better shots on net. On Wednesday night the second line of this season looked like the line of the past. Now to build off it.

The way things have been going for the Blackhawks so far this season, you take any one game for what it’s worth. For the Blackhawks’ second line, Wednesday’s outing was a good one, as it was a big part of the team’s comeback victory over the New York Rangers. And the quicker that line finds consistency, perhaps it spreads throughout the lineup.

“Some good things,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Schmaltzy on the wing gives us some speed off the attack, and it’s not just Kaner coming up with the puck. Arty’s got some familiarity with Kaner, and he goes to the net and all of a sudden scores three goals by being right at the net. So I think with Schmaltzy and Kaner and their patience and ability to travel, they bring something different to the table. It was an effective night.”

Schmaltz has said before that he feels best at center, but the move back over to wing hasn’t slowed him down a bit. That helps Quenneville keep Schmaltz and Kane together and brings Anisimov, who thrived in his time with Kane in the past, back into the second-line fold.

“Yeah, just play the game,” Anisimov said. “It doesn’t matter where you play; just go out there and play as hard as you can and have fun.”

Well, sometimes it might matter where you play. Anisimov has shown he just works better with Kane, who holds onto the puck more and allows Anisimov to focus on getting to the net. So if they can all recapture the magic, so be it.

The Blackhawks’ offense has come back to life in their last three games. On Wednesday the second line had a big hand in that offense. Now to find consistency.

“It felt pretty good,” Schmaltz said. “The Rangers did a pretty good job of limiting time and space, so I thought we did a god job of managing the puck, getting it into their zone and forechecking and creating some turnovers that way. We got a few big goals there and got some contributions with a few guys last night.”

'Spoiled' Blackhawks impressed with new state-of-the-art practice facility

'Spoiled' Blackhawks impressed with new state-of-the-art practice facility

The Blackhawks tooled around on the ice of their new building, the MB Ice Arena just a few blocks away from the United Center. To see it, which the Blackhawks had done a few times already, was one thing. To skate in it, work out in it and pretty much make it a second home was another.

“It’s a lot of fun. I’m excited to spend some time here. We’ll be up in that shooting room a lot playing some competitions and stuff,” Nick Schmaltz said of the second-floor target-shooting stations, one of the many perks at their new practice facility. “Hopefully we get an Xbox in the lounge. We’ll be here until 8 every night.”

The Blackhawks going from Johnny’s IceHouse West to this new facility is like Dorothy stepping out of the sepia-toned Kansas and into the Land of Oz. Besides the two NHL-sized rinks there’s the fitness center, the RapidShot shooting machines and a bigger Blackhawks locker room. The Blackhawks reveled in trying some of the amenities for the first time on Thursday.

“It’s always fun to fill it out for the first day,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought the ice was great, the boards are great, the building’s bright. Inside the [locker] room there is second to none, has everything you’d ever want, so kind of spoiled in a different fashion.”

Corey Crawford said, “We’re pretty lucky. We’re pretty spoiled to begin with, and now it’s another level. It’s a big facility, and we have everything we need here. It’s pretty great. Definitely thankful for this.”

The Blackhawks have upgraded. Players, coaches and staff already spent a lot of time at the rink. Considering some of the perks at the new place, they may be hanging around the rink that much more now.

“We have a few gadgets and toys that guys want to test out. Upstairs in the gym guys can test out their shot. They don’t have to be on the ice all day. There’s so much space. It’s a great facility all round for guys to take care of themselves – whether it’s during the season or the offseason,” Jonathan Toews said. “Guys are going to want to be around here all day every day.”

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Devils

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Devils

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New Jersey Devils Sunday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Brian Boyle.

The city of Chicago and the entire hockey community has rallied around Blackhawks TV analyst Eddie Olczyk as he continues to battle through colon cancer, and what's made it inspiring is Edzo's will to keep making several appearances on the broadcast in between his treatments. New Jersey is going through something similar with Brian Boyle, who was diagnosed with leukemia in September.

And he didn't stay down for long, either.

Boyle made his season debut earlier this month against Vancouver, then scored his first goal of the season on Thursday against Edmonton. It was an emotional moment, and we're all behind both of them.

2. Can second line build off last night?

Nick Schmaltz, Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane combined for only one point in Saturday's 4-3 overtime win against Carolina, but they were arguably the best line of the night for the Blackhawks.

It was the first time Schmaltz played wing this season, despite spending a majority of last season there. He and Kane compliment each other well, as does Anisimov, who's that big-bodied center and can provide net front presence. 

Let's see if that line can stick for now.

3. Red Tilson Trophy​ winner meets Hobey Baker Award winner.

Battle royale!

Last season, both Alex DeBrincat and Will Butcher helped spearhead their respective teams to the top of their leagues and finished their junior and college careers by taking home some individual hardware as well.

DeBrincat put up video-game numbers in the Ontario Hockey League, where he compiled 65 goals and 62 assists for 127 points in 63 games to win the Red Tilson Trophy as the league's top player. 

Butcher captained Denver University to its first NCAA championship since 2005 after scoring seven goals and 30 assists in 43 games, and became the first defenseman to win the Hobey Baker Award as college's top player since Matt Gilroy in 2009.

The 19-year-old DeBrincat has five goals and five assists in 17 games, including six points in as many games, for the Blackhawks this season while the 22-year-old Butcher has 13 assists in 16 games for the Devils.