Scott Darling

Days as Blackhawks' fill-in prepped Scott Darling for role as Hurricanes' new No. 1

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USA TODAY

Days as Blackhawks' fill-in prepped Scott Darling for role as Hurricanes' new No. 1

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Scott Darling was used to dealing with the on-ice pressure from his time with the Blackhawks. From his stellar performance against the Nashville Predators in April 2015 to taking over when Corey Crawford had appendicitis last December, Darling showed he could handle a No. 1 goaltending job someday.

But for Darling, earning that status has been as much about the right attitude as the experience.

“I don’t know if the transition to starter was that tough. It’s always something I’ve been excited about and really enjoyed when I got the opportunity in Chicago if Crow was hurt or sick or something. It’s (more) the big life change, to move (somewhere) I’ve never really been other than to play the Hurricanes,” Darling said. “So that transition, it took a little bit and I’m finally comfortable.”

Darling had a few tough games but is getting back to form lately, giving up just two goals in his last two games. And he’ll start on Saturday night when the Hurricanes host the Blackhawks at PNC Arena. As of Friday, Darling is seventh in the league with a 2.35 goals-against average, and Carolina coach Bill Peters said Darling’s transition to starter has been “fairly seamless.”

“He’s playing really well for us,” Peters said. “It’s a good combination of our goaltenders. There’s a bit of a different style among the two (Darling and Cam Ward) and the things we’ve asked Scotty to work on, he’s done an excellent job. So I think he’s really trending in the right direction.”

Darling is one of six former Blackhawks on Carolina’s roster right now and having that many familiar faces has helped him get used to the new surroundings. On the ice, the Hurricanes have either struggled to score goals or have given up leads late. It’s led to some disappointing outcomes and players say Darling’s deserved a better fate in some of those games.

“We’ve played 13 games and we’ve had a chance to win them all. They’ve been close games. We know we can always trust him and he’s been playing great for us,” Marcus Kruger said of Darling. “Hopefully we can win a few more games here for him because he really deserves that.”

Carolina forward Jeff Skinner said Darling has had a calming influence on the Hurricanes.

“He’s big and steady, big and strong back there and settles everyone down. I think obviously when you add a player of his pedigree, especially in that position, it can settle guys down,” Skinner said. “We have a lot of young guys who have played a lot of minutes and played big roles on our back end, but having him back there has definitely been a positive.”

Asked about playing that settle-down role, Darling said, “I think it’s just they’ve been through some tough years here recently, and not just myself but having all of these new guys who have a winning pedigree the last couple of years and want to win and know how to win, it’s been good for the whole team and all the young guys. It’s just knowing what to say in the locker room, not getting flustered or giving up if we get down a goal or something like that.”

Darling’s biggest transition was off the ice, getting used to a new city and a new organization. Considering the on-ice situations he faced in the hopes of eventually getting a No. 1 goaltending job, the adjustment to that has been fairly smooth.

“It’s a new organization, new people, new bosses, learning how things work here. So that’s been a transition,” Darling said. “But on the ice it’s just hockey and I feel pretty comfortable.”

Big contingent of former Blackhawks helping each other settle in with Hurricanes

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USA TODAY

Big contingent of former Blackhawks helping each other settle in with Hurricanes

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The names of former Blackhawks dotted the Carolina Hurricanes locker room, making those who are here now a lot more comfortable.

“Even Dahly, who was my roommate in Rockford, so we go way back,” said Scott Darling, referring to former Blackhawks defenseman Klas Dahlbeck. “Six of us from Chicago? It’s definitely huge off the ice, definitely makes the transition easier.”

The Hurricanes are the latest team to have a big influx of former Stanley Cup-winning Blackhawks on their roster. There are, indeed, six there now: Joakim Nordstrom and Teuvo Teravainen were already there when Darling (rights traded from Chicago), Marcus Kruger and Trevor van Riemsdyk (acquired through the Vegas Golden Knights) arrived over the summer. Dahlbeck was picked up off waivers in October. Off the ice it’s about transitioning to new surroundings. On the ice, the former Blackhawks bring a winning pedigree that the Hurricanes have tried to feed off.

“They’ve had a lot of success in their careers and a lot of them are still young. They’ve been there, they know what it takes,” Carolina forward Jeff Skinner said. “For us in the locker room, anyone who hasn’t [won the Cup], it’s a good opportunity to learn from those guys.”

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters, who coached the IceHogs from 2008-11, said the new acquisitions have been adjusting on and off the ice.

“They’re getting their feet wet. It’s an adjustment period, getting into Raleigh and getting settled in. Once that becomes second nature it allows you to concentrate on simply playing hockey,” he said. “We all know they’re very qualified hockey players. We like the additions we made in the summer and they’re starting to pay off. Guys are settling in and getting comfortable in the way they have to play for us to be successful as a team.”

The Hurricanes are trying to get back among the NHL’s best, and bringing in some of those guys doesn’t hurt. The start of this season, however, the Hurricanes and Blackhawks have been similar in other ways: both teams have gotten good-to-great goaltending, both teams have struggled to score and both know they should be higher in the standings.

“Was hoping for more points than we have so far,” Kruger said. “We’ve had chances to get more and we’ve been giving up [goals] late in games. Hopefully we can just get some victories in a row and build some confidence because I think that’s what we’re lacking right now, especially at the end of games. We’ve been playing well but we have to play well for the whole game. That’s what we’re trying to do here now.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk agreed that overall confidence will get there.

“Especially early on in the year you’re trying to get the confidence in your game and that confidence when it’s tight and it’s late,” he said. “I think we have a lot of guys who are confident in their abilities but just getting those reps and game experience. When you get those wins, there’s nothing like that. You build on it. Throughout the year you just pick up things that you did or didn’t do and hopefully that translates into wins along the way.”

The Hurricanes have had some growing pains this early season. It’s to be expected for a team that has a good amount of youth. But the Blackhawks they acquired have brought a winning pedigree and Carolina hopes it helps build the Hurricanes into a consistent winner again.

“The main thing is [to] learn from them like you would any other teammate but obviously they have a little something more to offer than most guys,” Skinner said of the former Blackhawks. “It’s been fun getting to know them, getting to play with them, and hopefully we can continue to build something good here.”

Blackhawks’ likely backup Anton Forsberg passes first test

Blackhawks’ likely backup Anton Forsberg passes first test

For Anton Forsberg, the challenges were going to come early. It wasn’t just getting the start for the Blackhawks’ first preseason game, it was getting tested early and often in that game on Tuesday night.

A small sample size, but Forsberg had a strong preseason debut. And if he can continue off that start, he’ll be the latest in a successful run of backup goaltenders here.

With a young Blackhawks group in front of him, Forsberg was a steady presence in net. He stopped 38 of 40 shots in the Blackhawks’ 5-2 victory; that included 14 shots in the first period, when penalties added up and the Blackhawks were on the short end of a 5-on-3 for 54 seconds.

“It’s always nice to get a couple of shots. The first one hit my chest so I got the feel for the puck and I feel like it’s nice (rather than) standing there and waiting for the first shot,” he said. “It was coming a couple quick ones there right away. After that I was in the game and it was pretty easy to keep going.”

Coach Joel Quenneville said Forsberg looked comfortable immediately.

“For the guys who played in front of him, I think he showed a lot. Organizationally it was nice to see him battle through a lot of traffic and action around his net. He fought through a busy game and did an outstanding job,” he said. “It gives you confidence as well knowing, going forward, you’re comfortable in your new surroundings and go off of these levels, which would be a good beginning.”

The Blackhawks hope Forsberg is the latest in a recent line of successful backup goaltenders they’ve had. It’s been quite a run, from Ray Emery to Antti Raanta to Scott Darling. Forsberg’s NHL experience is minimal – he played in nine games for the Blue Jackets the last two seasons. But neither Raanta nor Darling had played an NHL game prior to joining the Blackhawks and clearly that didn’t prove to be an issue.

General manager Stan Bowman said in July, when the Blackhawks traded for Forsberg as part of the deal that brought Brandon Saad back, that Forsberg had earned the chance at the backup job. The Blackhawks signed Jean-François Bérubé on July 1 but, as of now, it looks like the backup job is Forsberg’s to lose. Whoever earns the job has to be prepared because the Blackhawks have had to rely on their backups for extended times. Corey Crawford has been sidelined several times in recent seasons, including last year when he missed nearly all of December with appendicitis – Darling started 11 consecutive games during that stretch.

“We know the emphasis on goaltending is huge and having confidence and trust no matter who’s in the net. For the team, just having that confidence in that guy in the net is a big factor. Coming in here early and demonstrating that can help him as well, getting comfortable with his teammates,” Quenneville said. “We’d love to see him continue on, knowing that he could be a big part of our team.”

Playing against his former team was motivation enough on Tuesday. But for Forsberg it’s about the opportunity ahead of him, not the one he didn’t really get in the past. The Blackhawks have done well in this department the last few seasons. If Forsberg can continue to advance past Tuesday’s start, the Blackhawks could have another strong 1-2 punch in goal again.

“It's always fun to play old teammates and my old team, but it’s a game and it’s my first game [with the Blackhawks]. I've got to [give] a good first impression and I do whatever I can to do that,” he said. “I felt like it turned out pretty well.”