Trevor van Riemsdyk

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.”

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

For the Blackhawks defense, change is the new normal

Ulf Samuelsson saw the changes the Blackhawks made this season, his hiring as assistant coach being one of them. Soon he’ll be working with the team’s defensemen, another area that’s had some upheaval.

“I think there’s a lot of opportunity here, some uncertainties and some moving parts that I probably, typically haven’t seen going into a season. So that makes it even more interesting and challenging,” Samuelsson said. “So I’m looking forward to this opportunity to really develop and work with some of the younger players.”

From its immediate coach to its personnel, the Blackhawks’ defense is dealing with plenty of change that will continue when the season begins this fall. The Blackhawks have had some addition (Connor Murphy, Jan Rutta and Jordan Oesterle) but dealing with the subtraction (Niklas Hjalmarsson and Trevor van Riemsdyk) will nevertheless be tough. Coach Joel Quenneville said on Friday that pairings are a work in progress.

“We’re going to see when we’re putting the pairs together, whether we're going to reunite [Duncan Keith] and [Brent Seabrook] or look for some balance,” he said. “There are a lot of options. We’ll look forward to that and sorting it out.”

For Murphy, who was acquired in the deal that sent Hjalmarsson to the Arizona Coyotes, there are no set expectations as to where he fits yet.

“With any team you go into training camp proving where you’re going to be. Everyone has to come in and earn certain positions, especially me being a guy who they’re not as familiar with; I have to show what I can do,” Murphy said. “I definitely want to bring a more physical edge to defending at times and be able to skate well, have a good reach, make smart reads and try to help out with whatever’s needed with that.”

As for young players, the opportunity is there. Gustav Forsling admits he wasn’t happy that fellow Swede and role model Hjalmarsson was traded. But Forsling, who looked strong coming out of camp last September, knows he has to take advantage of the situation.

“Of course, I want to take the next step and play more,” he said. “I want to keep progressing my game and keep developing.”

The same goes for Jordan Oesterle, who the Blackhawks signed to a two-year deal on July 1.

“When I wanted to come here the opportunity was tremendous. Just the chance to come in and try to make the top six is there, it’s a battle with a number of us guys but that’s all you ask for in the situation I’m in,” he said. “Just the amount of opportunity that is in front of me just drives me even more. I want to be here and force their hand to keep me here.”

Again, the Blackhawks could re-address defense once they implement Marian Hossa’s long-term injured reserve after the season begins. General manager Stan Bowman said there’s “no exact plan” right now on how they use that space – “that’s probably going to be dictated by where we’re at when we get to October, how the team’s playing, what areas are strong, what areas we want to add to,” he said.

It remains to be seen on that front. Regardless, from coaching to personnel, much has changed with the Blackhawks defense. 

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Blackhawks Notes: Coaching changes and Marcus Kruger’s status

Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t mince words. Finding out his good friend, former assistant coach Mike Kitchen was fired not long after the Blackhawks’ postseason ended, frustrated him.

“That day, I was not happy. I was a little disappointed,” Quenneville said on Thursday. “We lost a great coach and somebody I had been working with for a long time. It was tough and we’ve moved on now, but I wasn’t excited at the moment.”

In moving on the Blackhawks have revamped their coaching staff, adding another old friend and teammate of Quenneville’s in Ulf Samuelsson and a former member of his St. Louis staff in Don Granato. Quenneville said Samuelsson will take over Kitchen’s responsibilities while Granato will handle a number of tasks.

“Whether he’s pre-scout, helping Kevin [Dineen], helping Ulfie, helping me. He’s helping the young guys like Stan [Bowman] said,” Quenneville said. “We have input with all areas and all coaches and it’s a fun thing, drawing up practices or talking to guys, preparing meetings and evaluating performances. But I think he’s excited to be a part of that as well and Ulfie, he’ll be doing something he’s been doing and he’s excited to work with some of our defense as well.”

As far as the Blackhawks’ defensive style, Quenneville doesn’t foresee it changing.

“I think there are some areas how it ended or after a playoff series, there’s always some tweaks we like to do in games, in playoffs or in series," Quenneville said. "It’s obviously disappointing. But I think there’s a lot of positive things we accomplished last year and how we played without the puck, I don’t think that was too much of an issue.

"But we have a defense that can play both ways and we still want offense from our defensive part of our game. That’d be one of our strengths. But when it’s time to defend, how we want to play in our own end without the puck is something that’ll be very close to how we play.”

Kruger’s situation

There’s been plenty of talk regarding Marcus Kruger, and whether or not he’ll remain with the Blackhawks. Whatever the future holds for the center, general manager Stan Bowman wouldn’t say on Thursday.

“Yeah, there have been a lot of these rumors around, but Marcus is no different than any other player. I’m not going to comment on rumors out there, but people are stating it as if it’s a fact,” Bowman said of Kruger being at the center of trade rumors. “There’s a lot of speculation, but it’s not fair to the players for me to be commenting on what’s been rumored out there. I don’t really have anything to add on that front.”

Trevor van Riemsdyk was Vegas’ selection in Wednesday night’s expansion draft. But a source said it’s still possible the Blackhawks trade Kruger to the Golden Knights.