Make no mistake about it, the Blackhawks have been dedicated to preparing for the play-in series against the Edmonton Oilers since Day 1 of their Phase 3 training camp.
It was obvious an overwhelming majority of the group found ways to stay in shape while they waited out the NHL pause wherever they were. Hawks head coach Jeremy Colliton wasted no time in putting the squad to work. Scrimmaging, drills and sprints have been an everyday occurrence since the team first took the ice on Monday.
While it's all business for Colliton's Hawks, several of whom skated together in Phase 2's small group voluntary workouts ahead of camp, there's been outside forces that could potentially impact the series continuing to rear their ugly heads.
The spread of the virus itself is a concern players have been taking very seriously.
Last week in Edmonton — where the Blackhawks are slated to play the Oilers on Aug. 1 — a hospital had to close its doors due to a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility. NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly didn't think the outbreak would interfere with the league's plans in Edmonton.
The Hawks aren't overly concerned with catching the virus while in Chicago but know they need to be vigilant about it.
"I think it’s kind of on the player. I think you just gotta do the right steps to be safe," forward Dylan Strome said after Tuesday's practice. "I’m pretty sure everywhere I’ve been in Chicago over Phase 2, you have to wear a mask inside. So that’s the main thing where pretty much everywhere in Chicago you gotta wear a mask indoors. I’m not really sure.
"I think some guys will go out for dinner and stuff, but I feel like it’s pretty safe right now as long as you’re wearing a mask and doing the right things. You have to take it upon yourself. I’m sure guys aren’t having drinks at the bars. We’re healthy guys, and hopefully we can all get through this Phase 3 and get ready for Phase 4."
On Thursday night, Rogers Place arena — the venue the Hawks are scheduled to play at in Edmonton — experienced flooding when a storm hit the area.
A statement from a facility rep on Twitter confirmed there was water damage to the venue but that it wasn't expected to get in the way of Rogers Place serving as a hub for the 24-team playoffs.
"I think that sometimes you almost have to step back and laugh a little bit. It's almost like someone doesn’t want this to happen," Kane said of the flood after Friday's practice. "I’m sure everything will be fine. Looks like it’s more of a cosmetic thing. ... I think it’s something that’ll be figured out, it sounds like. Sometimes you gotta laugh at things like that."
There's also the possibility that the team could be facing Edmonton without their No. 1 goalie Corey Crawford, who has not participated in camp yet after being deemed "unfit to play" (NHL Return To Play terminology) on Day 1. Crawford didn't appear to join the team for their Phase 2 workouts prior to camp either.
"I think it’s kind of like a next-man-up mentality," forward Brandon Saad said of the team's current goalie situation on Tuesday. "We’re confident in our group here. We got a lot of goaltenders chomping at the bit here to get that opportunity. So it’s not like we have a shortage of that. There’s guys who’ve had a taste in the NHL. They’re ready to embrace that opportunity.
"So it’s tough obviously, Crawford with a Cup-contending caliber, to be out, and we’re not sure when he’s coming back. But it’s kind of just that next-man-in-line attitude where we’re going to be prepared regardless of who’s in net.
"It’s just like during a season or during a playoff series, you’re going to face injuries or things where guys can’t go all the time. It’s just that next-man-up attitude. And for us, it’s playing our best to support whoever’s back there."
On Friday, Colliton said there's no change to the goalie's status but that he's not ruling him out for the qualifying round in Edmonton. Malcolm Subban and Collin Delia have been getting the longest looks in net at camp.
The Blackhawks are scheduled to leave for Edmonton on July 26. They play the St. Louis Blues in an exhibition game on July 29 before the start of the postseason tournament.
If all goes well and they're able to participate in this year's playoffs, maintaining a clear head will only help their chances.