Blackhawks name Hall of Famer Chris Chelios their latest team ambassador

Blackhawks name Hall of Famer Chris Chelios their latest team ambassador

After eight seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, Hall of Famer Chris Chelios is coming home.

The Blackhawks announced Monday morning that Chelios will become the newest team ambassador, joining Tony Esposito, Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita and Denis Savard. He'll be formally introduced at the annual Blackhawks Convention this weekend.

“To be able to join the Blackhawks organization in this role means everything to me,” Chelios said in a statement. “I’m very thankful to Rocky Wirtz and John McDonough for this opportunity to return to the Blackhawks. Chicago is my hometown and returning to this organization is very special to me and my family.”

Chelios has spent the last eight seasons in Detroit where he last played, spending time both in the front office and as a player development coach. The Chicago native and Mount Carmel High School alum will return to his roots where he spent nine seasons, earning seven All-Star appearances while compiling 92 goals and 487 assists - both fourth all-time among Blackhawks defensemen - in 664 games. The team captain from 1995 to 1999 helped the Blackhawks to the playoffs seven times, including a Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1992.

“Through multiple generations of players and fans, Chris Chelios will forever be etched into the history of the Chicago Blackhawks,” Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz said in a statement. “His contributions to our organization and the overall sport of hockey stand tall. We are proud to welcome Chris and his family back home to the United Center and we are honored to call him an ambassador.”

Chelios won three Stanley Cups during his 26-year NHL career, twice Detroit and once with Montreal, and his 1,651 career games are most all-time for defensemen. He won a silver medal with Team USA in 2002 and was an assistant coach at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang. He was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.

Duncan Keith reaching elite career milestones this season

Duncan Keith reaching elite career milestones this season

Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith's body of work is reaching new heights. As if two Stanley Cups, two Norris trophies and two Olympic gold medals weren't already enough for the veteran blueliner, he added more to his list of achievements this week.

In Wednesday's 6-3 loss to the New York Rangers, Keith recorded his 500th NHL assist with the primary helper on Dominik Kubalik's second period goal that made it 1-1. 

On Friday, in a 2-1 overtime win over the Nashville Predators, Keith assisted on both of Alex DeBrincat's goals to help the Hawks grab a much-needed victory after going 1-5-2 in their previous seven games and get him to 601 career NHL points.

"It’s a great feeling," Keith said following Friday's game. "Obviously just to have that feeling, we were down most of the game. We stuck with it, we stayed patient, had some big penalty kills, I was in the box for a couple. 

"Huge win, nice to win like that at home, too. We’ve kind of had our struggles this year at home, it’s something we’ve talked about: having a better outcome, better atmosphere here. It was tough there for most of the game, we were down by one and found a way to get it done in overtime."

Keith became the seventh player in Hawks history to record 500+ assists and just the second defenseman to do so. Doug Wilson had 554. 

Keith is the 40th defenseman in NHL history to reach 600+ points. His 601 points are good for 39th on the all-time list among defensemen, two points behind San Jose Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson. 

The 36-year-old defenseman has 99 goals and 502 assists on his career. 

"It feels good," Keith said of the latest milestone, reaching 600 NHL points. "It’s been a fun ride, it’s been a privilege being a part of this team, this organization. We’re treated first class, played with a lot of great teammates over the years. Patrick Kane always seems to be included in those milestones, for me anyway. Like I said, lucky to play with great players, got to get in done in a win too."

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With NHL trade deadline looming, Blackhawks hold out Erik Gustafsson from lineup

With NHL trade deadline looming, Blackhawks hold out Erik Gustafsson from lineup

With three days left until the NHL trade deadline, the Blackhawks held out defenseman Erik Gustafsson from Friday's game against the Nashville Predators. TSN's Pierre LeBrun reported it's for precautionary reasons. 

Head coach Jeremy Colliton said after the game that the hockey operations department made the late call to scratch Gustafsson and the coaching staff "acted accordingly." Nick Seeler drew into the lineup for Gustafsson, and Slater Koekkoek was moved to the top pairing.

"Obviously, make a quick decision as far as what we’re going to do and you never know how it’s going to work out," Colliton said following a 2-1 overtime win for the Blackhawks' first home victory since Jan. 19. "But I thought Seeler did well. A lot of guys played extra minutes and hard minutes with all the penalties in particular. Thought we did a real good job of handling it. Our group did a good job of responding to that type of thing. Obviously Gus is a very popular guy in the room, but I thought we handled it well."

Gustafsson is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and there have been no extension talks between the Blackhawks and Gustafsson's representatives, so it's not surprising the team is exploring the market for the 27-year-old blue liner with the Blackhawks six points out of the final wildcard spot in the Western Conference going into the weekend.

And even though the Blackhawks responded nicely with a win over the Predators, Gustafsson's absence was felt inside the locker room.

"It sucks, but it’s part of the business," said Alex DeBrincat, who scored two goals, including the overtime winner. "We have to go out there and do our job and they have to do theirs. For us, we just need to go out there and play our game and not really worry about it."

Gustafsson is coming off a season in which he recorded a career-high 17 goals and 60 points. He has 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 59 games this season, and has a plus-8 rating during 5-on-5 play. 

Gustafsson carries a $1.2 million cap hit, which makes him an attractive piece to teams who are up in a financial crunch. He's a perfect third-pairing defenseman on a good team and can be a difference-maker for a playoff contender that's looking for a power play quarterback.

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