Blackhawks

The Jeremy Colliton era set to begin in Chicago

The Jeremy Colliton era set to begin in Chicago

For the first time since Oct. 15, 2008, the Blackhawks will have a new voice behind the bench when they take on the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday at the United Center.

It will be the NHL head coaching debut for Jeremy Colliton, who was promoted after the firing of Joel Quenneville earlier in the week. He didn't have any nerves on Wednesday after practice, but that's likely to change as it gets closer to game time.

"Nerves aren’t a bad thing," Colliton said. "It’s energy you’re looking for. That’ll be present, so let’s go and play. ... It's gonna be special. Great arena and fans and special to be here to help the Hawks win. I'm excited for the opportunity."

In a classy move by a first-class coach and person, Colliton said Quenneville reached out via text message the day of the coaching change to congratulate Colliton on being named the new Blackhawks head coach.

"It means a lot," Colliton said. "He's a Hall of Fame coach and I'm succeeding him, and he took the time to send me a text message. He's a great man."

With the Colliton era set to begin, the 33-year-old rookie head coach is looking to simplify things and will slowly integrate parts of his system as the season goes along. What will he be looking for in Game 1?

"I want the guys to skate, I want them to work away from the puck, pressure on the puck," he said. "That’s going to allow us to play in their end of the ice and it’ll be easier to defend. That’s the big thing. Make sure we’re skating, flying and I think a lot of the other things will take care of themselves."

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks notebook: Kane-Toews chemistry, Seabrook's contract, Crawford update and Smith's role

It's no surprise that Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had offensive explosions after getting put on the same line together on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals. But at the same time it was.

The duo played 273:28 minutes at even strength together last season, according to naturalstattrick.com, but had a minus-6 goal differential during that time. It was bizarre because they controlled 56.9 percent of the shot attempts and 60.5 percent of the high-danger chances.

Perhaps the hockey gods are repaying them for what they deserved a year ago. Or those are the results you're eventually going to get when you put two future Hall of Famers on the ice at the same time.

“For an offensive guy that wants the puck, he’s pretty much the perfect center to play with," Kane said. "He wins a lot of battles, he wins faceoffs, he’s obviously able to make plays and he can get to the hard areas, too, so he opens up a lot of space. We haven’t played with each other a lot over the past handful of years, but we played a lot together early on, so I think sometimes we just kind of revert back to what we did back then. It makes the game simple. It’s not like you have to think too much or even talk too much about what we want to do. We just want to work hard, win battles and play well defensively. If we do that, we should get a lot of chances.”

Toews turned the clock back before he and Kane were even in the NHL.

"I remember since we were like 12 or 13 playing against each other in Triple-A hockey, he was one of the smallest guys out there and he just seemed to be able to handle the puck so well even at that age," Toews said of Kane. "He could back defenders off and create time and space. He was tough to check because he was slippery and he was just deceptive. I think that's what sets him above everybody else in the league and most star players that maybe can take advantage of skating, size and speed where he doesn't really need any of those things. He's so smart when he gets the puck."

Whether or not they stay together for the long term remains to be seen, but the when Nos. 19 and 88 are clicking, usually the Blackhawks are too.

Brent Seabrook's contract

It's no secret in Chicago that Seabrook's contract sticks out as one that won't exactly age well for the Blackhawks under a salary cap system. At age 33, he's in Year 3 of an eight-year deal that carries a $6.875 million cap hit. 

While his best years on the ice may be behind him, his teammates believe Seabrook is still as important as ever inside the locker room and the team unity. Kane came to his defense on Monday after practice in response to a question about the core veterans trying to sustain a winning culture in a trying season.

"People want to get on Seabs about his contract," Kane said. "But to us, he’s underpaid [for] what he brings in this locker room and the way he’s such a great leader, such a big part of this locker room, takes in every guy just like he’s known him his whole life. He’s an unbelievable teammate. Even that game when we missed him when he was sick, you lose your heart and soul of the team a little bit because he’s such a big piece."

Corey Crawford update

Jeremy Colliton's playing career was cut short because of his concussion history. He knows exactly what Crawford is going through, which means he knows how to handle his situation from a coach's perspective.

Crawford skated with the team for the first time over the weekend, but Colliton cautioned not to read anything into it. He didn't provide much more information than that.

On Monday, Colliton offered a longer-form response on why he's been mum about Crawford's status:

"Him going on the ice, I said it two days ago, not to read too much into it. It’s going to be a process here. The day-to-day, it doesn’t really matter. It’s over time. Is he feeling better? Is he progressing? I’m not in his ear, 'How are you feeling?', asking [head athletic trainer Mike Gapski], 'How’s Crow feeling?' It doesn’t help me, it doesn’t help him and minute-to-minute, it doesn’t matter. It’s over time, how does he feel, is he getting better? Did I talk to him today? Yeah I talked to him today. But I didn’t ask him how he was feeling. Because day to day, it’s a non-issue. I just want him to be happy and over time, feel better. And then we’ll see if he can play at the end of that."

Barry Smith's role

When Blackhawks practiced wrapped up on Monday, Smith addressed the team in a huddle, got a stick tap ovation and received a handshake from every player. This was his last practice as the assistant coach, and Tuesday vs. the New York Islanders will be his last game behind the bench before Sheldon Brookbank officially takes full control of those responsibilities along with Don Granato.

After Tuesday, Smith will transition back into his role with the Blackhawks as Director of Player Evaluation.

"Certainly his experience and just his presence," Colliton said on what Smith brought to the table. "Great guy, very, very fun to be around. I knew him from last year, he’d been around Rockford. We were a little bit shorthanded and he left his wife and his previous life, lived in a hotel for two and a half months and was a great resource for me and the staff, and really appreciate that. He’s been through the wars already, so for him to come back into it was very selfless of him, I thought."

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Blackhawks' Patrick Kane named NHL's third star after another monster week

Blackhawks' Patrick Kane named NHL's third star after another monster week

For the third time in a month, Patrick Kane has been named an NHL star of the week. 

The 30-year-old Blackhawks winger received third star honors after recording 10 points (four goals, six assists) in three games.
Kane kicked off the week with a four-point outing in New Jersey, where he scored two goals and had a pair of primary assists while logging a career-high 28:50 of ice time in an 8-5 loss to the Devils on Monday. He followed that up by registering an assist in a 4-3 loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday.

Kane wrapped up the week with a five-point game on Sunday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals, scoring two goals and adding three assists in an 8-5 win during NBC's Game of the Week.

Kane's point streak is up to a season-long eight games. He has 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) over that span, and has moved up to fifth in the NHL with 70 points.

Islanders goaltender Robin Lehner was named the first star, respectively, after going 3-0-0 and stopping 65 on 67 shots for a .970 save percentage and 0.67 goals against average in three games while Rangers forward Mika Zibanejad was named the second star after having seven points (five goals, two assists) and scoring the game-winning goal in all three games.

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