Blackhawks

Nick Schmaltz to play first game at United Center since being traded by Blackhawks

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USA Today

Nick Schmaltz to play first game at United Center since being traded by Blackhawks

Former Blackhawks center Nick Schmaltz was dealt a tough hand last season. The Hawks traded the Madison, Wisc., native to the Arizona Coyotes for Dylan Strome and Brendan Perlini on Nov. 25, 2018. 

"Probably for the first couple weeks it was still shocking and different to be part of a new organization," Schmaltz said. "But as you get more comfortable with everyone, I would say a couple months probably before it sunk in, but I felt comfortable right away."

Then, after recording 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 17 games with the Coyotes, Schmaltz had season-ending knee surgery. 

"It was tough," the 23-year-old said. "It wasn't like one specific thing that blew out my knee or anything, it was just nagging me over time. Obviously it was tough, I had to sit out 40 games or whatever. 

"So that was frustrating, especially because the team was doing well and I was feeling really comfortable. So it was frustrating, but happy to be back and we got off to a good start so far (currently second in the Pacific division)."

Some good fortune came Schmaltz's way when Arizona gave him a seven-year contract for $40.95 million in March.

Sunday marks his first game back at the United Center. 

"I think I'll have a lot of energy," said Schmaltz, who will have family in attendance. "I think I'll be excited. I don't think there'll be too many nerves or anything, I think it'll be fun to play against those guys and I'll be ready to go."

Schmaltz logged a lot of ice time playing with Patrick Kane when he was with Chicago from 2016-2018. 

"He was great to play with," Kane said of Schmaltz. "One of those guys I really enjoyed playing with because he was so fast and as a centerman he really did a good job of taking the puck up the middle of the ice, drawing guys to him then kind of kicking it to the wing and still driving through his feet to the point where the defense had to decide whether to honor him and go back to him or come with me and leave him open. 

"He was really good in that regard, a lot of speed up the middle. I really enjoyed playing with him and developing chemistry with him the years he was here.

"He's a good kid too. I really enjoyed being around him, hanging out with him, golfing with him, things like that. I enjoyed his time here."

Schmaltz's unique golfing style impressed Kane as much as his hockey skills did.

"Really good," Kane said of his former teammate's golf game. "It's funny when he hits it, the ball doesn't come very far off the ground, but it just goes a mile and he does the opposite with his irons, he hits them so high and then they just land and stop. He's a good golfer."

"He's got his days, he's kind of up and down," Schmaltz said of Kane swinging the clubs. "He can go low 80s or he can fire 100, it just depends how he's feeling. We've had a few games. It's a lot of fun playing with him."

Blackhawks move Dylan Strome to injured reserve and recall Brandon Hagel

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USA Today

Blackhawks move Dylan Strome to injured reserve and recall Brandon Hagel

The Blackhawks announced Thursday that they have placed forward Dylan Strome on injured reserve with a right ankle injury, retroactive to Jan. 7. In a corresponding move, forward Brandon Hagel was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and will join the team in Toronto ahead of Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs.

Strome was originally listed as "day to day" with a right ankle sprain, but it appears he needs some extra time to recover despite skating in Chicago over the past few days. The Blackhawks have three games remaining before the NHL All-Star break and, at this point, it looks unlikely Strome will return before that.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton did tell reporters in Montreal on Wednesday that Brandon Saad could join the team in Toronto depending on how he's responding to the skating sessions, but whether he plays is a different story. By making a corresponding move, the Blackhawks remain at 22 players and have room for one more spot on the 23-man roster.

Saad has been sidelined since Dec. 16 with a right ankle injury and must be activated from injured reserve whenever he's cleared to return.

Hagel has been a bright spot in Rockford this season and will likely make his NHL debut on Saturday. He leads the IceHogs with 13 goals and ranks second on the team with 21 points and 80 shots on goal in 38 games. He's a hard-working player, is physical and can finish around the net, which is something the Blackhawks could always use more of.

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Former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville named Coach of the Decade

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USA TODAY

Former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville named Coach of the Decade

Former Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville has been named the NHL Coach of the Decade (2010-19) by NHL.com.

Quenneville took the Blackhawks to new heights after he was named head coach in October 2008. Under his leadership, the Blackhawks won three Stanley Cups (2010, 2013, 2015) in six seasons, making the playoffs in nine straight campaigns (2009-17). 

The Blackhawks and Quenneville parted ways in November 2018, but that will never take away from the success he experienced in Chicago.

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