Blackhawks

Why Blackhawks are exploring idea of separating Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

Why Blackhawks are exploring idea of separating Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews

A lot has changed for the Blackhawks in a short amount of time. They went from sitting in a playoff spot to being closer to the basement of the Western Conference in a matter of a week and a half.

But they're not waving the white flag just yet. The Blackhawks returned to practice on Wednesday and are exploring the idea of separating Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews for balance purposes, a duo they've heavily relied on over the last couple months.

"It was kind of a test run to see how they looked," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's an option to spread it out again. We haven't exactly been perfect lately, so it's an option."

The test run featured Kane on the third line with Artem Anisimov and Dominik Kahun while the first line featured Toews with John Hayden and Brandon Saad. Alex DeBrincat, Brendan Perlini and Dylan Strome made up the second line.

Ever since Drake Caggiula went down with a concussion, the Blackhawks haven't quite felt comfortable with their four-line rotation. The good news is, David Kampf returned to practice after being sidelined since Feb. 5 because of a right foot injury. He centered the fourth line in between Marcus Kruger and Chris Kunitz, and could return on Thursday against the Buffalo Sabres.

Perhaps the more important reasoning for the shake-up in lines is to even out the minutes considering Kane and Toews have been horses for a while now. Fatigue isn't necessarily catching up to them, but the Blackhawks want to make sure they're staying fresh down the stretch.

"Yeah, because we need them to produce," Colliton said on the importance of scaling back the hard minutes. "When they don't it's hard for us to win. Again, we would welcome secondary scoring and positive shifts and play in the offensive zone from the other lines. Even if they just do that, that's going to help the whole team. We can control the momentum and the tempo of the game better than we have."

Kane denied the idea that fatigue is catching up to him. He wants to be out there, and feels like he had a bunch of chances on the West Coast trip but sometimes the chips don't fall your way. Same with Toews, who knows the Blackhawks are fighting for their playoff lives.

"I think we all realize these are our playoffs right now," Toews said. "We have some guys in this room aside from myself that are getting a lot of ice time and a lot of pressure and have seen some tough, heavy games and never really make excuses. I don’t think fatigue should be an excuse.”

Said Kane: "We got 16 games left. We know what's at stake. Not that we didn't before, but we know that pretty much every game is a must win from here on out."

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Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

Brian Campbell on Adam Boqvist's progression and preaching patience in his development

The breakout star of Blackhawks development camp in July was undoubtedly Adam Boqvist, who was taken No. 8 overall in 2018. It was evident how much his game has grown over the past year.

Former Blackhawks defenseman — and now player development coach — Brian Campbell worked closely with Boqvist this past season and raved about the steps he took with the London Knights in the OHL. But Campbell is also preaching patience in Boqvist's development. Boqvist just turned 19 on Thursday, and it's important to let him develop at his own pace.

“Yeah, I was impressed," Campbell said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Obviously, he’s come a long way in a year from last development camp. There’s no pressure being put on him. He’ll develop at his time. If he pushes for a spot, great, but I just don’t want people to get away. There’s a lot to keep learning and he wants to learn, which is the greatest thing. His teammates love him: great thing. He wants to do extra and learn the game: great thing. He is preparing himself days before, even in development camp, he’s preparing himself days before. So all great things and he’s on the right path.

"Hopefully that happens and maybe it does happen but if it doesn’t then that’s not the case and he keeps getting better and wants to keep getting better. Definitely, we know his skill level is there and I think he’s taken a huge step in the last year in preparing himself and knowing how to prepare as a pro player now. There’s a lot of great things there, and hopefully he does do that, but for me, I just don’t want to put too much on him right now. He’s turning 19 soon so he’s still a really young kid and it’s a tough position to play at a pro level. Believe me, I’m smiling, but I just don’t want to force the issue too much. Hopefully he can do some great things, but if he doesn’t, then that’s OK too.” 

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula looks back on how he could've played with Alex DeBrincat, Dylan Strome in OHL

Drake Caggiula had a successful college hockey career. He compiled 127 points (62 goals, 65 assists) in 162 career games across four seasons at North Dakota, and served as an alternate captain during his senior year.

But before committing to college, Caggiula was being recruited by the Erie Otters of the OHL and there could've been a moment where he played with Connor McDavid and current teammates Alex DeBrincat and Dylan Strome all at the same time.

“I remember telling Sherry Bassin, the GM of Erie, how I was going to go to college," Caggiula said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "He kept reiterating that, 'at 16 years old, we’re not going to be that great. But at 17, we’re going to be a little bit better, but not great. But at 18 and 19, those are going to be your big years and we’re going to have a really good team and we’re going to surround you with good players.’ I mean, that’s two years in the future so it’s hard to really see that.

"Looking back at it now, the players that I could have played with, they had some pretty talented players go through Erie. Even Dylan Larkin was an Erie draft pick and ended up going to Michigan. It could have been a pretty talented team there so it’s kind of funny to see how it all works out. We’re all here today coming from different paths so it’s pretty cool.”

Any chirps from the guys about his decision now?

“Yeah, Connor [McDavid] used to make fun of me all the time, you know? ‘Oh, we would have won the Memorial Cup if you would have joined the team!’ and all that sort of stuff," Caggiula joked. "We talk about it a little bit just here and there saying, ‘what a team we could have had and imagine who we would have been playing with and now we’re all here together. What if we all would have started in Erie together and now we’re here together?’ It just would have been a pretty cool story. It’s obviously something that we can’t control but it’s definitely something that you can look back at and laugh at.”

Check out the interview in the video above.

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