Blackhawks

After long layoff, Carcillo ready to hit the ice

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After long layoff, Carcillo ready to hit the ice

Daniel Carcillo had a lot of time on his hands this past year.

His last on-ice hit, on Jan. 2, 2012, was a painful one in two ways. Not only did he get a seven-game suspension for boarding Edmontons Tom Gilbert, but he also suffered a season-ending knee injury. The reconstructive surgery for that left knee was one year ago today.

Couple all that with four months worth of a lockout, and its been one long year for Carcillo. But the Blackhawks instigator used the time constructively, and not just rehabbing his knee.

I had a lot of time to myself and I looked at certain things I was doing in my life and decided to make changes, with and away from training, Carcillo said. It was a good reflection period. And it was good to grow physically and mentally.

Carcillo has worked on a few things during this long layoff, but he and the Blackhawks are still looking for him to keep that edge when the team opens its regular season Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Carcillo was on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa throughout camp, a season after starting on the second line with Hossa and Patrick Kane. On that second line, he was agitating and, for the most part, kept on the right side of that edge.

Cars is an energy player, Hossa said. Basically, he can go hard to the net and get extra room for the chances, so its going to work out great for us. He gets his feet going and hes really a huge key in our line because he makes room for us.

The Blackhawks hope he does the same with Toews and Hossa.

He probably thinks won the lottery being with those two, coach Joel Quenneville said. We like his presence with that group. He started last year with Kaner and Hoss, and he was successful prior to injury. We want him to be a distraction for the goalie, be hard and be simple. Hes excited about being back.

Indeed, he is. Carcillo was skating with the Blackhawks in their informal workouts early in the fall. But once he was cleared, he was playing the waiting game just like everyone else. It wasnt always easy, before, during and after rehabbing that knee.

When something like that happens to you, you feel like you can go one or two ways: you sit and sulk about it or use it to drive you, said Carcillo, whos included meditation in his daily routines. I used (the time) to make changes in my life and its been good. When you have an injury like that, you just focus on yourself a lot more, you know? Im just glad to be back around the guys and be in this environment again.

And about that knee: it passed its first test on Wednesday night when the Blackhawks scrimmaged against themselves and several Rockford players. Physically, Carcillo is ready to go.

Im ready for the year, he said. That was a good test (Wednesday), and Im sure Saturday will be another one. Its just about getting back to being fast, being better.

And as far as the other changes, does that mean well see a calmer Carcillo?

I dont think so, he said. But maybe more in control, with more focused energy.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread:

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

Thank you, Marian Hossa: An ode to one of the best Blackhawks ever

When the Blackhawks drafted Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006 and Patrick Kane with the No. 1 pick the following year, it was a sign that the dark skies were clearing in Chicago. Things really started to change when Rocky Wirtz took over as chairman following the death of his father Bill in September of 2007, and one of the first decisions he made was to televise all 82 games.

The fans were coming back.

For only the second time in 11 years, the Blackhawks finished above .500 in 2007-08 but missed the playoffs by three points, a season in which Kane won the Calder Trophy as the league's top rookie.

The following year Joel Quenneville took over as head coach after only three games to provide some coaching experience behind the bench for a young team on the rise. It resulted in a 104-point season and ended in a Conference Finals berth at the hands of the arch-rival Detroit Red Wings in five games.

The Blackhawks were ready to make that step into championship contenders. They just needed someone to put them over the edge.

Enter Marian Hossa.

On July 1 of 2009, he committed to the Blackhawks for 12 years worth $62.8 million. He bought into the long-term vision and wanted to be a part of something special for many years to come.

Was he ever.

In his first game as a member of the Blackhawks, Hossa scored two goals in a 7-2 road victory against San Jose after missing the first month and a half of the season with a shoulder injury. It was at that moment where you saw what kind of powerhouse the Blackhawks could be and would become with a full lineup and future Hall of Fame winger added to a mixture of franchise-changing players scratching the surface.

Fast forward to Game 5 of the 2010 quarterfinals. You know how it goes. Series is tied 2-2. The Blackhawks trail 4-3 late in the third period. Extra attacker is on. How many times have we seen this? The Blackhawks were surely going to find a way to tie it up ... and then Hossa is sent to the box with 1:03 to play in regulation. A five-minute major boarding penalty.

Dagger...

Not so fast. 

Patrick Kane went on to score arguably the biggest goal in Blackhawks history, a shorthanded one that evened it up with 13.6 seconds to go. United Center is up for grabs. But there are still four minutes left to kill off on the penalty once overtime starts, which Hossa once called "the longest four minutes of my life." 

In a span of nine seconds following the penalty kill, Hossa jumped on the ice from the box, darted straight for the net and buried home what was the second-biggest goal in franchise history to put the Blackhawks up 3-2 in the series. Two nights later Hossa assisted on three goals and the Blackhawks eliminated the Nashville Predators in their barn.

The rest is history.

Who knows if the Blackhawks rally to win that series if they don't tie it up or win it in overtime. Who knows if they break through the next year. Who knows if that core group even remains together. The course of the franchise could've changed that night.

Instead, Hossa was handed the Stanley Cup for the first time in his career on June 9, 2010 from Jonathan Toews, who couldn't give it to him fast enough after he came up on the losing end in consecutive appearances with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings in 2008 and 2009.

Hossa would add two more titles to his résumé with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015, which almost certainly locked up his legacy as one of the all-time greats and his eventual next stop: The Hockey Hall of Fame. The wait was worth it.

"I was hoping to get one coming to Chicago and now I’ve got three," Hossa said following the 2015 Stanley Cup win. "What a feeling." 

The Blackhawks don't win three Stanley Cups without Hossa, who will go down as arguably the greatest free-agent signing in Chicago sports history.

On behalf of the city of Chicago: Thank you, 81.