Artem Anisimov adapting to Blackhawks' system


Artem Anisimov adapting to Blackhawks' system

Artem Anisimov went to Notre Dame already adjusting to plenty of changes.

He and his family had just settled in Chicago and his wife had given birth to their second child, a boy. Then it was off to camp with the Blackhawks, where it was new teammates and new systems.

“We’re not into structure yet, but I’m going to figure out later,” Anisimov said on one of his first days at training camp. “Maybe [it’s] going to take a while, maybe take less. We’ll see. We’ll see after the first preseason games how it’s going to be.”

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Anisimov’s played just one preseason game thus far but the strides he’s made in his short time here were evident. Playing with Teuvo Teravainen and Patrick Kane, Anisimov looked comfortable in the Blackhawks’ preseason opener against the Detroit Red Wings.

“I thought his camp was ordinary until today,” coach Joel Quenneville said of Anisimov on Tuesday night. “I thought he progressed well. He looked big in the middle and had the puck a lot. We’ll see how that all progresses.”

When the Blackhawks acquired Anisimov as part of the deal that sent Brandon Saad to Columbus, they saw the 6-foot-4 Russian as the answer to their long-time, second-line center question.

“He’s a special player,” said Kane. “He’s big. He has a long reach, has long strides that get him up the ice pretty quickly. He can make good passes and [has] good puck possession too. I’m looking forward to getting some more opportunities playing with him and hopefully developing some chemistry pretty quickly.”

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Anisimov has also been helping fellow countryman Artemi Panarin adjust to the United States – “we just talk a lot, learn English a little bit and just play video games.” It reminded Anisimov of the help he got from former New York Rangers teammate Brandon Dubinsky when he first arrived in the U.S. several years ago.

“He was in the driver’s seat,” Anisimov said of Dubinsky. “He helped me learn English at the table during dinner.”

Anisimov is still learning, only this time it’s a new system. He’s got the center part of this down. It’s just a matter of doing what the Blackhawks want.

“I like him in the middle. I think there's a presence there,” Quenneville said. “He's a big guy and I think he's responsible both sides of the puck; he has abilities. He doesn't have a great idea exactly how we want to play our systems yet, but I think once we're technically sound as a team, I think he's one of those guys that likes structure.”

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers


Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the ECHL to get consistent starts under his belt.

A third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Or, the Blackhawks could simply trade Forsberg to another NHL team that could stash him in the AHL, as long as he clears waivers. They did it last season with Chris DiDomenico, who cleared waivers as a member of the Ottawa Senators but was then traded to Chicago for Ville Pokka days later. Had DiDomenico been claimed by the Blackhawks, he would have had to stay on the NHL roster as noted above.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.