Blackhawks

Artem Anisimov settling in with Blackhawks

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Artem Anisimov settling in with Blackhawks

Artem Anisimov is just about settled in Chicago.

He’s got a place here. And his family, still in Columbus right now, will join him here in about a week. To know his wife and two children – his second child was born in September – are on their way means a lot to the Blackhawks center.

“I miss them,” he said on Saturday. “It’s big; family is big for me. I’m happy when they’re around me.”

Meanwhile, Anisimov is settling in just fine with his Blackhawks family. Acquired as part of the trade that sent Brandon Saad to Columbus, Anisimov is the man the Blackhawks hope end their second-line center questions for the next few seasons. Thus far Anisimov, who signed a five-year, $22.75 million contract with the Blackhawks in July, is filling that role well.

Anisimov is centering a dynamic and, so far very successful, second line with Patrick Kane and fellow Russian Artemi Panarin. He scored his first goal in a Blackhawks uniform on Friday night, a short-handed goal in what ended up being a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Islanders. It was also the first regular-season goal scored in Barclays Center, the Islanders’ new home.

[MORE: Top-line auditions continue for Blackhawks]

Anisimov’s penalty killing ability helps fill a void, too – both Saad and Johnny Oduya, who signed with the Dallas Stars, were both key parts of the Blackhawks’ kill.  Coach Joel Quenneville said Anisimov has been a great addition thus far.

“He scored a huge shorthanded goal for us [on Friday]. He’s reading off two guys who are highly skilled and he gets to the front of the net as well offensively,” Quenneville said. “Down low it looks like he knows how to play, so I think it’s been a good start for him.”

The chemistry with Anisimov, Panarin and Kane was fairly instantaneous.

“We’re comfortable with each other and just play the game on the ice and just see, just pass or shoot the puck,” he said. “We move the puck quickly in the offensive zone and just play the game.”

Anisimov isn’t surprised the 23-year-old Panarin is off to a good start in the NHL – Panarin has two goals and two assists in his first three games. But Anisimov said Panarin hasn’t really hit his stride yet.

“He’s good, but it’s not his best hockey he’s showing right now,” said Anisimov, who has also helped explain to Panarin in Russian any instructions the Blackhawks coaches give him. “He needs a little bit of time to adjust to this style of hockey. And when he adjusts, he’s going to show his true skill.”

Anisimov’s family will join him in Chicago in about a week. That will make him happier and more comfortable off the ice. He’s already in a good place on the ice.

“I’ve played [three] games and it’s more and more comfortable,” Anisimov said. “When I play games, I get more comfortable.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”