Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Is Antoine Vermette on outside looking in?

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Blackhawks: Is Antoine Vermette on outside looking in?

The Blackhawks rolled through their lines on Monday, the ones that included Patrick Kane and Brad Richards, both back from injuries.

But one player was absent from those top four lines: Antoine Vermette, whom the Blackhawks acquired prior to the trade deadline to help bolster their strength at center.

[RELATED - Patrick Kane could be ready to go for Game 1]

Vermette has had a tough go in his time with the Blackhawks; he’s been moved around the lineup, from center to wing, and is still looking for his first goal with his new team. So as the Blackhawks prepare for Game 1 against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, is Vermette on the outside looking in?

“We’ll see,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We know he’s got some experience there in the middle. Depth is something organizationally you need and some guys are ahead of other guys now based on performance. We’ve got to make decisions.”

Vermette had several suitors prior to the trade deadline. The Blackhawks emerged victorious in that sweepstakes, giving the Arizona Coyotes their first-round draft pick from this year’s draft as well as defenseman Klas Dahlbeck. He started as the second-line center and went back to that spot when Richards suffered an upper-body injury late in the season. In between, however, he’s played third line and also wing. In the 19 regular-season games with the Blackhawks, Vermette had three assists.

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Playoffs: Full schedule for Blackhawks-Predators]

Asked if he expected to play in this series vs. the Predators, Vermette said, “yes I think so.” He admits the lack of production has been frustrating.

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “You don’t want to get over frustrated but it would’ve been nice to contribute more on the score sheet, that’s for sure. But I’m a big believer in the process and don’t try to focus on the end there. Hopefully I can turn things around in that department.

“You have to be consistent, take care of little details and small battles, bring that excitement, that focus,” Vermette said of what it takes to thrive in the postseason. “It’s a lot of fun. You bring that excitement, that intensity and try to make a positive impact.”

So when will Vermette play? The Blackhawks gave up a high pick and a prospect in the hopes of getting a player who could help them late in the regular season and in the playoffs. It would be hard to believe he wouldn’t play at some point against the Predators. At the same time, with Vermette not playing well, he may start this series watching from the bench.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

“We always say it doesn’t matter how much money you make or who you are: your performance is going to dictate everything you get and everything you’re going to earn," Quenneville said. "On a need basis, I think organizationally [with] depth you get tested and challenged as you move along here in playoffs. We’re going to need everybody and everything changes instantly in our game. That’s being prepared and having some versatility in your lineup choices is always something you got to look at. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 9: Memorable Canucks series

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 9: Memorable Canucks series

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

After eliminating the Calgary Flames in six games and securing their first playoff series win since 1995-96, the Blackhawks were on to the Western Conference semi-finals, where they would meet the Vancouver Canucks. And what a memorable series this would shape out to be, the start of a terrific rivalry that would develop over the next several years.

The Blackhawks didn't have home-ice advantage this time, but it turns out they didn't need it.

After falling into a 2-1 hole, the Blackhawks evened up the series in Game 4 at the United Center when Andrew Ladd re-directed a Dave Bolland shot in overtime to put the pressure back on the Canucks heading back to Vancouver. It was a pivotal moment in the series, but the turning point may have started late in Game 3.

Although he didn't score until Game 5, Dustin Byfuglien was an absolute wrecking ball and unquestionably got into Roberto Luongo's head with his net-front presence and physicality. 

The Blackhawks locked up Game 5 in Vancouver and returned to Chicago, where they would beat the Canucks 7-5 in Game 6 thanks to a hat-trick by 20-year-old Patrick Kane. It was that night when Kane was coined with the nickname: "Hat-trick Kane."

And of course, who could forget Luongo's postgame press conference when he was moved to tears after accepting blame for the series loss?

Relive the series in the video above.

Joel Quenneville: Corey Crawford's short on-ice session part of schedule after six straight days of skating

Joel Quenneville: Corey Crawford's short on-ice session part of schedule after six straight days of skating

For the sixth straight day, Corey Crawford skated one hour before Blackhawks practice on Wednesday. But this one was the shortest on-ice workout of training camp.

After several discussions in between drills with head athletic trainer Mike Gapski and goaltending coach Jimmy Waite, Crawford's workout ended at 20 minutes. His sessions have usually lasted around 30.

Asked after practice about it, coach Joel Quenneville said not to read anything into it as it was all part of the schedule and that Crawford worked out in the gym afterwards as well. He is scheduled to have an off day on Thursday.

"We still like the progress and the way he's going along here," Quenneville said. "We're still encouraged that his progress is headed in the right direction."

Crawford said on Day 1 of camp that he's still dealing with concussion-like symptoms from last season, but that he's "really close" to returning. Conditioning is one of his biggest hurdles as well, because he hasn't been able to up the intensity on training the way he normally does over the summer.

"Every single day is movement, conditioning, he's feeling good, I think that's half the battle," Quenneville said. "You're getting conditioning out of it and all of a sudden you get in different positions and movements and then there's progress along the way with the velocity of shots, when there's traffic, there's bodies, so we're trying to add a little bit of something and a different look every single day.

"It's the routine in the schedule. Today was six in a row, let's let this slow down a little today and tomorrow he's off."

Injury updates

In other injury news, Blackhawks team physician Michael Terry released a medical update on Connor Murphy, who could now miss up to 12 weeks with a back injury.

“Connor will have a period of six weeks during which he will be off the ice," Terry said in a statement. "He will undergo further testing at that time to determine if it is appropriate for him to begin more physical activity or require an additional four weeks of rest. This puts Murphy’s overall timeline at approximately eight to twelve weeks before returning to the lineup.”

Jan Rutta is also listed as day to day with a groin injury. Quenneville said it's not believed to be serious.

First wave of cuts

In addition, the Blackhawks made their first wave of cuts by re-assigning goaltender Alexis Gravel (Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL), forward Philipp Kurashev (Quebec Remparts) and defenseman Jake Ryczek (Halifax Mooseheads) to their respective junior teams and released forward Shaw Boomhower from his amateur tryout.

"Kurashev, I didn't mind him," Quenneville said. "I think they all did alright. I think that the two kids going to Halifax, they got good coaching there. [Halifax head coach] Eric Veilleux was a guy we had him a little bit around in the Quebec days and I think they're going to be excited about that. They're hosting a Memorial Cup so those two guys will be having an exciting year for them. Phil is going to Quebec, going to play for Patrick [Roy]. Going to get great coaching as well, good opportunity for these guys. I thought he had a good camp. Jimmy was talking the goalie [Gravel] that he was impressed with him as well. For a young kid coming in here he learned a lot and I think that will be a good year for him as well."

The roster currently sits at 53 players: 28 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goaltenders.

Top guns set to make preseason debut

The Blackhawks brought a bunch of young guys to Columbus for the first preseason game, but Thursday should be different. Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Chris Kunitz and Jonathan Toews (and likely Nick Schmaltz and Brandon Saad) are among the most notable players that will be traveling to Detroit to face the Red Wings. Anton Forsberg and Kevin Lankinen will be the two goaltenders and are expected to split time in net.