Blackhawks

Blackhawks Camp Synopsis: Roster starting to take shape

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Camp Synopsis: Roster starting to take shape

One week down, roughly one week to go.

Some things have fallen into place during the Blackhawks’ first seven days of training camp but this week is when it really gets interesting. The roster will continue to take shape and the competition for the few vacancies will intensify. Here’s a look at what we’ve already seen in Week 1 and questions for Week 2.

Stock Rising

Jordan Oesterle. We could put a few of the young forwards here, but we’ve talked about them quite a bit and will continue to do so. So right now let’s look at Oesterle, who coach Joel Quenneville liked “a lot” in Thursday’s game against the Red Wings. A puck moving defenseman, Oesterle said he played on the right side with the Edmonton Oilers but could also play on the left. If Oesterle has another good week of camp, that and his versatility might get him a chance on a Blackhawks defense still looking for the right pieces.  

Stock Falling

Tomas Jurco. Please realize where we’re coming from with this assessment: where does he fit in this lineup? He didn’t get a lot of opportunities last season but when he did play there wasn’t anything that made him stand out. Stan Bowman likes him and much like with David Rundblad, the Blackhawks want to give the Jurco a chance to justify the draft pick they gave up for him (a third-round selection from the 2017 draft). Several young guys are pushing hard for roster spots. Can Jurco be an every-day player or do the Blackhawks have a decision to make in favor of some of those up-and-coming players? Just very interested to see how this turns out.

Biggest surprise

Nick Schmaltz’s second-line center opportunity. Maybe we should’ve been more open minded to this happening but considering how little that line changed last year you figured Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane would stay together even after the Artemi Panarin trade. But given the strides Schmaltz has made in his own game and the skating work he and Kane did together this offseason, Quenneville wants to see what Schmaltz can do in the middle. There’s always tinkering with this team; we really should have seen the possibility coming but we didn’t.

Some Remaining Questions

- If there’s one forward spot vacant out of training camp, which young player wins it? John Hayden. Here’s why: even if Alex DeBrincat doesn’t make this team out of camp, the Blackhawks’ top six is looking pretty good. Meanwhile the bottom six, especially that fourth line, has some holes. Getting a young player with some size, speed, skill and sandpaper that Quenneville likes and trusts (and he likes and trusts Hayden) would be a great addition to the bottom six.

- Will there be any surprises on defense? Maybe. Part of it depends on what the Blackhawks do about the Michal Rozsival situation. Rozsival didn’t pass his physical (upper body injury) and is not participating in camp. You hate to see someone go out like this, but it may be the end for the veteran. If so, the seventh defensive spot opens up and so do the Blackhawks options. After Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy you have Cody Franson (if the Blackhawks sign him), Oesterle and Jan Rutta who have made good preseason impacts. Michal Kempny’s in the mix, too. Gustav Forsling is on the bubble. He had a great camp last fall but didn’t improve off it; that has to change this season.

- Will the top line combination work? There’s no doubt the Blackhawks missed Brandon Saad. He may not have been facing the sturdiest Red Wings team on Thursday but Saad’s powerful game was nevertheless impressive and a reminder of how much the Blackhawks missed that element the last two seasons. But the Saad-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik combo hasn’t gotten a great look yet — Toews missed Thursday’s game due to illness. Saturday should be the first chance to see if these three can really click.

Blackhawks injury updates: Drake Caggiula placed in concussion protocol for second time in a year

Blackhawks injury updates: Drake Caggiula placed in concussion protocol for second time in a year

LAS VEGAS — The Blackhawks announced Wednesday morning that Drake Caggiula will not play against the Vegas Golden Knights because of what they initially believed was an illness. But after further evaluation, the medical staff has placed the 25-year-old winger in concussion protocol.

"Just want to clarify," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "He wasn’t feeling well this morning, now the doctors have evaluated him, we’re going to put him in concussion protocol. Obviously that changes things a little bit."

It's the second time in the calendar year Caggiula has been sidelined because of a concussion. He missed 13 games last season, suffering the injury on Feb. 22 against the Anaheim Ducks.

It's unclear what may have happened this time around and when it occurred, but the Blackhawks are playing it safe, as they should.

"There are some symptoms," Colliton said, "so we want to be sure."

Caggiula has four points (one goal, three assists) in 15 games this season. He promoted to the first line during Tuesday's practice, so it's unfortunate timing for both Caggiula and the Blackhawks, who are 2-0-1 in their last three games.

Connor Murphy on track to return Saturday

One day after practicing for the first time since reaggravating a groin injury on Oct. 22, Murphy traveled with the Blackhawks to Vegas and is on track to return Saturday against the Nashville Predators, which is when he's eligible to come off long-term injured reserve.

"It looks good," Colliton said. "I think when he comes off, we’ll make an evaluation, we’ll see what our lineup looks like hopefully. But I don’t think there’s much point in making that call until game day."

With Murphy set to return soon, the Blackhawks must make a corresponding move to become cap compliant, even though they have one spot open on their 23-man roster. As of Wednesday, the Blackhawks have $2,979,958 in cap space, according to Cap Friendly. Murphy's remaining daily cap hit of $2,980,645 barely exceeds that.

Adam Boqvist is the obvious candidate to be reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League, but not because of performance-based reasons. It just wouldn't make sense for the Blackhawks to carry eight defensemen and stunt his growth by rotating him in and out of the lineup.

Corey Crawford shakes off injury scare

There was a mini injury scare during Wednesday's morning skate in Vegas. Crawford tried making a save from right to left and hyperextended his left leg on the post. He stayed down for a few seconds then removed himself from the crease to collect himself but stayed on the ice for the remainder of the skate.

Crawford told NBC Sports Chicago afterwards that he's fine and will make his scheduled start against the Golden Knights. He is 1-0-2 with a .929 save percentage in three starts this month.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks offense finally opens things up as Patrick Kane starts streaking

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis break down the changes made to the Hawks defensive zone coverage (1:50) and Patrick Kane’s current points streak (7:30). They also discuss how most of the players that have been scratched recently have had bounce-back efforts (11:20), as well as the improved play of Erik Gustafsson (18:12) and both special teams units (20:16). Plus, the debut of “Checkpoint Charlie," where Charlie gives us a taste of life on the road and his encounter with Chris Rock’s brother (29:00).

Listen here or in the embedded player below. 

 

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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