The open place in the rafters, the one that’s sitting there among several Stanley Cup banners, was easy to spot. Blackhawks players saw it, for sure.
“Yeah, I noticed it,” Jonathan Toews said. “It didn’t slip by me.”
The Blackhawks will raise their third banner of the last five years on Wednesday night before they open their regular-season schedule against the New York Rangers. For the Blackhawks, opening night the past few years has been a balancing act: enjoy the banner raising for what it is, revel a few minutes more in what they accomplished last season and then move on. Pronto.
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“They’re all special. It’s a very proud moment. The crowd gets into it, brings back some great memories,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It was a special year. That was definitely the toughest Cup we ever had to win, or try to win. It was a tough one. It seemed like it was never going to end. It was hard earned. It’ll be nice to reflect but then let’s turn the switch.”
As tough as winning the Cup last season was, it will be even tougher to repeat. It’s not completely about the Blackhawks coming off a short summer and adjusting to offseason changes. It’s also about the competition, which always gets a little better and a little more determined to knock the Blackhawks off the perch.
“You think of a team that feels like they have something to prove, they've been sitting around since April last year,” Toews said. “So it's not so much our shortcoming; I think it's more other teams that are trying to come flying out the gate. So we have to be ready for that as well.”
The pomp and circumstance will take up part of the evening. For the rest of the night, however, the Blackhawks will have to focus on the present. The latest Cup was a triumph and a tough one to attain. Trying to win the next one will be even tougher.
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“We’ve been stressing to try to get off to a good start, not only tonight’s game but also the first couple of months of the season. We know how important that is,” Patrick Kane said. “We went through it in 2010-11 after our first Stanley Cup when we got behind the 8-ball, had to play catch-up and snuck into the playoffs in the eighth spot. Our division’s tough this year, our conference is tough, then you open with a couple tough games against the Eastern Conference, too. No game’s going to be an easy game this year. Teams are going to give us their best, and we have to be ready.”
-Ville Pokka did not participate in morning skate on Wednesday. Quenneville said Pokka’s call-up and Viktor Svedberg’s reassignment to Rockford were more procedural than anything, and that Svedberg will “likely” return soon.
-Defenseman Kyle Cumiskey signed a professional tryout (PTO) with the IceHogs.