Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival, ankle pass back-to-back games 'test'

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Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival, ankle pass back-to-back games 'test'

Michal Rozsival felt a little apprehensive entering last weekend’s games.

Certainly, the Blackhawks defenseman was emotionally and mentally ready to get back to the lineup. He was physically ready, too, after six months of rehabilitating his fractured left ankle. Still, he was wondering how he would react to back-to-back games.

“You hope, you know, you did everything you could in the rehab process, which I think we did, and I felt great into practices. But going into games is obviously a different situation,” Rozsival said on Monday. “You basically have to go all out, put a lot of stress in that leg and at any given moment you need to. I did feel a little unsure going into it.”

[MORE: Blackhawks must find road success again for annual Circus Trip]

His concerns, however, diminished with each passing shift. Now, instead of thinking about his ankle, Rozsival is just thinking about games and what the rest of this season could bring.

Rozsival played in back-to-back games last weekend, his first games since fracturing his left ankle in Game 4 against the Minnesota Wild last May. It was a long wait for Rozsival, and immediately going in for a back-to-back was a heck of a debut for him. But it all turned out well.

“It was a good challenge; it was a great test for the ankle and for myself,” Rozsival said. “I felt OK, you know? I didn’t feel my best, but OK. Obviously there are still some things I need to work on still, but overall I think I did OK. But most important we won both of the games. That’s what makes me happy the most.”

Rozsival played 13 minutes against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, then close to 14 minutes against the Calgary Flames on Sunday. He said he came out of those games feeling no ill effects.

“As far as my ankle, everything looks fine,” he said. “Everything was OK even on back to back nights, which is a lot for an ankle to come back after six months. But it held up pretty good.”

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Rozsival and Duncan Keith’s return this weekend provided a big boost for the Blackhawks. Keith was back supplying the big minutes. Rozsival gave the Blackhawks a veteran option they’ve been missing and some steadiness on the last pair.

“I liked his game, really appreciate his though process out there,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He did some good things, defended well and added experience to our back end as well; a lot of direct plays, patience with the puck.”

Rozsival’s recovery took a while; he finished on the end of the 4-to-6-month window given for the injury. It wasn’t an easy time, from his summer of being able to do very little to the workouts and extra skates he participated in to play again. Now that his focus is back on the game and not his injury, however, all the work was worth it.

“You kind of forget about the thrill of getting ready for an NHL game,” he said. “It’s been a long time; six months is a long time. I’ve been around but it’s not the same. You’re not playing, not preparing. The adrenaline before the hockey game and playing the hockey game and winning hockey the game, it’s really a special feeling. It was great to be back.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."