Blackhawks

Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival takes next step in recovery process

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Blackhawks' Michal Rozsival takes next step in recovery process

Michal Rozsival looked at being part of the Blackhawks’ morning skate on Saturday as a big positive.

It’s still going to be a bit until he returns; the Blackhawks defenseman suffered an awful left ankle fracture back in May, and he’s still some weeks away from playing in an NHL game. Still he’s improved enough to be out there with his teammates, another sign that he’s going in the right direction.

“I’m definitely excited to be with the team, get that regular practice feeling, get the passing and shooting and have a goalie in the net,” Rozsival said. “I’ve been skating on my own, which is kind of boring. It’s another step forward for me in my recovery.”

[MORE: Blackhawks offense wakes up in win over Blue Jackets]

Rozsival said he has about 85 percent range of motion in that left ankle, which he broke in the Blackhawks’ final second-round game against the Minnesota Wild in early May. He was supposed to be on the ice the night they won the Cup but bad weather disrupted his travel there. Rozsival was there a few days later, however, when the Blackhawks had their parade and rally at Soldier Field.

But it was otherwise a pretty dull summer for the veteran, who had surgery on that ankle on May 12 and whose mobility was obviously limited immediately after that.

“It was a kind of a long summer for me, being on crutches with a boot on my ankle. It was tough; I couldn’t do much. I tried to take care of it as much as I could have,” he said. “It was kind of a boring summer; a lot of sitting around. I’m glad it’s over and I’m looking forward to getting back on the ice again.”

Rozsival has a small plate on the left anklebone. The fracture is healed but Rozsival said there’s still some tightness in the ankle. Nevertheless it’s a lot better than it was when the Blackhawks first convened for training camp back in mid-September.

“It’s improved a lot,” he said. “When I got here in training camp the ankle was tight and stiff and swelling, which I don’t have right now. It’s improved quite a bit.”

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Rozsival’s recovery isn’t complete yet. He was placed on long-term injured reserve on Oct. 6, so he can’t play again for 24 days and 10 games from that date. But it sounds like it’ll take even more time than that for Rozsival to be ready – “I can’t tell you how long but it’s definitely not ready now. It may be a few more weeks before I can actually go out and play an NHL game,” he said.

But he’s skating with the team, which means he’s moving forward. It’s been a long recovery road for Rozsival. At least now he’s getting closer to the end of it.

“[Skating] with the team, especially in pregame skate, it’s basically, go, go, go. I kind of liked it," Rozsival said. "I’m very happy to be out there and get that feeling back again, being at a higher pace, passing and shooting. Not just being focused on the skating but also being focused on what’s going on around you.

"You have to pay attention to the other players around you. It’s definitely another step forward.”

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

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