Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Quenneville hints at possible return for van Riemsdyk

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Blackhawks: Quenneville hints at possible return for van Riemsdyk

TAMPA, Fla. – Will Trevor van Riemsdyk make his NHL return on the biggest stage of all? It’s looking like it’ll happen, and soon.

Coach Joel Quenneville said van Riemsdyk “could” play when the Blackhawks face the Tampa Bay Lighting in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. Van Riemsdyk skated with the Blackhawks on Wednesday morning and Quenneville said entering Game 1 that the young defenseman could play in this series.

So, with van Riemsdyk not playing in an NHL game since November, what gives Quenneville the confidence that he can jump in at this point?

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“Probably the way he shocked us, surprised us when he first came in at camp this year, how well he played for us when he started the season,” said Quenneville. “You [could] look at him a lot of nights, he [was] out there against top players. He was out there late in periods. He was killing plays, making plays, reliable. He played surprisingly to a different level than we anticipated he could get to.  Obviously we missed him when he got injured.”

It would be surprising if van Riemsdyk played but let’s keep it in perspective: the Blackhawks aren’t expecting the guy to play 15-20 minutes out of the gate after not playing for so long. If he does play, perhaps, at least to start, he plays around the five-plus minutes David Rundblad and Kyle Cumiskey have logged in recent games. If he shows he can play more, then maybe Quenneville gives him more.

[MORE: Lightning not viewing Game 2 as must-win]

Here’s what we all need to remember: Quenneville trusted van Riemsdyk pretty fast in the fall. That’s probably why, even though van Riemsdyk hasn’t played for the Blackhawks since Nov. 16 – he suffered a fractured patella that night against the Dallas Stars – Quenneville would like to get him back in the lineup.

Notes:

- Andrew Shaw won’t face any hearing for allegedly biting Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman in Game 1, according to a source. The two tussled in the first period of the Blackhawks’ 2-1 victory over the Lightning. Asked after the game if Shaw bit him, Hedman said, “It felt like it. I have a little bruise, so maybe.”

- Even if Bryan Bickell is ready to play after missing Game 1 with an upper-body injury, Quenneville may opt to leave Kris Versteeg in the lineup. Versteeg, who was back with the team on Tuesday after his wife gave birth to their first child on Monday, played just under 10 minutes. “He had good pace to his game, good energy. He hadn't played in a while, as well,” said Quenneville of Versteeg, whose last game was May 21. “It was good for him yesterday. I liked what he did, so good chance he's playing.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”