Blackhawks

Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen playing his game again

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Blackhawks: Teuvo Teravainen playing his game again

Teuvo Teravainen was critical of his first two games.

He spent a majority of both on the Blackhawks’ top line, playing left with with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa. But Teravainen just wasn’t his usual puck-possessive self. Game 3, however, he was back at center on the third line. And in that game, a 4-1 victory over the New York Islanders, Teravainen looked more like the guy from late in the postseason.

“Yeah, I felt a little better,” he said. “Maybe I get pucks more and get my game going a little bit more. I felt better. I’m not that happy how I started the first couple of games so I try to improve my game.”

[MORE HAWKS: Viktor Svedberg finds comfort level with Blackhawks]

Teravainen was much improved on Saturday because he played his game. The wing-turned-center-turned-wing-turned-center again was skating with more confidence. He was holding the puck more, practicing patience, making passes at the right time and shooting more. His latest outing showed more of what the Blackhawks want from him.

“He was better the last game when he did go to center,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Him with the puck is his strength. He can find it more and keep it more.”

Teravainen could be that guy with Toews and Hossa, too. But in his first game plus with the duo, Teravainen was more focused on getting it to his two veteran line mates more than keeping it for himself and playing his game.

“Yeah, maybe I was thinking a little too much,” said Teravainen. “I just have to be myself and don’t try to make too many plays. I have to hold onto the puck more and be myself more.”

Toews said he talked with Teravainen about holding onto the puck more – “I was jokingly, but mostly serious, [telling] him, like, ‘No, you’re the guy on the line. You want the puck.’”

Teravainen played that way during the Stanley Cup finals with two other veterans, Patrick Sharp and Antoine Vermette. Sure, he was on the wing with that line, but he was still effective on both sides of the puck and not afraid to hold onto it.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Now centering the third line again – with Bryan Bickell and Viktor Tikhonov – Teravainen is returning to his game.

“He’s very skilled. He has a lot of patience and makes a lot of moves, like that one [pass] he gave me for the one-timer that I missed the net, where I lost some sleep from,” Bickell said of his scoring chance from Teravainen. “You expect the puck when you don’t expect the puck, because he’s going to make plays out of nothing. He has a lot of vision, a lot of poise. He has a good shot. I always tell him to shoot more, and he creates havoc thatway, too.”

The bottom line is Teravainen is at his best when he has the puck more. He could get a chance on that top line again and if he does, he’ll probably play his style more. But for now, Teravainen at center gives the Blackhawks a little more balance on their lines. It also gives him more confidence to play his game.

“I think I’m feeling good with any position I’m playing and any guy I play with, too. I just have to be myself, be around the puck, skate a lot and be active,” he said. “I think I’m getting better.”

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.”