Blackhawks

Bowman on Toews, trades, and his new job

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Bowman on Toews, trades, and his new job

Blackhawks vice president and general manager Stan Bowman was a guest on "NHL Live" on NHL Network Wednesday afternoon, and backed up what head coach Joel Quenneville told the media the previous two days concerning the severity of what appears to be a hand or wrist injury Jonathan Toews sustained last weekend, forcing him to miss Tuesday's loss to Nashville.

"Most likely," Bowman replied when asked if the captain would be ready after the All-Star break. "It's certainly not a long-term injury. We'll see how he does with a little bit of work on the injury. We have a long road trip coming up, starting in Vancouver next Tuesday and we're targeting him to play in that game, and he's on track to hopefully be ready by then."

As for his assessment of his team, Bowman told co-hosts Deb Placey and Ken Daneyko fourth in the division and sixth in the conference isn't good enough.

"I think there's room for improvement" Bowman said. "We've had a good first 50 games for our group. We've put ourselves in a decent position going forward. There's four teams in our division who are on pace for 100 points, which is hard to believe, really. We have a lot of games against those teams. We're looking to improve our overall consistency. I think when our team plays to our level, like when we've gone on some winning streaks this year, we're very tough to beat, but there's other times we've struggled.

"We're looking to improve our team through trades, but as you can see, there's not a lot happening on that front. A lot of talking, but I think it will speed up a little bit as we get closer to the deadline. But right now, it's a wait-and-see approach, and trying to find answers from within."

Bowman was then asked how aggressive he's been looking to deal, and reiterated what he's recently told the Chicago media about where he's looking to upgrade.

"I've talked to a lot of general managers over the last few weeks, going back to December, just trying to get an idea of what they're looking to do and I've tried to make it clear what we're trying to do," he said. "Right now, we're seeing a slowdown because there's nobody really ready to sacrifice their season yet and start trading away their valuable players. I've had a lot of conversations and letting people know we're willing to trade but there's nothing happening at the moment.

"In general, you can never be too deep at the center ice position. We've got a lot of young players who've stepped in and helped us this year, but I think having depth there is important. Same thing with defense. We've got eight defensemen with us right now who I think all can play. We've got a couple kids in the minors whom we're high on and could also contribute, but if you're looking for that proven NHL defenseman, that's something we have to look at."

The NHL trade deadline is Monday, February 27th, at 2 p.m., Chicago time.

Bowman was a guest primarily to discuss being added by USA Hockey to the U.S. Mens National Team Advisory Group in leading the selection of American-born players for international competitions. He'll join a panel that already includes Toronto's Brian Burke, Philadelphia's Paul Holmgren, Dean Lombardi of Los Angeles, Nashville's David Poile, Ray Shero of Pittsburgh and former Atlanta Thrashers executive Don Waddell.

"I'm very thrilled to have the opportunity to help out any way I can," said Bowman. "They did a phenomenal job in the team they prepared for Vancouver, coming so close to the gold medal. We're certainly aiming to repeat that performance, but it's not an easy task. There's a lot of players to evaluate and try to assemble to compete against the other great countries. It's an opportunity for me to be exposed to different things and contribute to not only the Olympic team, but the World Championship team."

The next event for which Bowman and the six others will need to assemble a team for is the IIHF World Championships May 4-20 in Helsinki and Stockholm.

Blackhawks Opening Day roster starting to take shape

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Opening Day roster starting to take shape

The Blackhawks' Opening Day roster is starting to take shape.

With the Rockford IceHogs starting training camp on Sunday, the Blackhawks made a large wave of roster cuts over the weekend and trimmed their roster from 51 players to 33.

Let's take a look at the remaining list:

Forwards (17):
— Artem Anisimov
— Alex DeBrincat
— Victor Ejdsell
— Alexandre Fortin
— John Hayden
— Matthew Highmore
— Luke Johnson
— Dominik Kahun
— David Kampf
— Patrick Kane
— Marcus Kruger
— Chris Kunitz
— Andreas Martinsen
— Brandon Saad
— Nick Schmaltz
— Dylan Sikura
— Jonathan Toews

Defensemen (12):
— Adam Boqvist
— Carl Dahlstrom
— Brandon Davidson
— Gustav Forsling
— Erik Gustafsson
— Henri Jokiharju
— Duncan Keith
— Brandon Manning
— Connor Murphy
— Jan Rutta
— Brent Seabrook
— Joni Tuulola

Goaltenders (4):
— Corey Crawford
— Collin Delia
— Anton Forsberg
— Cam Ward

Of those 33, Forsling and Murphy are expected to start the season on injured reserve. It's unclear whether Crawford will be ready by that point too. That means seven more cuts need to be made for the Blackhawks to reach the 23-man limit.

A few things to note: Joel Quenneville reiterated on Sunday that they will not carry eight defensemen, which eliminates a spot on the back end. He also said the hope is to have 22 players rather than 23 — to avoid having three healthy scratches every night — but that will likely depend on who's most deserving of the vacant spots. If three players are deserving of being on, it wouldn't seem fair to cut one simply because they want to stay at 22 even though it would be beneficial to have whoever is sitting out play meaningful minutes in Rockford.

Up front, five guys appear to be battling for one or two spots: Fortin, Highmore, Johnson, Kampf and Kahun. Each of them have made a solid case to stay.

Kahun was promoted to the top line with DeBrincat and Toews during Sunday's practice, indicating they've liked what they've seen from him and are giving him a stronger look at what he can do in a top-six role.

"He's coming off a real good game the other night in Ottawa," Quenneville said of Kahun. "He can play basically all three positions, I thought he played well at center. But I want to see how handles playing up there and playing some top guys. I think he sees plays, makes plays. We'll see how well he complements them."

It's also worth noting there's a clause in Kahun's contract that allows him to return to Europe if he doesn't make the team out of camp, but even if he didn't, he has been one of the standouts from the young crop and it's unlikely the Blackhawks would keep him around strictly because of that. He's earned his way if he's one of the 23 left standing.

At the same time, Johnson has been equally impressive and could be fighting for the 13th or 14th forward spot if the Blackhawks choose to go that direction.

"He’s really improved each year, how he’s trained, how he’s taking care of himself, his quickness in the game," Quenneville said of Johnson, who said he dropped a lot of weight this summer. "Bigger, stronger, faster. He always had a pretty good head for the game but he’s got some bite to his game as well and has made some nice plays. Some physicality, some tight areas. From the faceoff circle, he’s been really effective."

On the back end, Boqvist, Dahlstrom, Davidson, Jokiharju and Tuulola are essentially vying for two spots. At this point, it's hard not to see Jokiharju making it. But Dahlstrom and Davidson have also each done their part so far on making these decisions difficult on the coaching staff.

There also remains the possibility of Boqvist staying on and playing in a few regular-season games — up to nine before burning the first year of his entry-level deal — before getting sent to the OHL's London Knights. Quenneville said there's a "good chance" he plays in each of the remaining three preseason games at the United Center and will re-evaluate then. Boqvist took several shifts with Keith at practice on Sunday, so don't be surprised to see the two of them together during one of the preseason games to see how Boqvist handles playing against top competition and with high-end players.

It's all up for grabs.

In goal, Quenneville has already been on record saying he doesn't plan on carrying three goaltenders, so a decision will have to be made on whether Delia or Forsberg will back up Ward if Crawford isn't ready to go. Forsberg might have the inside track because of experience along with the fact he'd have to clear waivers if he were to be sent to Rockford, but Delia has been sharp and it showed during Friday's preseason game in Ottawa.

"He’s done a real good job," Quenneville said of Delia. "Last year was a good year for him as far as getting stabilized and being a pro and getting a lot of net, and did a really good job of getting [Rockford] in the playoffs. He’s coming off a special game the other night, and he can do some pretty neat things. But [Forsberg] has had a good camp as well. We’ll see how it all plays out. Those things are going to get answered for us either by performance or time.

"We’re in a winning business. Sometimes it’s who’s more deserving. We know with goalies, time is probably beneficial, but at the same time, if a young kid’s ready to go, we don’t want to get in their way."

All of this could get interesting if Crawford is, indeed, cleared to play by Oct. 4. He has yet to practice with the team after skating on his own with goaltending coach Jimmy Waite for a little more than a week now, but Quenneville said Crawford had a "real good day" on Sunday and didn't rule out the possibility of him joining the team this week.

Anton Forsberg to tribute Avicii with new mask

Anton Forsberg to tribute Avicii with new mask

Goaltender masks are often a place for artistic expression and tribute. Blackhawks goalie Anton Forsberg is adding his own touching tribute this season.

The 25-year-old Swedish goalie chose to tribute Avicii with an image of the musician on his goalie mask. Avicii, a fellow Swede, died by suicide in April.

David Gunnarsson, a professional mask artist, did the art for Forsberg's mask and posted it on Instagram.

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Today we have the honor to present Anton Forsberg´s new Blackhawks mask for the coming season😊🥅. Anton knew what he wanted on his new mask, he wanted to pay tribute to the Swedish DJ legend Tim Bergling❤️, a.k.a Avicii, who recently passed away. Just as Anton I am also a big admirer of his music and person and family🙏🏻❤️. It was a huge honor for me to paint and create this painting together with Anton in honor to Avicii´s family, they were also the first to see this painting❤️. The rest of the mask is painted in an old school and clean style, and on the other side of the mask Anton`s best friend pop up and makes him company in the net. @antonforsbeerg @nhlblackhawks @nhl @daveart

A post shared by David Gunnarsson (@daveart) on

According to Tracey Myers of NHL.com, Forsberg asked Avicii's parents for permission before going ahead with it.

"I've always listened to his music and have been a big fan of it," Forsberg said. "For me, there was no hesitation putting him on the mask."

Forsberg wore last season's mask in his preseason debut in Detroit on Thursday so he hasn't shown off the new gear just yet. That may need to wait for the regular season.