Blackhawks

Comfort brings out confidence in Blackhawks rookies

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Comfort brings out confidence in Blackhawks rookies

DETROIT The young Blackhawks filed out of the locker room on Saturday afternoon as Patrick Kane talked of their impact. Considering their ages and how many of them there are, the rookies have the 23-year-old Kane feeling like the Blackhawks elder statesman.

Theyre awesome. Theyre great for the team and real high-energy guys who bring a lot of enthusiasm, said Kane, whos usually joking around with Jimmy Hayes at the adjacent locker back home. Its fun to have a couple young guys around who appreciate being here and do whatever it takes to play the game. You can see that with a lot of them.

And you can see the impact that energy, that fire has had on the Blackhawks recently. For all the pressure facing the young guys theyve handled it well, from Andrew Shaws strong return to Hayes and Brandon Bolligs presence on that bruising, physical fourth line.

You look at each case, theyve been helping our team, Quenneville said. Theres a lot to play for and there should be incentive across the board; they all should take advantage of great situation. Whether youre getting 8 minutes or 30 minutes, lets take advantage of it.

Dave Bolland, whos had Shaw on his checking line, said, right now its a learning experience but they take a bit (of work) off some of the vets. Theyve been working hard, doing what they do best and I think theyre doing a great job.

The young guys have done well in their latest trial by fire. Games are dwindling and the Blackhawks are in a precarious playoff position, but the rookies arent fazed. Theyve all played by the same mantra: keep it simple, stick to what you know and just bring the energy. And the veterans have appreciated the jolt.

Theyve been great. I know getting called up it can always be a little nerve-wracking, especially for the first time, said Duncan Keith, whos noticed how fellow defenseman Dylan Olsen has improved in his short time here.

Hes gotten better and better. You can see hes getting more confident on and off the ice, Keith said. The more comfortable they are with their surroundings the more confident they are. I look at him, especially, because defenseman is a tough position. He got thrown into the fire and hes played well.

The young guys are going to go through their ups and downs. Shaw, Hayes and Olsen have been called up, sent to Rockford and recalled this season. Theyve been going through some pretty sturdy tests during this stretch run. So far, theyve earned the veterans seal of approval.

Theres some learning and energy mistakes, but hopefully the technical part of our game is consistent, Quenneville said. There are going to be mistakes, for sure, for young guys. You dont mind if theyre doing it at a high pace.

Five games to circle: Blackhawks to appear on national TV a league-high 19 times in 2018-19

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USA TODAY

Five games to circle: Blackhawks to appear on national TV a league-high 19 times in 2018-19

Despite missing the playoffs for the first time in a decade, the Blackhawks will appear on national television a league-high 19 times during the 2018-19 season, NBC Sports announced on Monday. Eleven of them will appear exclusively on NBC or NBCSN, with the other eight on NBC Sports Chicago in the Chicago area.

Eight of the 19 games will also land on "Wednesday Night Hockey," which will replace "Wednesday Night Rivalry" as part of NBC Sports' most diverse exclusive schedule to date that will include a total of 109 games. 

Here are five games to circle from the 11 games that will be aired exclusively on national TV, in order of how they appear on the schedule:

1. The new-look Blues — Nov. 14 vs. St. Louis at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

There might not have been a team in the Central Division that had a stronger offseason than the Blues. After failing to secure a postseason berth for the first time since 2010-11, they went out a traded for top-six center Ryan O'Reilly, signed Tyler Bozak to ensure even more depth down the middle, and added power forwards Patrick Maroon and David Perron to round out their top-nine. Not to mention the offensively skilled Robby Fabbri will be returning to the lineup after missing the entire 2017-18 campaign with an ACL injury. It'll be a nice early test for the Blackhawks.

2. Three Cups vs. three Cups — Dec. 12 vs. Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. on NBCSN

Whenever the Blackhawks and Penguins get together it's always a fun battle to watch because there's so much firepower sharing the same sheet of ice: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews. That's five future Hall of Famers right there. There's also the fact that they are tied for most Stanley Cups in the salary cap era with three, adding some extra juice between two teams that don't often see each other.

3. Winter Classic — Jan. 1 vs. Boston at 12 p.m. on NBC at Notre Dame Stadium

For the sixth time in franchise history, the Blackhawks will appear in an outdoor game. But they haven't had much luck in those games, losing four of the previous five, including all three of their Winter Classic appearances. The Bruins are 1-1 in outdoor games and will look to break the .500 mark in a rematch of the memorable 2013 Stanley Cup Final — at least for the city of Chicago — and Original Six showdown.

4. The defending champion Capitals come to town — Jan. 20 at 11:30 a.m. on NBC

Any time the reigning champions visit your city, it's a game you know you can't take off. Especially since it's the Game of the Week. Alex Ovechkin fell one goal shy of hitting the 50-goal mark for the eighth time in his NHL career at age 32 last season, but it was still good enough to win his seventh "Rocket" Richard Trophy. More importantly, he scored 15 goals and added 12 assists in 24 postseason contests to help lead the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup and took home the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the playoffs while doing so. He's still the greatest goal scorer in hockey — perhaps even of all time — and that's a reason in and of itself why it's a must-watch, even though in his last game against Chicago he was held without a shot attempt for the first time in his NHL career.

5. Rekindling an old rivalry with Red Wings — Feb. 20 at Detroit at 6:30 p.m. on NBCSN

Ever since the NHL realigned the divisions in 2013-14, the Blackhawks and Red Wings get to see each other only twice per season — once at home and once on the road. No two teams in NHL history have squared off more than these two, so it's certainly been an adjustment. But fans know how deep this rivalry goes, and every time they do clash, there's a playoff-like atmosphere in the building and you can feel it through your television screen as well. This will likely be no different.

Check out the Blackhawks' full national television schedule here:

Remembering Stan Mikita: Through the eyes of a Blackhawks fan

Remembering Stan Mikita: Through the eyes of a Blackhawks fan

I grew up at the Chicago Stadium.

My early memories included walking up the winding stairwell to the first balcony. Sixty nine total steps (I looked it up), but for a young kid, it seemed like a thousand.

Section G, Row B, Seats 1-4. On the corner, where the Blackhawks shot twice…my dad’s season tickets for more than 35 years.

Back then, the majority of home games were on Sunday and Wednesday nights.
 
Early on, we would leave halfway through the third period because I usually had school the next day. That eventually changed as my dad realized I was turning into a diehard Blackhawks fan, and didn't want to miss one minute. Monday and Thursday mornings were a struggle waking up, but well worth it to stay until the final horn the night before.
 
Hockey nights at the stadium were an education for me. Learning the game that I grew up to love, memorizing all the players’ names, the numbers on the sweaters, and learning ‘new’ words from fans sitting around us yelling at the referee.

But it was more than just the game that I came to appreciate — it was the history of the stadium and the team.
 
As a kid not even 10 years old, my eyes and mind wandered around the stadium. The bright lights, the unique sound of the pipe organ, the vendor yelling ‘beer man’, I soaked it all in.

There was a gentleman who had season tickets down the row from us who liked to drink his beer, and when he would squeeze through the aisle with a refill, he would yell ‘hot coffee’, so people would give him room to walk. Everyone laughed.

That memory is still fresh today, along with the fan who showed up to every game with a Blackhawks jersey over the button down collared dress shirt he wore to work earlier in the day.
 
The banners that hung from the rafters: Norris Division winners, Campbell Conference championships, Stanley Cup titles, and two lone banners with 21 and 9 sewn on them. This is when I began learning about Stan Mikita the man, not just the hockey player.
 
It took me until now to realize that my dad loved talking the game of hockey with me, because it gave him a chance to talk about his hockey heroes when he was a kid. At the age of 21, my dad experienced the 1961 championship with Mikita and Bobby Hull raising the cup.
 
He taught me about the game, but also shared stories about his favorite players. Mikita was one of them. He was a great stick handler and could skate around players with ease.

Years after his retirement, while we were at a charity game, Mikita took the ice with a puck tied to his stick. Just like in his prime, no one could steal the puck from No. 21.

While my dad saw him rack up franchise records in games (1,396), assists (926) and points (1,467), I witnessed more of his off-ice contributions to the community and charities.

What seemed like a lifetime ago, but probably 30 years, we would drive to ice arenas like the ‘Skatium’ in Skokie and Northbrook Sports Center to watch Blackhawk alumni and current players take on a team made up of hearing impaired players. 

They were light-hearted games, but you knew both teams wanted to win. Even though Mikita had been retired for years, it was special to see him on the ice. I wish I would have appreciated it more at the time.

My dad explained to me about Stan’s involvement with the hearing impaired. After learning a teammate’s son was born partially deaf, Mikita was determined to start a hockey school that eventually evolved into the American Hearing Impaired Association.
 
His charity work started during his career, and continued on a larger scale after he hung up the skates. A lot of players fade out of the limelight after retirement, but it was the exact opposite for Mikita. I think my dad grew to respect Mikita even more after his playing career.

Like thousands of Blackhawk fans I was saddened to hear of Mikita's passing last Tuesday.

The news hit me harder than I thought it would, because I realized the impact Stan had on the relationship with my dad growing up. I am grateful for all the experiences early in my life, and miss them at the same time.

No one lives forever, but I wish some of the great ones could.