Blackhawks

DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Kane second line opens its (potential) show vs. Red Wings

DeBrincat-Schmaltz-Kane second line opens its (potential) show vs. Red Wings

Coach Joel Quenneville has seen the second line of Alex DeBrincat, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane in a few practices and scrimmages thus far. Now he’ll test them against the opposition.

The trio is expected to be together when the Blackhawks face the Detroit Red Wings tonight at the United Center. Whether this becomes a line in the near future or further down the road (the more likely scenario), it’s a chance to see what the combination of speed and skill can do against another lineup, albeit against a prospect-laden Red Wings roster.

“Yeah, looking forward to seeing that group, Schmaltzy with Kaner is something I want to see as well,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “You’re looking for how guys connect as a pair or as line mates. Maybe there’s some chemistry you develop during a game like this.”

Quenneville’s additional look at Schmaltz and Kane is another reminder that the second-line, left-wing spot is the Blackhawks’ new “lottery spot.” DeBrincat is there now and he Schmaltz and Kane are definitely worth a look at this point of the preseason. The plusses are evident: some speed and plenty of skill. The biggest minus would be the lack of size on that line and faceoffs, which are going to be a work in progress for this team overall this season.

Still, the focus right now is what that line could do, be it in the immediate future or later down the road. While Kane is the veteran of the line, he doesn’t foresee having to do a lot of tutelage.

“Sometimes they ask a lot of questions throughout scrimmages and different things,” he said. “Right now you tell them to play their own game. The coaches will take them aside and tell them how to play and as time goes on, when they get more comfortable and even before the season you start talking about things you can work on or things that may be effective throughout the game. But not too much now. I just let them do their own thing.”

DeBrincat said he learned a lot from last year’s training camp that he tried to apply in his final season with the Erie Otters, from improving his overall game to taking better care of himself off the ice. As far as teaming with Kane and Schmaltz, he’ll go with what’s worked for him up to this point.

“Those two guys are very skilled players and for me, I’m just trying to find some open ice and get into open areas to where they can pass to me because both are tremendous passers,” he said. “I just have to find my areas and read off them.”

Thursday’s preseason home opener was about getting good looks, the one Quenneville will take of that whole second line – and of Kane and Schmaltz – and to see if that combination can generate anything off the good looks they’ll get against the Red Wings. For DeBrincat it’s a chance to see what he can do at the next level and whether it earns him something big now or later.

“I just wanted to get my chance and I think they’re giving me as many chances as they can,” DeBrincat said. “Hopefully I can just run away with it and do what I do.”

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup champion Michal Handzus to retire from professional hockey

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AP

Blackhawks 2013 Stanley Cup champion Michal Handzus to retire from professional hockey

Michal Handzus, who helped the Blackhawks win a Stanley Cup in 2013 as the second-line center, is officially hanging up the skates.

The 41-year-old forward hasn't played in the NHL since the 2013-14 season but spent the last three years with Banska Bystrica HC 05 in Slovakia, where he was a part of the championship-winning team in 2016-17. He sat out the 2017-18 campaign and has decided to call it quits for good.

Handzus played with six teams in his first 13 NHL seasons, including eight games with the Blackhawks in 2006-07, before getting reacquired by Chicago in 2013 at the trade deadline for a fourth-round draft pick and it turned out to be one of the more underrated acquisitions in the league that year. He had one goal and five assists in 11 regular-season games, then accumulated 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 23 postseason contests and found himself in the center of all the big moments.

In Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Detroit Red Wings, with the Blackhawks trailing the series 3-2, Handzus scored a crucial goal on the road in the opening minute of the third period to tie it up at 2-2, a game the Blackhawks went on to win to force a Game 7 back in Chicago. (We all know what the final result was in that one).

In Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins, with the Blackhawks trailing the series again 2-1, Handzus set the tone early on the road by scoring the game's first goal shorthanded when he buried a feed from Brandon Saad before taking a hard spill into the boards in an eventual 6-5 victory:

And then of course in Game 6, Handzus was the extra attacker for the first of two goals scored 17 seconds apart in Boston as the Blackhawks captured their second Stanley Cup in four years:

It was the first Stanley Cup win of Handzus' career, so naturally, he was the first player to receive Lord Stanley from captain Jonathan Toews:

That's not all.

Handzus re-signed with the Blackhawks on a one-year deal for the 2013-14 season, which would be his last in the NHL, and gave Chicago this double-overtime goal in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final to keep the Blackhawks' hopes alive:

Handzus isn't the name who jumps out when you think of the three titles in six years run but he's a player that certainly made strong contributions in a Blackhawks sweater and delivered in key playoff moments.

Chris Chelios joins Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field to honor Stan Mikita

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AP

Chris Chelios joins Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field to honor Stan Mikita

The city of Chicago lost a sports icon earlier this month when Stan Mikita died at the age of 78 after a long illness. He's the all-time leading scorer in Blackhawks history with 1,467 points, but perhaps more importantly made as much of an impact off the ice as he did on it.

Former Blackhawks defenseman and current team ambassador Chris Chelios joined Pearl Jam on stage at Wrigley Field on Monday night, holding up a red No. 21 Mikita sweater to pay tribute to a Chicago legend.

Lead vocalist Eddie Vedder even dedicated the song "Come Back" to Mikita and his family, with the help of thousands of fans who paid homage by holding up their cell phones:

A touching moment.