Despite lengthy rest, Blackhawks remain focused on Ducks


Despite lengthy rest, Blackhawks remain focused on Ducks

The Blackhawks have enjoyed a rare postseason privilege this week: off days.

While the Eastern Conference second-round series continue on Tuesday, the Blackhawks have relaxed, practiced a time or two, and relaxed some more. As far as getting completely away from hockey, however, the Blackhawks aren’t doing that.

“You don’t want to let your mind wander too much,” Jonathan Toews said. “When you have your sights set on your next opponent and you know when the date is, it’s great to be able to snap back into it and knowing, the couple days leading up to it you need to be where you would be if it was a game day.

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The Blackhawks don’t know the dates yet but they do know their opponent. And whether practicing or taking an off day, their minds are completely focused on the Anaheim Ducks right now.

The extended time off presents a challenge: get rest but stay sharp. Coach Joel Quenneville has never been big on lengthy practices; a “long” practice runs about 45 minutes. But when the Blackhawks do practice they’re not coasting out there.

“Sometimes you’ve got to make sure you balance it when it gets a little longer… where it’s almost, let’s try something different in practice, simulate a game situation,” Quenneville said. “Or we get the feel of the puck, feel of the play, that first game type of intensity that’s going to be there.”

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Whenever a team is off for a while, there’s the inevitable question: will players be rusty when they do return? The Blackhawks had six days off between finishing their first-round series against the Nashville Predators to starting their second-round session vs. the Minnesota Wild. That layoff didn’t hurt them; the Blackhawks scored three goals in the first period of Game 1. Given the gravity of the postseason, the Blackhawks should be ready when this series starts, too.

“You kind of get in that routine of every-other-day games and getting that momentum and playing, getting into the games. It’s kinda tough [with time off], but it’s also nice to have the rest,” Bryan Bickell said. “These last practices have been a good pace and it gets us ready for the game.”

The Blackhawks have enjoyed their days off, from Bickell’s day of fishing to players spending time with family and friends. But at this time of year, the game and the next opponent is never too far in the back of their minds.

“It’s nice to be here, sleep in your own bed and not a hotel, things like that,” Duncan Keith said. “[But] you’re always focused on hockey no matter what, watching the games and thinking about the next series.”

If Brent Seabrook returns, where does he fit in Blackhawks' postseason lineup?

If Brent Seabrook returns, where does he fit in Blackhawks' postseason lineup?

According to a report from The Athletic on Saturday, Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook is making a run at returning for the team's July 13 training camp and the NHL's 24-team playoff format beginning August 1.

At the start of the league's postseason, the Hawks are slated to take on the Edmonton Oilers in a best-of-5 play-in series. 

In taking on the league's top two leaders in points at the time of the NHL pause on March 11 (Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid), the Hawks will take all the help on D they can get.

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Seabrook certainly has the experience of playing against and trying to shut down the NHL's best players on big stages and in big series during the Chicago's long Cup runs.

If he's fully recovered from his right shoulder and left and right hip surgeries, he could be a lot more mobile as well. 

Where the veteran defenseman plugs into the lineup largely depends on how Calvin de Haan progresses.

de Haan, who underwent right shoulder surgery in December, joined the Blackhawks for small group skates and off-ice workouts on Thursday and is expected to be ready for camp too.

If all goes well for de Haan and he's available for the series, along with Seabrook, you could expect to see the two together as the Hawks' second pairing, where they logged time before their surgeries.

Rookie Adam Boqvist had been playing on the right of Duncan Keith for a while before the pause. Seabrook and Olli Maata didn't complement each other very well when paired together, but Seabrook and de Haan were a sound unit earlier in the season.

So here's how the D pairings could look against the Oilers:

de Haan-Seabrook

Youngster Lucas Carlsson could also be in on D with a strong showing leading up to the pause and Slater Koekkoek had some noticeable games on the Hawks' blue line as well this season. 

Percentage of NHL's COVID-19 positive test results remains steady

Percentage of NHL's COVID-19 positive test results remains steady

On Monday, the NHL provided the results from the latest COVID-19 tests it administered. 

In total, 396 players (slightly more than half the ones participating in NHL's 24-team playoff format) that have returned to practice or training facilities have been tested for COVID-19 through over 2,900 tests.

As of Monday, the total tests have resulted in 23 returning confirmed positive cases for the virus. 

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In the release, the NHL also stated that since Phase 2 began on June 8 the league is aware of 12 additional players testing positive outside of the Phase 2 protocol, who are said to be self-isolating and following CDC and Health Canada guidelines. 

The numbers showed a 5.8 percent infection rate out of the tests given both inside and outside of group practices, roughly the same as last week despite an additional 1,400-plus tests taken over the past week.