Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling making a big impression on Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks

Gustav Forsling making a big impression on Joel Quenneville, Blackhawks

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville got his first good training-camp look at Gustav Forsling on Friday night, when the team was in Pittsburgh. It was a good one.

“He immediately impressed me [Friday], his poise his patience, his play recognition, he’s positionally aware, moves extremely well…. I was very happy with his game,” Quenneville said on Saturday. “The timing of him coming along in our organization, how fast he progresses will be determined with how he plays and how things work out. But certainly, I see a real nice defenseman and he could be one of those guys who could be really good.”

The Swedish defenseman, who played 22 minutes, 33 seconds and recorded an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night, is making a big impression right now. Quenneville praised him, saying he had a special game on Saturday. So did general manager Stan Bowman and assistant coach Kevin Dineen. The immediate problem is this: with the defensive depth restored on the Blackhawks, can he make this roster right now?

“Well, I got here two years ago and I don’t think anyone expected [Trevor van Riemsdyk] to step into our lineup, either,” assistant coach Kevin Dineen said following Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. “What I’ve seen it’s a performance-based organization. If he earns a role, we’ll find a spot for him.”

Forsling is well aware of the situation.

“I mean, we have a lot of good [defensemen] so it’s going to be tough,” Forsling said. “But I’m just trying to do my best and see how it goes.”

As written previously, the top six are fairly set: Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Brian Campbell, Brent Seabrook, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Kempny. If the Blackhawks choose to carry eight defensemen, and that’s always possible if the cap space allows it, Forsling could be part of the mix. Then again, if Forsling is only here for part-time work, would that be productive for his development?

“We're certainly going to see how he plays in these exhibition games. Whether he (would be) benefitted from going to Sweden? That's a great league, so if he does end up back there, he's going to continue to grow his game. But we haven't made that decision yet. We want to see how things go here,” Bowman said. “A lot can change in a couple weeks, in terms of health of players and how they play. We haven't determined that, but if he's not here I think Sweden's a great development league for him.”

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The immediate future may mean a return trip to Sweden for Forsling. But given the impression he’s made and his potential, a long-term future with the Blackhawks looks good.

“We like the depth of our blue line. We’re deeper than we’ve been in past years. The openings aren’t what they are up front. But over the course of a season, that position is definitely important and you always have to go deep at certain times,” Quenneville said. “How it plays out, initially, there’s time to be sorting that out. But we like the upside he brings and potentially, once he shows he’s a regular, he’s only going to get better off that.”

BRIEFLY

 

— Prior to the game the Blackhawks assigned forward Kyle Baun, and defensemen Dillon Fournier, Carl Dahlstrom, and Nolan Valleau to the Rockford IceHogs. They also released forward Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott, who will head to their respective junior teams (DeBrincat to the Erie Otters, Knott to the Niagara IceDogs). The team’s active roster now at 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and five goaltenders.

— Quenneville, who’s back after serving as assistant coach for Team Canada, talked of the World Cup of Hockey being “a great experience.” He especially appreciated the end of Game 2 against Team Europe; Brad Marchand scored the game- and tournament-winning goal with 43 seconds remaining in regulation. “Certainly, the ending reminded me of Boston, Game 6 [in 2013],” he said. “Definitely a fun way to go out.”

— The Blackhawks will be taking a young lineup to Detroit for Sunday’s game. “Not a lot of experienced guys going,” Quenneville said.

— Quenneville said Jonathan Toews, Corey Crawford and Marian Hossa will join the Blackhawks at training camp either Tuesday or Wednesday.

Blackhawks loan Henri Jokiharju to Finland for 2019 World Juniors

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AP

Blackhawks loan Henri Jokiharju to Finland for 2019 World Juniors

Henri Jokiharju has been one of the Blackhawks' most reliable defensemen this season. He ranks fourth on the club in even-strength ice time and is tied for second among team defensemen with 11 assists.

But at 19 years of age, he's eligible to play in the 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship for one last time and the Blackhawks loaned him to Team Finland on Tuesday to do exactly that. It's a chance to go up against the elite players at his own age from around the world and play in every situation.

"It's a great opportunity for him but also for our team," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "We're thinking about what kind of player he's going to be months down the road and years down the road. It's a chance for him to go there and be, if not the top player, one of the top players and help lead them to success, being a leader and being a top, top guy. You don't get those chances very often. He'll have the opportunity to be a big part of their team and make a lot of plays.

"He's a confident kid, but get more swagger in his game. Then when he comes back here he can contribute even more to our team."

Jokiharju recorded four points (two goals, two assists) in five games for Finland during last year's tournament; his four points ranked tied for first on his country's blue line. Finland's run ended in disappointing fashion, getting upset by the Czech Republic 4-3 in a shootout in the quarterfinals.

Jokiharju is expected to be a leader on this year's team, which is hoping to bounce back in a big way and make a real run at the championship. And the Blackhawks like that idea for his development, even though it takes away a key part of their back end.

"We're going to build this team to the highest level we can," Colliton said. "It's the best thing now for our team and also for him. If we're going to win, we need him to be a big part of our success, and so this is the right thing for his development. Then it's a no-brainer.

"He wants to be here. He wants to play in the NHL. It's the highest level. But he gets the chance to play for his country. Like we told him, they're so excited to have him. It's a lot of responsibility for him. It can really help him grow as a person and a leader and a player. He's got to embrace the opportunity, but I think he will and it can be a great experience for him."

The tournament will run from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, 2019 in Vancouver.

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Blackhawks vs. Predators: Start time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

Blackhawks vs. Predators: Start time, TV channel, live stream, how to watch

The Chicago Blackhawks got a big win against the Pittsburgh Penguins but have since dropped two games. The Blackhawks are looking to stop this skid to become a full on losing streak against the Nashville Predators on Tuesday night.

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they'll be without goaltender Corey Crawford, who was put on injured reserve after sustaining a head injury on Sunday night. Cam Ward will become the top goaltender and the Blackhawks recalled Collin Delia to get into the rotation as well.

Here is everything you need to know to watch all the Blackhawks coverage on NBC Sports Chicago.

HOW TO WATCH

ON TV: NBC Sports Network

Desktop/Laptop: NBCSportsChicago.com

Mobile/Tablet: MyTeams App by NBC Sports

TV SCHEDULE

7:00 PM: Blackhawks Pregame Live presented by ChevyDrivesChicago.com
7:30 PM: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Nashville Predators
10:00 PM: Blackhawks Postgame Live presented by Hyundai

GENERAL INFO

WHERE: United Center, Chicago, IL
WHEN: December 17, 7:30 p.m.

ANALYSIS AND REACTION

BEFORE THE GAME: At 7:00 p.m., Blackhawks Pregame Live presented by ChevyDrivesChicago.com gets you ready for the game with Pat Boyle in studio with Patrick Sharp, Adam Burish and Steve Konroyd. Watch NBC Sports Chicago or click here for the livestream.

IN BETWEEN PERIODS: Tune in to watch Boyle, Sharp, Burish and Konroyd breakdown the action after each period. Watch NBC Sports Chicago or click here for the livestream.

AFTER THE GAME: As soon as the game ends, stay tuned for Blackhawks Postgame Live presented by Hyundai for analysis, commentary and player reaction. Watch NBC Sports Chicago or click here for the livestream.

DURING THE GAME, FOLLOW US

Blackhawks Talk: @NBCSBlackhawks
NBC Sports Chicago: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

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