Blackhawks

Hawk Talk: Q's game of roster 'Q & A'

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Hawk Talk: Q's game of roster 'Q & A'

Sunday, Sept. 26, 2010
6:10 PM

By Chris Boden
CSNChicago.com

Rejoining the hockey world didn't seem quite right over the past week. After all, the season just ended, like yesterday...it still felt like summer...and my car was just getting used to not driving itself to the United Center.

But Saturday night, a week after the Blackhawks took the ice for training camp, it started feeling normal again. A little chill was in the air walking into the UC. Once inside, the guys with the winged wheel on their chests prompted the usual chants from Hawks fans, even if their roster was more K-Wings than Red Wings. And there were a preseason franchise-record 20,000-plus in the house, booing even the announcement of a Chris Chelios Heritage Night. Hey, he's a member of Detroit management now.

Two more roster moves came Sunday to chop the camp body count to 35, as defenseman Shawn Lalonde and forward Chris DiDomenico were sent to Rockford. We're essentially halfway through what's a two-week minicamp, because after next Sunday's final warmup, it's time for the defending champs to crank it up. That phrase applies to the roster wanna-bes this week.

These exhibitions are an inexact science, occasionally grading prospects against other prospects, and other times against vets who'll teach 'em a lesson or two. Joel Quenneville has an interesting pool of candidates to choose from ahead of the puck-drop a week from Thursday in Denver. Some eye-openers in early scrimmages have quieted down in exhibitions. Others have stepped up. A year ago, Viktor Stalberg led the NHL in preseason scoring. Has he been doing enough other things to get noticed, even though he hasn't scratched the scoresheet yet? Does the same apply to Igor Makarov despite this being his first NHL camp, and the fact he found himself with a few good looks Saturday night? Is what we're seeing thus far out of perhaps the Next Jeremy Who Wears 27 transferable to a six-month NHL grind, 19 years young or not?

Not only is Jeremy Morin's skill (and production to this point) impressive, but he added an eye-opener for me with about four minutes left Friday night in Detroit. He lined up the Wings' Jonathan Ericsson along the boards, and knocked him on his padded pants to create a turnover. I don't know if the kid's making Quenneville's decision easy or tough if there's more of that Morin the final four games.

The other 19-year-old in camp has also played like he wants to skip the Rockford part, and his teammates are saying Nick Leddy shouldn't be settling for that, based on the speed and poise he's showing.

Time is on their side, but with that in mind, the braintrust has to weigh whether the best menkids win roster spots against specific roles that may need filling. Do you give all the guys who've been working and waiting in Rockford some extra rope, and the benefit of the doubt? How important is - and what options are there - filling the need for physical presence? Did Ryan Potulny show he can provide some of the same things as the guy who used to wear number 16, whether as a wing or a fourth-line center?

Well, at least we're not talking about goalies. That'll certainly come along sometime over the next six months, but Marty Turco's home deut as a Blackhawk was a good one. Sure, Detroit was without its snipers, but he showed a quickness, confidence and good glove. There will be times he'll skip hearts a beat with his aggressive puck-handling, but it inspired a positive buzz, even some applause from the crowd, saving his teammates some skating. Every athlete reaches a stage where public (and sometimes personal) doubt about the quality of their game increases with age. Turco wanted "in" here, proven by the contract he signed. Saturday night, at least, he played - and carried himself - like a goalie looking to take charge and make people look elsewhere for any concerns.

After all, it seems like his head coach has more pressing decisions to make.

A final note: If you're not able to make it to the United Center for the home openerbanner raising against Detroit, we'll have some 90 minutes of pregame programming on Comcast SportsNet October 9th, starting at 6 p.m. with "Stanley's Summer Vacation," a half-hour journey of the Stanley Cup's time with individual players. It includes our trips to Winnipeg and Buffalo for the days Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane spent with the Cup in their hometowns. At 6:30, we'll be on the concourse again for an hour-long edition of "Chevy Blackhawks PreGame Live," which will include the banner ceremony.

Report: Tommy Hawk attacked at the United Center

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USA TODAY

Report: Tommy Hawk attacked at the United Center

According to a report from the Chicago Sun-Times, the Blackhawks organization dealt with a disturbance off the ice during their 4-3 loss on Friday night to the Winnipeg Jets.

According to authorities, mascot ‘Tommy Hawk’ was attacked by a male fan around 11:15 PM on the United Center concourse.

A video of the incident was spreading on social media and the Chicago Police have since confirmed the disturbance.

No one is in custody as of Saturday evening, though there is a physical description of the alleged attacker.  

A Blackhawks spokesman gave this statement:

We are gathering the facts and will have no further comment at this time, pending our investigation.

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Four takeaways: Jets win in overtime, but Blackhawks building momentum

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-3 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Friday:

1. Top guns lead the charge for Jets

The Jets are one of the best teams in the NHL because they're absolutely loaded up front and get their scoring from everywhere. The Blackhawks know this of their Central Division foes and after seeing them for the third time in two weeks.

On Nov. 29, it was Nikolaj Ehlers who had a hat trick. On Tuesday, Kyle Connor had a two-goal night. On Friday, it was Mark Scheifele (two goals, one assist) and Blake Wheeler (three assists) leading the way for the Jets with three-point efforts. The top guys have been a thorn in the Blackhawks' side this season, with Scheifele scoring the game-winner 50 seconds into overtime for their third victory against Chicago in 15 days.

"You can play really well against them for 58 minutes, but it only takes just an instant and then it’s in the back of your net," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "That’s something that we gotta learn, to play against those guys and in those situations if you’re going to be able to go head-to-head. A lot of it we were really good, we had let downs and it made it tough for us. But we did a lot of good things."

2. Last-minute goals

In all three periods, there were last-minute goals that changed the flow of the game. 

After the Jets took a 1-0 lead in the first period, Jonathan Toews responded for the Blackhawks with 10.2 seconds left to even it at 1-1. In the second, Mathieu Perreault scored on a breakaway coming out of the penalty box with 18 seconds remaining to put the Jets back in front 3-2. And then in the third, Erik Gustafsson tied it at 3-3 with 7.5 left to force overtime. 

"It's tough after a loss in overtime, but it felt good," said Gustafsson, who missed the previous two games with an illness. "I didn't know it was 7 seconds left, but it was good to see it go in. ... It was good to be back here with the team, too. I wasn't in the last game. We came out hard the first period and I think we played a solid 60 minutes. Tough break in the overtime."

3. Captain Consistency

Toews usually produces on the scoresheet in spurts. Historically, he'll go through stretches where his offense dries up for several games in a row. And then he'll follow that up by getting really hot. This season has been different.

The Blackhawks captain's longest point drought this year is three games. After scoring two more goals, his season total is up to 16 through 34 games, taking over the team lead from Patrick Kane. He had 20 goals in 74 games last season, showing just how far he's come from a year ago.

Toews is on pace to finish with a career-high 39 goals — his current personal best is 34, set in 2008-09. The Blackhawks need him to continue producing at that rate, and there's no reason he can't.

"Our line played well and created a lot of chances," Toews said. "If it's me scoring or [Dominik Kahun] or [Brandon Saad], it doesn't really matter. As long as we're making plays when we've got the puck out there, we're happy about that."

4. Jets power play stays hot

The best advice when you play the Jets: Stay out of the penalty box. Because they'll make you pay.

Entering Friday, they had the top-ranked power play with a 30.4 percent success rate. The Blackhawks gave them three opportunities and they cashed in on one, giving them eight power-play goals on 17 attempts in their past four games (47.1 percent conversation rate). They also improved to 5-for-11 (45.5 percent) in three games against the Blackhawks.

To the Blackhawks' credit, they killed off two key penalties in the third period before the first TV timeout and it allowed them to keep it a one-goal game and ultimately force overtime by scoring the next goal.

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