Blackhawks

Hawks welcome Morrison, start him on second line

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Hawks welcome Morrison, start him on second line

VANCOUVER Brendan Morrison made the all-too-familiar walk through Rogers Arena on Monday afternoon. The newest Chicago Blackhawks forward, acquired from Calgary on Friday, spent eight seasons with the Canucks and is well aware of their game.

As far as this intense matchup between the Canucks and the Blackhawks, hell get a first-person account of that soon enough.

Morrison will be in the lineup, possibly on the second line, when the Blackhawks play the Canucks at Rogers Arena on Tuesday night. The veteran center said he feels good and is ready to go against his former team. And hes got a pretty good idea what kind of game its going to be.

Theyre very heated. Even as a fan those are fun games to watch. They have a pretty intense battle going, Morrison said. Theres nothing like jumping right into it tomorrow night. It should be a pretty good atmosphere.

Morrison did indeed center the second line with Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp in his first practice with the Blackhawks on Monday. Whether that stands for Tuesdays game Sharp is questionable for the game is uncertain. But no matter who Morrisons linemates are, coach Joel Quenneville said he wants the veteran to just play his game.

He doesnt have to do more than what hes always done: keep it simple and hell just grow with the group, he said. That line has the potential to really improve.

Morrison had some great years with the Canucks. He had career bests in goals (25), assists (46) and points (71) with them in 2002-03; he also put up his best postseason numbers that season, with 11 points in 14 games.

Canucks coach Alain Vigneault said parting with Morrison was tough.

I was a big fan of Brendan. He was a real piece of the foundation of this organization. Sometimes you have tough decisions to make and that was one of the tough ones we had, he said. I hope he does well, except for tomorrow night.

The game will certainly be intense. But Morrison will bring the calm demeanor and smart hockey sense hes had his entire career. And the thought of possibly playing with the likes of Hossa are appealing.

I dont know how much more help he needs; hes third in scoring in the league, Morrison said. But Ive been pretty lucky. Ive played with some high-end, talented guys. Ill just do what I do and try to get them the puck.

But the opportunity is there, and Morrisons ready for it. Hes done plenty in his career, save hoisting that Stanley Cup over his head. Now he has another shot at that.

I thought when I was here (in Vancouver) there was a good chance Id finish my career here. Since that time, who wouldve thought; the experiences Ive been able to have, Morrison said. As far as chances go this is as good a chance as Ive probably seen.

Erik Gustafsson is back to looking like player he was last season for Blackhawks

Erik Gustafsson is back to looking like player he was last season for Blackhawks

Less than three weeks ago, Erik Gustafsson fell out of the rotation for the Blackhawks. The offensive production wasn’t there and the defensive part of his game was trending in the wrong direction.

Since being healthy scratched on Nov. 2 against Los Angeles, Gustafsson has looked like a different player. He’s starting to resemble the impact-type player he was last season when he became one of six NHL defensemen to finish with at least 60 points.

And it’s because he’s getting back to his roots.

“I don’t know how, from a scratch, my confidence can get up so fast but I feel like myself a little bit more now,” Gustafsson told NBC Sports Chicago. “I got a video guy that I worked with last year and working with him right now and went back and looked at those videos a couple days ago and it's just a whole other player from last year and now. I just wanted to come back to that moment. I felt like I was having fun out there and not thinking too much.

“I think my defensive part is better than last year but I just want to get back to when I have the puck and I've felt pretty good now the past four games, so let's keep it going."

Gustafsson said that after morning skate on Wednesday. He followed it up by scoring his first goal of the season later that night in a 5-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, roofing a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to end a 16-game goal drought.

“He just looks much more confident with the puck,” head coach Jeremy Colliton said. “He’s cleaner. He still has a couple turnovers here and there but he’s going to turn it over every once in a while. We just want him to try to be as clean as he can and situationally manage when he’s going to try and do those things.”

It helps that Gustafsson is back to earning top minutes, which he admitted is beneficial because if he has a bad shift he doesn’t have to dwell on it too long. But Colliton is trying walk the line of giving Gustafsson enough rope to make mistakes while also holding him responsible for his play.

“It’s a balance,” Colliton said. “Because you’ve got to earn the minutes you get and if you’re not doing the job then your minutes will go down. But at the same time, I don’t believe that if you make one mistake you should get the hook. That’s a tough way to play when you’re always worried if I make one mistake, you’re going to be punished for it or whatever it may be. So as a coach, that’s the balance, the line we walk to try to get the most out of every player but also make sure there’s accountability.”

Earlier in the season, Gustafsson was consumed by trying to develop a defense-first mentality without taking away from his offensive instincts. Now he’s gotten back to focusing on the strengths of his game rather than the weaknesses, and it’s allowed him to play looser. 

"I think it was a lot of parts like moving my feet, skating,” Gustafsson said of what he noticed during video sessions of his play last season vs. this season. “It's a big part about my game, too. I have to skate a lot. Last year when I got a guy on me I just faked going one side and went to the other side and just skated and tried to find that open lane to pass it. And I think at the start of this season I just wanted to get rid of the puck right away. I don't know if it's just confidence or something, but I think I’m moving my feet much better now than I did my first 10 games."

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With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

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USA TODAY

With Connor Murphy set to return, Blackhawks reassign Adam Boqvist to Rockford

The Blackhawks announced Thursday morning that they have reassigned top defenseman prospect Adam Boqvist to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman appeared in six games for the Blackhawks and averaged 14:27 of ice time. He scored his first career NHL goal in his second appearance in a 3-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 2.

But with Connor Murphy (groin) eligible to come off long-term injured reserve on Saturday, the Blackhawks had to make a corresponding move to become cap compliant and Boqvist was the obvious candidate to be sent back down.

He’s still in the early stages of his development, but Boqvist certainly held his own at the NHL level during his brief stint. The Blackhawks want him to continue playing top pairing minutes and in all situations, and it would’ve been difficult for him to do that in Chicago with Murphy returning to the lineup.

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