Blackhawks

Loud Hawks already passing chemistry test

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Loud Hawks already passing chemistry test

DENVER -- Patrick Sharp has noticed the increased "noise" level with these Chicago Blackhawks.

"We were just flying over from Phoenix (and later) sitting on the bus there's a lot of hooting and hollering. A lot of guys are having fun with each other and it's just two weeks into the season," Sharp said. "That's a good sign. The chemistry's there."

And apparently, so is the fun again.

The Blackhawks are halfway through their first road trip, a two-game stint that wraps up Thursday night when they play the Colorado Avalanche. The road is a good time for longtime team members and new acquisitions to gel, to get to know each other. But with this year's group of Blackhawks, that camaraderie was evident on and off the ice before they even hit the road.

"It feels comfortable. There's no separation between new players and players that have been here for a while," Jonathan Toews said recently. "We haven't spent a lot of time on the road but everyone's getting to know each other pretty well whether hanging around or outside the rink. There's a togetherness and we're feeling that on the ice, too."

That feeling was missing for most of last season. The Blackhawks didn't have a bad locker room in 2010-11, they just had a quiet one. A too-quiet one. The massive turnover was one reason, the youth on the roster was another. Guys were young and unsure where they even fit into the lineup and probably not confident in piping up.

The latest "new guys" aren't new to the NHL. Their games and personalities were established well before they joined the Blackhawks. So now, as much as the Blackhawks have balance on the ice they have personality off it. And everyone is appreciating the more energetic and talkative room.

"You go back a couple years ago, guys enjoyed being around each other. This group is a lot more vocal," coach Joel Quenneville said. "There's a lot more noise on the buses and planes we didn't see last year and that's a good thing. It'll probably get more entertaining and amusing as we go along."

There's no doubt this is a different room this season. You see it and hear it when you walk in; these guys talk, they joke, they make themselves heard. And if they're doing that during the practice days, they're probably doing it more during game intermissions, too.

The newest Blackhawks have felt welcome from the start. Sean O'Donnell enjoyed a good-natured ribbing from his new teammates when he turned 40 last week. Daniel Carcillo has certainly added to the room's buzz. Jamal Mayers said it's easy for the veterans to mesh with these Blackhawks.

"The leadership group here was already established. We just want to be pieces of the puzzle," he said. "The honest truth is you just want to be authentic and yourself and do the things you have your whole career. You just come into the room and be yourself."

The Blackhawks have found their voices again. The "noise" is back, and it's a welcome sound.

Briefly

Corey Crawford will start against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night.

Marian Hossa came out of Wednesday night's game fine after missing Saturday with an upper-body injury. He was practicing again on Thursday.

Recently retired Kris Versteeg to be honored before Blackhawks game

Recently retired Kris Versteeg to be honored before Blackhawks game

Kris Versteeg recently retired and now the Blackhawks are honoring him with the team’s “One More Shift.”

Versteeg began the season with the Blackhawks’ AHL affiliate, the Rockford IceHogs, but retired in November after playing six games for the IceHogs this season.

The 33-year-old wrote an emotional letter to the Blackhawks organization after requesting his contract with Rockford be terminated.

Versteeg will be honored before Sunday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. He will join the team on the ice for the national anthem and highlights of his career will be featured in the United Center.

Versteeg won two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, in 2010 and 2015. He is part of the Blackhawks celebrating the 10-year anniversary of that 2010 Cup win. Brian Campbell was given the same treatment on Nov. 21.

The first 10,000 fans into the UC can get replicas of the 2010 ring.

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Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane visit recovering Chicagoland hockey player for the holidays

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USA Today

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane visit recovering Chicagoland hockey player for the holidays

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane recently surprised recovering hockey player Payton Bruns in the hospital, spreading some cheer across Chicagoland this holiday season. The players spent time with Bruns and his family talking hockey and his recovery.

“I had no clue that they were coming,” Bruns told the camera.

Bruns cited Kane as one of his favorite players, making this moment even sweeter.

You can watch the heartwarming video here.

Bruns, a senior at Lincoln-Way East High School in Frankfort, broke two of his vertebrae sliding into the boards while chasing down a loose puck this past September. He was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery and has since been recovering and doing physical therapy at the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab in Chicago.  

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