Michal Rozsival ready to take whatever role Blackhawks give him

Michal Rozsival ready to take whatever role Blackhawks give him

Michal Rozsival didn’t think he’d be back this season.

The veteran defenseman didn’t know what the future held for him, but he trained as if he’d get a chance somewhere. And while he knows he may have a different role with the Blackhawks than he has in years past, he’s happy to do whatever the team asks.

“Obviously with my age, I’ve been in this role before. My last two or three years here I didn’t know what my role will be. But always told the coaches and management that I’ll play and if they need me I’m ready,” said Rozsival following the Blackhawks’ opening day of training camp on Friday. “I’m ready to do what they want me to do, whether it’s play 20 games, 30, 40 or 50 games.”

The Blackhawks’ defensive depth is stronger this season, thanks in large part to the Blackhawks signing Brian Campbell this offseason. Trevor van Riemsdyk and Erik Gustafsson gained experience last year and the Blackhawks hope to see Michal Kempny, signed this offseason, make an impact.

General manager Stan Bowman, speaking in early July, said, “Rozsival’s at a different stage but he brings a lot to the table. His role won’t be the role it was in previous years in terms of minutes or games but he can still play.” Rozsival can also help fellow Czech Kempny adjust to his new home and language. Rozsival said he doesn’t know Kempny very well yet but has seen him play.

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“I feel he’s a good hockey player and he’s had some good seasons in Europe. So I’m just waiting to see what it’ll be like when he gets here and how he’s going to adjust,” Rozsival said. “But he’s a good hockey player so I’m thinking he won’t have a problem adjusting.”

Asked if he was willing to be a translator for Kempny, Rozsival said, “I’ll do my best, for sure.”

First impressions

With several players still at the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto, the Blackhawks coaches saw what some of the prospects had to offer on Friday. One to watch for is Alexandre Fortin. A native of Quebec, Fortin impressed during the Blackhawks’ prospect camp this summer. He scored a goal in the team’s scrimmage today.

“Nice set of hands,” said assistant coach Mike Kitchen of Fortin. “He’s here on a tryout so we’ll keep a close eye on him. He had a good day today. Good speed, stick. We’ll keep a close eye.”

Not here yet

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Kempny were not at Friday’s training camp opener. Kitchen said the three may get some down time before joining the Blackhawks.

“We’re just going to give them some time off, play it by ear,” he said. “They’ve been going since September 1, and even prior to that. We have to make sure we say to them, if they need time [take it], especially Kane with the amount of time he gets with us, the responsibility and what he went through at the World Cup. Guys like Pokka and Kempny might want to get on the ice a little bit earlier, although Patrick’s a rink rat and loves to be on the ice. That may be a coach’s choice.”

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Brandon Saad's breakout game

After turning in one of his best efforts of the season on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks rewarded Saad with a promotion to the top-six again. And he took advantage of that opportunity.

In the first period alone, Saad recorded four shots on goal, scored his first of the season on the power play, drew a penalty and had a takeaway in 7:42 of ice time, which led all forwards. He finished with nine shot attempts (a season-high seven on goal) and 18:56 of ice time.

On his power-play goal, Saad battled for position in front of the net, called for the puck and scored on his second effort. He did all the right things and got rewarded, including on the empty-netter that sealed the victory.

"I've had some chances, especially as of late," Saad said. "But it's definitely nice for them to get in and get a win on top of that."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "He was excellent tonight. ... I thought he had great speed all over the ice, had the puck way more. We’re happy for him. Big factor in the win."

2. Erik Gustafsson's slap-pass becoming a thing

For the second time this season, Gustafsson contributed to a game-winning goal that involved a fake shot and slap-pass from the point. Patrick Kane was the recipient of the cross-ice pass and buried home the one-timer from the right faceoff circle

"I can’t score by myself, so it’s better to pass it," Gustafsson joked. "No, I know Kaner is out there. He’s always getting open when someone else has the puck so it’s easy to find him and there was one guy in front of me so I wanted to pass it."

3. Blackhawks cut down on high-danger chances

On Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks allowed 25 high-danger chances at even strength. It put them at the very bottom of the league for most on average per game, ironically falling below Anaheim.

Through two periods on Tuesday, the Blackhawks allowed zero and only five at 5-on-5 for the entire game. Certainly a 180 from two nights ago, and an area they will continue to build upon.

"We just took away those quality chances," said Corey Crawford, who made 24 saves and picked up his first win at home since Dec. 17, 2017. "I don't think they really had too many where they had time in front of the net to really think about where they wanted to shoot and our guys were on the right away in the middle of the ice and that'll give you a great chance to win a hockey game."

4. Special teams battle

There were a total of 20 penalty minutes (10 for Anaheim, 10 for Chicago), which meant lots of power play opportunities and not as much even-strength time.

The Blackhawks had four of them in the first period, and converted on the second try when Saad scored his first of the season. The penalty killed went 4-for-4, allowing a combined eight combined shots on goal but limiting the quality chances.

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Blackhawks assign Anton Forsberg to Rockford after clearing waivers

Anton Forsberg cleared waivers on Tuesday morning and was assigned to the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League.

That's good news for the Blackhawks organizational depth chart, with Forsberg as the No. 3 in goal. But it also complicates things in Rockford, where Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen have been sharing the duties.

Delia is 3-1-0 with a 3.26 goals against average and .910 save percentage while Lankinen is 0-1-1 with a 3.39 GAA and .825 save percentage. Perhaps the most likely scenario is Lankinen gets sent to the ECHL with the Indy Fuel while Delia and Forsberg split the load in Rockford.

It's certainly a good problem to have, but it's still unclear how that dynamic will play out.

"We haven’t talked about that," coach Joel Quenneville said. "But we expect [Forsberg] to play."

Luke Johnson recalled

With a spot opening up on the 23-man roster, Johnson is being brought back up after he was squeezed out by Corey Crawford's return. He had a goal and an assist in two games with Rockford.

Brandon Saad returns to top-six role

After turning in arguably his best performance of the season on Sunday, Saad is back playing on the second line with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane. He had seven shot attempts (three on goal) against Tampa Bay and led the team in 5-on-5 possession numbers.

"[Saad] is coming off a game where we liked what we saw," Quenneville said. "Playing with Kaner can help him get going."

Nick Schmaltz to play right side for first time in NHL career

Eight games into the season and Schmaltz has spent time at both center and left wing. Now he'll get a look on the right side with Alexandre Fortin on the left and David Kampf centering the third line.

Part of the reason for Schmaltz’s move to the right side was because Quenneville said they like Fortin on the left. It's not unfamiliar territory for Schmaltz, but could take some time getting used to.

"I played a little while back, not sure when," Schmaltz said "Just a little bit different. Catching pucks on your forehand now instead of your backhand. It's not a huge adjustment, just play with speed and compete hard and hopefully the skill on our line will take over."