Blackhawks

Nerves may have affected Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz in Game 1

Nerves may have affected Blackhawks' Nick Schmaltz in Game 1

Nick Schmaltz said on Tuesday that he knew his first NHL postseason was going to be different than when he won a national championship at North Dakota.

The intensity, the speed, everything is that much greater. Schmaltz may have been caught up in that somewhat in Game 1, during which he was bumped off the top line. He played better down the stretch and knows he has to be sharper from the start on Saturday.

"I thought I was OK. I thought I could have held onto the puck a little bit more. I don't know if I was nervous or what I was, but just felt like I was just getting rid of the puck when I had it," Schmaltz said. "That's not what I'm accustomed to, so hopefully I can learn from that and bounce back in this game here."

On Friday, Schmaltz was on the Blackhawks' third line in practice, as it looks like they'll make some switches/changes. Ryan Hartman could be on the top line. Coach Joel Quenneville said he liked how Schmaltz finished on Thursday and still expects the rookie to be a big part of the playoffs moving forward.

"One game's not a long time and he's had different line mates all year long. But no matter who he's playing with we need his skill, speed and two-way play," Quenneville said. "That's what we're looking for no matter who he plays with because it can enhance his line."

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When Schmaltz was sent to Rockford during the regular season he took the message the right way, responded and improved his game. The stage is bigger now, but Schmaltz has to respond the same way off Thursday's so-so postseason debut.

"Maybe a little bit [disappointed being taken off the top line], but whoever I'm playing with, I'm happy with," he said. "A lot of great players on this team. We got guys who can play wherever, so wherever I'm put in the lineup, I'm just going to try to work my hardest and do my best."

BRIEFLY

• Marian Hossa did not skate on Friday but it was just a maintenance day. He's expected to play in Game 2. Tomas Jurco skated in his third-line place at Friday's practice. 

• Dennis Rasmussen was skating on the Blackhawks' fourth line at practice. If that stands on Saturday, it appears John Hayden will be out for Game 2.

Report: Blackhawks will head to Edmonton in NHL's Return to Play plan

Report: Blackhawks will head to Edmonton in NHL's Return to Play plan

The NHL and NHL Players' Association worked diligently into the late hours on Tuesday and reportedly made significant progress as the two sides look to come to an overall agreement on the protocols and safety measures for Phase 3 and 4, transition rules and a Collective Bargaining Agreement extension. 

Nothing is official until the entire deal is ratified — the voting could take place Friday or Saturday — but, barring any last-minute breakdowns, Edmonton and Toronto are expected to be named the two hub cities for the league's 24-team Return to Play plan, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. Chicago was among the four finalists from a field that started with 10 candidates.

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Vegas was a clear frontrunner from the beginning because of its appealing and tight bubble environment, but the NHL and NHLPA were forced to shift its attention elsewhere after an alarming spike in COVID-19 cases.

It was originally believed that the league would put each conference in opposite regions to eliminate any sort of competitive advantage, but that no longer appears to be the case. The Western Conference is expected to play in Edmonton while the Eastern Conference will go to Toronto, which means the Blackhawks will head to Edmonton if or when hockey officially returns.

Both hub cities will host exhibition games, the qualifying round and Rounds 1 and 2 of the playoffs, but only one of them will host the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final. It's unclear which city will host the latter.

Report: Blackhawks' Ian Mitchell not expected to play in NHL's 24-team playoff

Report: Blackhawks' Ian Mitchell not expected to play in NHL's 24-team playoff

When the NHL's Return To Play plan and 24-team playoff format were originally being hashed out, there was some hope that the Blackhawks could receive some much-needed defensive depth from Ian Mitchell. But that may not be the case.

Chicago could use all the help they can get in their potential best-of-5 play-in series against the Oilers under the league's format.

Mitchell, 21, was drafted by the Hawks in the second round (No. 57 overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. He spent the past three seasons at the University of Denver, captaining the Pioneers this past year and setting a career high in goals (10) and points (32) through 36 games.

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The promising defenseman signed a three-year entry-level contract with Chicago in April after the NHL paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 11.

Wednesday morning, TSN's Bob McKenzie reported players in a similar boat to Mitchell who signed during the pause, as well as unsigned draft picks, are not expected to be eligible if and when the NHL resumes to finish the 2019-20 season.