Blackhawks

Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks

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Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks

Phillip Danault got a taste of a Stanley Cup run last season with the Blackhawks.

The 22-year-old center was one of the Black Aces here through the postseason run. He saw what the Blackhawks did once again. He knew there would be roster changes with the salary-cap crunch. And he knew he had a great opportunity to make the lineup out of training camp.

But Danault’s plans were derailed in August, when he needed hip surgery four months to heal from it. But instead of letting that frustrate him, Danault used his time and attitude wisely. Now, with another teammate facing a four-month recovery, Danault is getting his chance.

Danault made a good impression on coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks in two games last season, and he’s doing it again in his current stint. Danault was recalled last weekend after the Blackhawks lost Marcus Kruger to a dislocated wrist — Kruger’s surgery and recovery will keep him out until probably the postseason. So who better to call up than the guy the Blackhawks have been grooming as, perhaps, the next Kruger?

“You know, they’ve been telling me they want me to be Kruger the last two years in the AHL, so I kind of modeled my game on his,” said Danault, referring to the Rockford IceHogs. “He got hurt and I got lucky to be called up. I have a big opportunity here. I want to show everyone I can do it.”

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Ryan Garbutt said he noticed how much Danault was like Kruger immediately.

“It was a little bit eerie the way he plays so similar to Krugs. He does all the small things really well,” Garbutt said. “He’s good on face-offs, fast, really good with the stick and I think Q trusts him out there.”

Quenneville’s trust in Danault was evident on Tuesday night, when he put Danault and fourth-line mates Andrew Desjardins and Garbutt against the Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp through the first two periods. Danault and the line did its job, keeping all three off the score sheet through the first 40 minutes — Sharp had an assist at the time, but it was off a power-play goal. Quenneville was happy with that line’s work on Tuesday, and figured Danault, even with his setback, would be up here at some point.

“We feel, [with] him improving that he’d find a way to get here because we think the way he works, the way he competes, his mindset,” Quenneville said recently. “He gives you energy in your team game; production-wise, the expectations aren’t that high. But at the same time, playing the right way is what we think he can do. And kind of the way we have certain players in our lineup that can kill penalties and check and have the puck and be supportive in that area, so we projected him to keep on this path, that he’d find a way to get here.”

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Danault had hoped to be here sooner. But after getting a deeper MRI on an issue that had been bothering him, results showed he had a torn labrum. On Aug. 17 he had surgery and spent the next several months recovering. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time.

“It was very tough, especially because they just won the Cup and I was part of it as a Black Ace. I tasted a little bit of what it was and I really wanted to be an NHL player right away. But obviously one step back sometimes is good.” Danault said. “You go back, think about your game mentally and get stronger. Those little details get you stronger on and off the ice. I’m happy with my situation right now.”

[MORE: Blackhawks in good shape heading into Christmas break]

Danault waited a few years for a chance at the start of this season. Then he had to wait a few months more. It wasn’t always easy, but Danault is getting his chance now and he’s looking to make the most of it.

“When you start right away it’s good for your confidence and you’re happy and playing in the NHL is obviously the dream for you. But the last few years were very helpful for me,” Danault said. “I had to learn the system, how it works as a pro. Even just to cook by yourself or with the boys [in Rockford]. I think after those two years I’m more NHL ready.”

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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Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

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AP

Corey Crawford and Robin Lehner tandem proving to be exactly what Blackhawks envisioned

LAS VEGAS — The first day of NHL free agency is always exciting for hockey fans, particularly the first hour when most of the moves are announced at a rapid rate. Last offseason, the Blackhawks had a quiet few hours before dropping the hammer on the most surprising signing of the day, Robin Lehner, to a one-year deal.

“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the league is the way I look at it right now,” GM Stan Bowman said on July 1. “I certainly feel really comfortable going into next season, whether Corey Crawford’s in net or Robin Lehner’s in net.”

So does the entire city of Chicago.

More than one month into the 2019-20 season, the goaltending tandem between Crawford and Lehner is exactly what the Blackhawks envisioned it would be. That’s what happens when you pair a Vezina Trophy finalist with a two-time Stanley Cup winner.

"We got two guys who are outstanding," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "I think they're both going real well now and that's a huge advantage for us no matter who's in the net, we're getting a chance to win. It gives our guys a chance to come through offensively, so they've been big for us."

After starting the season 1-4-0 with a 3.67 goals-against average and .888 percentage, Crawford has been lights out since the calendar flipped to November. He’s 2-0-2 with a 2.72 goals-against average and .929 save percentage in his last four starts, which includes a 39-save performance in a 5-3 win over the Golden Knights on Wednesday.

Lehner has been one of the league’s best from the beginning. His .934 save percentage ranks second among goaltenders with at least six appearances and his goals saved above average at 5-on-5 ranks fourth-best, according to Natural Stat Trick. Crawford's goals saved above average of 4.21 puts him at ninth.

And this is despite the fact the Blackhawks are giving up the most shots on goal per game (37.1), second-most high danger chances per 60 minutes at even strength (13.1) and third-most scoring chances per 60 minutes at even strength (29.2).

While the dynamic may have been awkward at first, both goaltenders appear to be making the best of the circumstances and view it as healthy competition.

"I mean, he's doing a great job," Crawford said of Lehner. "Definitely keeping us in games or being a big factor in some wins. I think both of us are just trying to be at our best when we get the chance."

The challenging part of the situation is getting both guys a fair amount of starts. Crawford has been vocal about preferring to start regularly — “it’s a little bit easier when you keep playing games in a row” — and Lehner no doubt feels the same.

"They both want to play 60 games, 80 games maybe,” Colliton said. “That's part of the team. [Patrick Kane] wants to play 60 minutes. It's how it is. Ultimately, we want to make decisions that help the team win and part of that is keeping both guys fresh, keeping both guys playing at a high level and I think that's going to be a benefit for us as the season goes on."

It’s a good problem to have if you’re the Blackhawks, especially if Crawford and Lehner are at the top of their games at the same time like they are right now.

"It's great," Calvin de Haan said. "I think goaltending's the most important position. If you're not keeping the puck out of the net, you're not going to win a lot of games. But those guys are giving us a chance every night and it's really evident the past few weeks here."

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.