Blackhawks

Positive news on Hawks' injury front

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Positive news on Hawks' injury front

Sean O'Donnell didn't see any of the Winnipeg Jets' home debut on Sunday, but he's got a pretty good idea of how the crowd reacted.

"I played for the (Minnesota) Wild that first year (in 2000) and the fans were so excited to have hockey back," the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman said. "We didn't have a great team but it didn't matter if we lost every game 10-0. They were so happy to have us back. It's a passion. I can imagine because I remember Minnesota."

And that's pretty much how the Jets, who will play the Blackhawks on Thursday, were received in their first home game: they got beat badly but it didn't matter. The fans, very few of whom left despite the blowout, gave their new Jets a standing ovation.

The city if Winnipeg is embracing its second chance at having an NHL squad. It was tough for them losing the original Jets in the mid 1990s, when exorbitant salaries were too much for the small-market team to handle. They wanted that again.

That was evident in September 2010, when the Blackhawks played a preseason game there against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The arena was packed, most fans backing the Blackhawks and plenty wearing the sweater of city native Jonathan Toews. And now Winnipeg can enjoy it all season long again.

For those who played against the old Jets, it was a welcome sight.

"You can tell how excited they are, be it at the draft or going into the (opening) game. Even getting beat at home the support is there," said Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. "These guys live and breathe it every day. When we played that preseason game last year, there was definitely appetite of wishful thinking of getting a team. And it transpired in a positive way."

Winnipeg is part of the hockey landscape again. Yes, the team struggled out of the gate. But they are in a city that wanted hockey and will actually put butts in the seats for the sport.

"It's good to have any hockey market that can support a franchise," O'Donnell said. "As many teams as you can get in those markets, it's good for the game."

The big 4-0

Blackhawks defenseman Sean O'Donnell will celebrate his 40th birthday on Thursday. Patrick Sharp said they'll be sure to get the veteran something.

"We were joking earlier we're going to get a contact list of everyone's phone numbers except instead of the guys in the room it'll be our parents numbers so he has lots of people to hang out with after the games," Patrick Sharp said.
Injury updates

Corey Crawford (groin) missed a second day of practice but Quenneville anticipates him practicing Wednesday. He's still expected to start against Winnipeg on Thursday.

Ben Smith (concussion) practiced with the team on Tuesday. And while he wasn't cleared for contact yet, Quenneville thinks it could happen soon.

"Benny looked as good as I've seen him (on Tuesday) and felt good too. So he's real close to getting into the game," Quenneville said.

Viktor Stalberg (left knee) skated on his own on Tuesday and could join the Blackhawks practice on Wednesday.

Briefly

Former Blackhawks Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien will be part of the Jets' lineup when they play the Blackhawks on Thursday. It will be the first game on the United Center ice for both since Game 5 of the 2010 Stanley Cup Finals.

Daniel Carcillo was once again teamed with Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa at Tuesday's practice.

Tracey Myers is CSNChicago.com's Blackhawks Insider. Follow Tracey on Twitter @TramyersCSN for up-to-the-minute Hawks information

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

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USA TODAY

Hawks Talk Podcast: Crawford's return, Saad's demotion and power play concerns

In the latest Hawks Talk Podcast, Pat Boyle, Charlie Roumeliotis and Slavko Bekovic provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks’ 3-0-2 start.

They also discuss Brandon Saad’s demotion and whether it could serve as a wake-up call, Corey Crawford’s potential return on Thursday vs. Arizona and what could happen with Anton Forsberg because of it, and address the power play concerns.

The guys wrap up the podcast by making a few bold predictions going forward.

Listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below, and be sure to subscribe, rate us and write a review!

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

10 years with 'Coach Q' anything but ordinary

Over the last 10 years, the words “ordinary” and "OK" have taken on a new meaning to Blackhawks players and fans alike. 

That’s “Coach Q” speak. 

A language where “ordinary” means awful and “just OK” means you were a non-factor. The good news is the last 10 seasons under Joel Quenneville have been anything but ordinary at the United Center. 

On Oct. 16th, 2008, the Blackhawks let go of fan-favorite Denis Savard after a 1-2-1 start to the season and named Quenneville as head coach in his place. Quenneville coached the Colorado Avalanche the previous season, but after another disappointing exit in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the two mutually parted ways. He had originally planned to stay away from the bench for at least a season, but the Blackhawks triumvirate of Rocky Wirtz, John McDonough and then-GM Dale Tallon brought Quenneville on as a scout and then handed him the keys to the car shortly after.

“Dale’s obligation is to put together a winning team,” said McDonough at Quenneville’s introductory press conference. “At this point, Joel is the coach of that team.”

It was an emotional day at the Blackhawks offices. Savard – a Blackhawks legend on the ice and a coach the players held in high regard – was let go just as things started to turn upwards for the organization. The end of the 2007-2008 season saw the Blackhawks once again miss out on the playoffs, but the fans began to flock to the United Center once more, and the hype train around the young team built around Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane was gaining steam.

“Moving forward, if we want to be a championship-caliber organization, we have to make tough decisions,” said Tallon. “This was the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make.” 

Savard was 65-66-16 in parts of three seasons as head coach of the Blackhawks. Meanwhile, Quenneville had compiled eight 95+ point seasons behind the bench for the Blues and Avalanche in his 11 years as a head coach.

“We felt the experience and the track record of Joel would be a balance that we needed with a young, inexperienced team,” said Tallon. "Joel brings us a wealth of experience and a winning track record that will have an immediate and lasting impact."

The gamble paid off for the Blackhawks in a major way. Once Quenneville took over, the team got to the sought-after next level. 

They finished the 08-09 season with 104 points, third-most in the NHL’s Western Conference, had a franchise-record setting 9-game win streak in the month of December and returned to the playoffs for the first time since the 2001-2002 season. The “young and inexperienced” Blackhawks took the league by storm, dropping the Calgary Flames in the first round of the playoffs in six games before taking down the rival Canucks in the next round.

They ultimately lost out to the Detroit Red Wings in the Western Conference Finals, but the bar was now set for the organization. From then on, the Blackhawks were Stanley Cup contenders. 

Quenneville currently ranks 2nd in franchise history with 449 wins, trailing only Billy Reay’s 516. 

But most importantly, Quenneville’s 76 playoff wins rank at the top in the organization’s long and storied history, and those three Stanley Cups that he’s raised over his head were anything but “ordinary.”