Here we are again, prepping for another season-opener.
For half of the Blackhawks, this is old hat. For several, however, this is new territory. It’ll be a little nerve-wracking, it’ll be a little daunting, but the Blackhawks are sending a message to their new players right away: Stick with what got you here.
Coach Joel Quenneville had individual player meetings heading into Wednesday night’s game, the Blackhawks’ season-opener against the St. Louis Blues. There are a lot of new faces in the lineup, but the overall message is the same for all of them.
“Make sure you’re comfortable out there, play to your strengths and the things we’re trying to instill in them technically. We don’t want you to be thinking out there every single shift, so trust your instincts and we’ll reinforce doing the right things and the good habits as you go along here,” Quenneville said following Wednesday morning’s skate. “Be comfortable, be confident and be ready to play.”
The Blackhawks’ bottom two forward lines have a bulk of their new faces, including Tyler Motte. The former University of Michigan star is lined up with Marcus Kruger, with whom he’s already found good chemistry on the penalty kill. Any familiarity the youth has developed with the veterans is key in how quickly everything clicks.
“He’s done a great job of helping me with the systems especially on the PK here,” Motte said of Kruger. “It’s nice to have a guy like that on your line and in situations like that.”
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While the Blackhawks have new personnel, the Blues have somewhat of a new identity. Gone are some of their most familiar faces, including former captain David Backes. Troy Brouwer and goaltender Brian Elliott are also gone. So the Blues will have their own adjustments.
“It’s been a little different, but guys like me and (Vladimir Tarasenko) and Jaden Schwartz, who are being asked to have more of a leadership role this year, we learned from those guys. We were fortunate we were able to play with them and be in a locker room with them for so long,” Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “It’s something we’ll have to adjust to, and (we’re) asking younger guys to step up but those are the growing pains you have to go through as a young player.”
It’s a whole new season, and for some of the Blackhawks, a whole new experience. They’re here for a reason. Now they’ll see if it translates into successful regular-season hockey.
“I’m not going to come out and try and play a different game. Coaches and (veteran) guys have told me that,” Motte said. “It may be on a bigger stage, the official opening-night game, but the sport’s no different. You have to go and play the same way.”
Expected forward lines/defensive pairs
Richard Panik-Jonathan Toews-Marian Hossa
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Tyler Motte-Marcus Kruger-Ryan Hartman
Vinnie Hinostroza-Nick Schmaltz-Jordin Tootoo
Duncan Keith-Trevor van Riemsdyk
Michal Kempny-Brent Seabrook
Gustav Forsling-Brian Campbell
Robby Fabbri-Paul Stastny-Alex Steen
David Perron-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Dmitrij Jaskin-Patrik Berglund-Nail Yakupov
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Robert-Bortuzzo -Kevin Shattenkirk
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko