Blackhawks

Quenneville's message to young Blackhawks: Play to your strengths in season-opener

Quenneville's message to young Blackhawks: Play to your strengths in season-opener

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

Blackhawks

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

Blues

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

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks release 2018-19 schedule

Uncap those markers and start circling your calendars, Blackhawks fans. The 2018-19 season is officially out.

The Blackhawks will kick off their 91st campaign in franchise history with a road contest against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 4 at 6:30 p.m. The home opener is set for Oct. 7, with an Original Six matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs at 6 p.m.

The Blackhawks have 14 back-to-back games, and the longest road trip of the season is three, which takes place five times over the course of the season; the longest homestand is four games, from Dec. 12-18.

The biggest highlight of the season will be the Original Six Winter Classic Showdown between the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1 at Notre Dame Stadium. It will be the sixth outdoor appearance for Chicago, and fourth in the Winter Classic.

The Blackhawks will also square off with the defending champion Washington Capitals on Nov. 21 at 6 p.m., and welcome them to Chicago on Jan. 20, set for NBC's Game of the Week at 11:30 a.m.

Here's a look at the full schedule:

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman: 'We expect Corey to be back'

Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman said that the team expects goalie Corey Crawford to be back next season around training camp. Bowman also mentioned that Crawford might speak about his status himself during the Blackhawks Convention.

“What I said at the end of the year was still the case now, which is we expect Corey to be back,” Bowman said in a Thursday afternoon conference call. “We don’t have any reason to think that’s not going to happen.”

According to Bowman, Blackhawks players, including Crawford, already have their eyes set on next season.

“At this point in the summer, all the players are preparing for next season,” Bowman said. “Corey’s in that same preparation mode.”

Crawford is nursing what has been labeled an upper-body injury by the team. The two-time Stanley Cup winner was put on the shelf for the rest of the season back in late December, and he has not seen the ice since he skated in a February practice.

“Nothing has changed,” Bowman said. “We expect him to be back and ready to go in training camp.”

The Blackhawks have chosen to keep any groundbreaking news with Crawford under wraps, which the organization has done with other player injuries in the past. Bowman spoke about his vagueness in this situation.

“We’ve never gone into specifics about injuries,” Bowman said. “I realize this probably gets more attention because he’s our starting goalie and he won the Stanley Cup.”

Fans will have to take a wait-and-see approach, because it is unlikely that there will be a significant update regarding Crawford’s health before the season gets closer to its start.

Last season, Crawford only appeared in 28 games, posting a record of 16-9 with 782 saves before going down for the rest of the year.