Blackhawks

Richard Panik keeps it simple in Blackhawks debut

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Richard Panik keeps it simple in Blackhawks debut

Richard Panik laced up the skates and put on a Blackhawks sweater for the first time earlier than expected.

Well, at least in a game.
 
The 24-year-old winger was acquired on Jan. 3 from Toronto in exchange for forward Jeremy Morin, but Panik's arrival was delayed more than a week due to visa issues.
 
Despite joining the team on Monday, head coach Joel Quenneville planned to insert Panik into the lineup against either Montreal or Panik's former team Toronto (or perhaps both), but had to make a quick change after Artem Anisimov, who participated in morning skate Tuesday, was listed as an unexpected scratch due to an illness he suffered an hour and a half before the game.
 
That opened the door for the Panik, who didn't know he'd be playing Tuesday night until shortly before puck drop.
 
[SHOP: Get your Blackhawks gear here]
 

"I got a call at 6:15 to see if I can make it and I said I will try," Panik said following a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators which gave the Blackhawks their eighth straight win. "The traffic downtown was terrible. It took me like an hour to get here."
 
Welcome to Chicago.

 
In his debut, Panik skated at left wing on the third line with Phillip Danault and Andrew Desjardins, but didn't get much action.
 
He logged just 6:56 of ice time, partly due to 12 combined penalties committed by both teams. It seemed like every other shift the Blackhawks were either on the power play, where they went 0-for-4, or the penalty kill, where they went 7-for-8, and Panik admitted it was tough to find a rhythm because of it.
 
But he wouldn't use it as an excuse.
 
[MORE: Twice is nice: Andrew Shaw scores two as Blackhawks win eighth straight]
 
"Yeah it was hard, but you have to stay focused and when it's your turn, you have to be ready," he said.
 
Panik already has an early fan in Quenneville, who opted to go with the newly-acquired forward over Bryan Bickell, who was a healthy scratch for the second straight game.
 
"I didn't mind him. I thought he got better," Quenneville, who tied Al Arbour for second-most wins in NHL history with 782 following Tuesday's win, said of Panik. "I thought he made some really good plays, good hits, he's got some speed to his game. I liked a lot of things he did, so that was encouraging."
 
Panik appeared in 76 regular-season games with the Maple Leafs last season, where he scored 11 goals and six assists. He spent his first two seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning, who drafted him in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft. But he found himself on the outside looking in when rosters were finalized at the beginning of the year, and he was disappointed he didn't make the cut.
 
Now in Chicago, the Slovakian will have a legitimate shot to remain on the NHL roster and is "excited" about the opportunity of joining a Stanley Cup contender. 
 
[RELATED: Wayne Gretzky comments on Blackhawks' success in 'difficult' era]
 
Panik's journey started Tuesday by not doing too much.
 
He drew a penalty in the third period. He made a nice defensive play to prevent an odd man rush one shift later. He registered a team-high four hits. Those are things that don't stick out on the stat sheet, but sometimes it's a good thing when you go unnoticed. That means you're simply doing your job.
 
Overall, it wasn't a bad debut for a guy who was expecting to watch the game from his hotel room.
 
"I wasn't ready for it," Panik said. "But as soon as I got here, I tried to warm up a little bit, hit the ice and tried to play simple."

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What else can the Blackhawks do this summer?

On the latest edition of the Hawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis is joined by Scott Powers of The Athletic to discuss Stan Bowman's comments following the Marian Hossa trade and debate whether they're finished making moves this summer.

They also provide their thoughts on the Blackhawks' top prospects and which players have caught their attention as development camp winds down.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews: 'Our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs'

Jonathan Toews watched a lot of playoff hockey this spring. 

"Quite a bit," he admitted Wednesday before making his Chicago Pro Hockey League debut at MB Ice Arena. "More than usual."

That's because the Blackhawks missed out on the postseason for the first time since his rookie year in 2007-08. It's obviously not a position he'd like himself or his team to be in, especially after experiencing three Stanley Cups in a six-year span.

But you have to find a way to take the positives out of it at this point and let it fuel you for the upcoming campaign.

"You always want to be there playing," Toews said. "But when you can maybe step away from the game a little bit and just kind of breathe and — at the same time, look back and realize you’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of success. Obviously there’s no satisfaction there, but you understand it’s not the worst thing to stop and smell the roses and appreciate what you’ve been able to experience, because I think failing to get to the playoffs makes you realize how difficult it really is and maybe it’s something you took for granted.

"But watching more hockey this spring, I think, is something that was really motivating and kind of inspiring and exciting to want to get back to that level again. You dream of playing in the NHL, but at the end of the day, you want to play playoff hockey. That’s what it’s all about."

There were plenty of things that went wrong for the Blackhawks last season and contributed to why they watched the playoffs from home, whether it's the Corey Crawford injury, the down season from Brandon Saad, or the inexperience on the blue line.

For Toews, who turned 30 in April, it's about regaining that old form that made him one of the top players in the NHL and hoping it can filter down the rest of the Blackhawks lineup.

"For me, it’s part of just recapturing that energy, that motivation, excitement and that mindset of a young player who takes nothing for granted, that you had in your younger days," he said. "But also carrying the experience with you and understanding the impact of what you say, what you do, how you carry yourself can impact your teammates, especially the young guys. For me, it comes down to knowing what to say at the right time. But letting my play be the thing that helps me lead by example. No better time than now to use that experience and that excitement trying to rebound off the season we had last year."

If there's any reason to have belief that the Blackhawks can turn it around quickly, look no further than the two teams that collided in the Stanley Cup Final: Vegas and Washington. 

The Golden Knights had the longest odds to win it all at the beginning of the season while the Capitals' championship window was perceived to be closed after they failed to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2017 in the second round yet again with a loaded roster. But it's not about what's on paper.

"Watching that last series, you just knew it came down to who had the most, the deepest belief in themselves," Toews said. "I even had a hard time predicting who was going to win every series. It could’ve gone either way in a lot of situations. It’s not only motivating, seeing how fast that play was and to have missed out on playoff hockey this year and to have the drive to get back there, but knowing if you do sneak into the playoffs it doesn’t matter. You can go a long way.

"For us, thinking, 'OK, we're gonna back and win a Stanley Cup this year,' it sounds like a long shot. But as always, our No. 1 goal is getting back to the playoffs and being ready to hit our stride when we get there."