Richard Panik settling into Blackhawks' lineup


Richard Panik settling into Blackhawks' lineup

Richard Panik experienced some interesting timing extremes when he was traded.

Thanks to visa issues, it took him more than a week to join the Blackhawks, who acquired him from the Toronto Maple Leafs in early January. Then the day after he got to Chicago he went from expected healthy scratch, to get time to get acclimated to his new team, to starter when Artem Anisimov fell ill.

It was quite the crazy introduction with the Blackhawks. And in this case, that may not have been so bad.

“I was thinking the last time about it: maybe it was a good thing. I wasn’t stressed,” Panik said about his Blackhawks debut against the Predators on Tuesday. “I just got here in 15 minutes before the game, changed and played hockey. I was a little tired but we won the game, so nothing else matters.”

Panik got through that first game just fine despite arriving at 7:15 p.m. that night, changing and stretching quickly and playing in the Blackhawks’ 3-2 victory over the Predators. One week later Panik is feeling a lot more comfortable. Panik scored his first goal with the Blackhawks in Sunday night’s 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens. And his joining the fourth line with Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Garbutt has brought balance to that group, as well as improved the team’s four-line rotation.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

“He’s been all right,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He didn’t play a ton but he gives us some quickness, handles the puck pretty well and he’s getting comfortable with how he has to move around the rink as far as our system goes. That line’s been useful as far as they’ve been in the offensive zone, had some good attack. So watching him in practice here, he has some skill as well.”

Panik started this season looking to be part of the Maple Leafs’ roster. He was coming off a solid season with Toronto, recording 11 goals and six assists in 2014-15. But when the Leafs picked up defenseman Frank Corrado off waivers in October, Panik was placed on waivers. He played 33 games for the Toronto Marlies, the Leafs’ AHL affiliate. Panik saw his former team on Friday, when the Blackhawks beat them 4-1. He said it was still a little strange seeing the Leafs again so soon.

[MORE: Five things from Blackhawks-Canadiens]

“It felt weird, just sitting on the other side. But it was good to be back,” Panik said. “I’m thankful for what Toronto gave me last season. Now I’m here, focusing on this team and this season and really excited to be here.”

Panik’s arrival in Chicago took longer than expected. His first game with the Blackhawks happened sooner than expected. Thanks to a busy playing schedule Panik hasn’t really gotten settled here in Chicago yet – he’ll do that during the all-star break later this month.  On the ice, however, it looks like Panik is settling in just fine.

“We’re winning, so it always feels good,” Panik said. “My game, I have to try to play it. I’m still learning the new system and everything, so I’m just trying to play a simple game and don’t make any mistakes. I’m just going to focus on that.”

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

A recap of Kirby Dach’s AHL debut and Blackhawks explanation for conditioning stint

Kirby Dach made his pro debut on Saturday, but it wasn't with the Blackhawks.

The No. 3 overall pick from this past June was activated from his injured/non-roster designation and assigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League for conditioning purposes and jumped right into the lineup. He didn't appear in any NHL preseason games because he was under the league's concussion protocol during training camp.

In his season debut, Dach recorded two shots on goal and had a minus-1 rating in a 4-2 loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins. He centered the fourth line with Brandon Hagel and Nick Moutrey.

Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton discussed the decision to send Dach to Rockford after Saturday's game against the Winnipeg Jets, and it sounds like the organization remains committed to giving him a look at the NHL level whenever his conditioning stint is over.

"He hasn't played in a long time," Colliton said. "Missed training camp, missed the exhibition season. We think he can help us so we're trying to set him up, give him the best opportunity so when he does get the chance here he'll be as ready as he can be. It's a good league down there and a chance for him to get his feet wet against men. And I think he's been getting better and better in his practice time here with us. So I'm excited. Hopefully, he can gain confidence down there and then be ready to help us."

Because he's not eligible to play in the AHL full-time this season due to Canadian Hockey League rules, Dach's conditioning stint in Rockford can last up to 14 days, according to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, before the Blackhawks are forced to either recall him or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades in the Western Hockey League.

Rockford has four more games over that span, with its next one on Monday against the Laval Rocket at BMO Harris Bank Center.

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Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Four takeaways: Blackhawks squander two-goal lead in overtime loss to Jets

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-2 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets at the United Center on Saturday:

1. Squandering a two-goal lead

For the second straight home game, the Blackhawks jumped out in front and even built an early cushion by scoring the first two goals in the opening frame. But they allowed the Jets to score three unanswered, including the overtime winner by Mark Scheifele, to remain winless on the season (0-2-1).

"We did a good job in the first and they took it to us in the second," said Brandon Saad, who scored a shorthanded goal. "Lehnny made some big saves and the third was kind of even. But we definitely had chances to close it out and we didn’t. At least we got a point and we have to move on from it."

2. Another lackluster second period

If there's one thing you can point to that's been a trend in all three games so far, it's that the Blackhawks have been lackluster in the second period. And it's difficult to pinpoint why.

In the middle frame, the Blackhawks have 10 scoring chances for and 35 against at 5-on-5, two high-danger chances for and 10 against at 5-on-5 and a minus-19 shot differential, according to Natural Stat Trick. That's an area of the game they're trying to clean up and has been the downfall to their attempts of putting together a full 60-minute effort.

"Obviously it's been three in a row where we haven't been very good in the second period and to me that's where you show how good you are," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "The best teams, they dominate the second period, so it's a point of emphasis for us. We'd like to control the tempo of the game and control the territory, out-chance the other team. That's where you show how good you are, so we're not close to where we want to be in that area."

3. Robin Lehner's debut

After going two weeks without game action, the Blackhawks gave the nod to Lehner, who went into Saturday with a 4-0-0 record, 2.76 goals-against average and .922 save percentage in five career games against the Jets. He took the loss, but certainly did his part to deserve a win.

In regulation, Lehner stopped 30 of 32 shots for a save percentage of .938. The first goal was on the power play, the second came at 5-on-5 when Andrew Copp found himself all alone in front and the third was in overtime during 3-on-3 action. His 5-on-5 save percentage was .962, which will definitely work.

"I felt good," Lehner said. "I felt like I saw the puck well. I thought rebound control was good. Again, the first one is unfortunate, it squeaks through. But I was where I wanted to be in position and somehow it goes in. Gotta try to clean that up. And the third goal, it just dove on me. He missed his shot. It’s unfortunate. But I thought I made some good saves and felt comfortable. We got a point, which is something, but should’ve got a win today."

4. Penalty kill shows improvement

The Blackhawks gave up a power-play goal for the third consecutive contest, but this was close to being a perfect night for the penalty kill. They went 3-for-4 and gave up only four shots on goal in the 7:38 of shorthanded time.

On the first Jets power play of the night, Saad scored a shorthanded goal for his first of the season and the Blackhawks later generated two more scoring chances before the two minutes expired.

The power-play goal against should've been stopped by Lehner but he did everything right and had the shortside sealed, the puck just found a mini hole. The Blackhawks responded with a big kill and had one late in the third period also. No complaints.

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