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.
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“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.
“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.”