Blackhawks

Ryan Garbutt impressing with speed during Blackhawks preseason

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Ryan Garbutt impressing with speed during Blackhawks preseason

Ryan Garbutt hadn’t been at Blackhawks camp long when coach Joel Quenneville noticed what was most evident about his game.

“The thing that jumps out is his quickness, his speed,” Quenneville said of the forward.

It’s a good trait to have, especially joining this group.

Garbutt, who was acquired, along with defenseman Trevor Daley, when the Blackhawks traded Patrick Sharp to the Dallas Stars, has fit in well this preseason. He’s played with a variety of new teammates, as can be the habit in the preseason, and his speed has been evident. Garbutt scored two goals in his first two preseason games; he didn’t score against St. Louis, but he had some good opportunities and finished with a team-high six shots on goal.

“I think he’s had a real good camp and is very noticeable. He’s had a breakaway a game, at least, and that’s due to the explosiveness with his speed,” Quenneville said. “I think he’s a nice addition to our team, gives us a real intangible of having explosive speed. As he gets a lot more comfortable in how we move around the ice, I think that’ll enhance his game.”

[MORE BLACKHAWKS: Patient Marcus Kruger finally arrives in Chicago]

Garbutt said the transition has gone pretty smooth thus far.

“I think I’m more comfortable every game,” he said. “It was nice getting on the road, playing in Montreal (on Friday), just being in the season, playing the back to back like this. So I think it was good for me.”

For Garbutt, it’s about fitting in on this team and into this lineup. As well as speed, Garbutt can also play with an edge; that’s something else the Blackhawks aren’t deprived of, with Andrew Shaw, Andrew Desjardins and (possibly) Kyle Baun.

“It’s always nice to have players who play like you around you, guys who like to play hard, play with grit,” he said. “I haven’t talked to the coaches about stuff like that (my role). I’m just trying to earn my spot on the team.”

So far, it looks like he’s doing that. Chicago isn’t completely new to Garbutt — he played for the Chicago Wolves during the 2010-11 season. Now he’s just getting more used to downtown as opposed to the suburbs. It’s been a pretty easy adjustment; the one on the ice has been, too.

“I’m just trying to learn from the guys who are building a winning tradition here,” Garbutt said. “Everything’s been just as I’ve expected so far.”

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

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USA TODAY

Sports Talk Live Podcast: Is Crawford ready to go?

Jimmy Greenfield, Connor McKnight, and Matt Spiegel join Kap on the panel to discuss Corey Crawford back on the ice for the first time in 10 months. The Bears have good news when it comes to Khalil Mack, who injured his ankle against the Dolphins.

Plus, Fred Hoiberg announces that Jabari Parker is coming off the bench for the season opener.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below:

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Niklas Hjalmarsson 'wasn't happy' about trade, but remembers time with Blackhawks fondly

Apparently time doesn’t heal all wounds. 

Nearly a year and a half since being traded to the Coyotes, Niklas Hjalmarsson will return to the United Center ice on Thursday playing for the visiting team.  

“It’s going to be strange coming in as the away team and being in the other locker room,” said Hjalmarsson on Wednesday. “I bet it’s going to be a lot of emotions and mixed feelings.” 

This is also the first time Hjalmarsson has been back to the city of Chicago since he was traded, a city he called his “second home.” A home where he spent parts of 10 seasons, and never really planned on leaving.

“I wasn’t happy, to be honest with you,” said Hjalmarsson of the trade to Arizona. “I was shocked. It took me a couple days to actually realize I wasn’t going to play for the Hawks anymore.”

Including the playoffs, Hjalmarsson played 751 games in the Indian head sweater. Despite that and the team’s three Stanley Cup victories, the Blackhawks shipped him off to Arizona for Connor Murphy and Laurent Dauphin in June of 2017.

“You kind of let it go after a while,” he said. “Now I’m just hoping all the success for the guys over here too.”

Hjalmarsson was known for his toughness, repeatedly blocking shot after shot, giving up his body, while never missing a shift. He credits his long-time teammates — Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook — for a lot of his success and identity on the blue line.

“I couldn’t have had better role models coming into a team,” he said. “I’m very thankful to have played on the same team as those guys and created a lot of success together. We’re always going to be connected with the Cups that we’ve had.”

The third championship won by that defense-trio was on United Center ice against the Lightning in 2015, but that isn’t the memory that stands out most for Hjalmarsson.

“The first Cup is always going to be pretty special,” said the 31-year old. “Even just going to the conference final (in 2009), even when we lost against Detroit that year, the year before was great memories too. The first time for me going into the playoffs and playing deep.”

The tables have turned now for both Hjalmarsson and the Blackhawks. 

The Coyotes have yet to score an even-strength goal this season, while the Blackhawks have claimed eight of a possible 10 points thus far through five games and expect to have their starting goaltender back between the pipes. 

But you won’t hear any ill-will from Hjalmarsson, he’s still rooting for the Hawks.

“I always think that Chicago deserves to have a team in the playoffs,” he said. “It’s not that I wish them not to do well. It’s the total opposite. I want them to have continued success.”