Blackhawks

Suddenly a part of Blackhawks' lineup blender, Artem Anisimov rolling with the changes

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USA TODAY

Suddenly a part of Blackhawks' lineup blender, Artem Anisimov rolling with the changes

For a while, Artem Anisimov didn’t have to deal with much change. He, Patrick Kane and fellow countryman Artemi Panarin clicked immediately after Anisimov was traded to the Blackhawks from Columbus, and with rare exception the three were together for the last two seasons.

Even with Panarin’s trade to the Blue Jackets, Anisimov was expected to remain as the team's second-line center with Kane. But a funny thing happened on the way to filling out the regular-season roster. Coach Joel Quenneville was impressed by Nick Schmaltz’s offseason improvement and training camp, so Schmaltz, who spent part of the summer skating with Kane, took Anisimov’s spot. At least for now.

For those who have been with the Blackhawks several years, being part of the lineup blender is nothing new. For Anisimov, it is new. Still, after working with several potential new line mates, including Alex DeBrincat in the Blackhawks’ 1-0 victory over Boston on Saturday, Anisimov likes the possibilities on the third line.

Since camp began, Anisimov has centered Ryan Hartman on his right — John Hayden took that spot in the third period of Saturday’s preseason finale — and Patrick Sharp or DeBrincat on his left. What the combination ends up being when the Blackhawks open the regular season on Thursday remains to be seen, but regardless of his line mates, Anisimov hasn’t minded the changes.

“It’s been good, actually,” Anisimov said. “Every time it’s a challenge, you know? It’s hard to play without those two guys, but you have to adapt to situations and I can play with every player. I’ll try to do my best with any player on the team.”

While Anisimov’s line mates might be changing, his overall game shouldn’t.

“I’m sure he’ll get exposure to a lot of different guys over the course of the year, but he’s very adaptable to his line mates,” Quenneville said. “He does things that give him the best chance for success. He gets to the front of the net in the offensive zone, we like him down low in our end, he kills penalties, plays on the power play. His role won’t change. Expectations of being productive like he was, those will be tempered a little bit, but we still want him to keep playing the same way.”

Sharp started as Anisimov’s left wing before DeBrincat was moved there for Saturday’s preseason finale. Sharp said recently that Anisimov was a complete player, they read each other’s tendencies immediately and, “a guy like that, anybody can play with him.” Anisimov agreed he and Sharp clicked quickly.

“It was easy to play with him, and I know what he’s going to do,” he said. “That communication; you just see the guy and know what he’s going to do and you’re not hesitating to do something.”

Anisimov had two years of line stability. As Quenneville said, it was a “great way to start your career here.” But it’s not a Blackhawks team without a good amount of line juggling, and Anisimov will roll with the changes.

“Like some players, they take a little bit longer to adapt. But we’re all professionals and we just need to find the best side of the player and use his best side,” Anisimov said. “Just go out there and have fun.”

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 9: Memorable Canucks series

Start of the Blackhawks Dynasty, Part 9: Memorable Canucks series

In a 10-part series, we look back at the 10-year anniversary of the 2008-09 season, the start of the Blackhawks dynasty.

After eliminating the Calgary Flames in six games and securing their first playoff series win since 1995-96, the Blackhawks were on to the Western Conference semi-finals, where they would meet the Vancouver Canucks. And what a memorable series this would shape out to be, the start of a terrific rivalry that would develop over the next several years.

The Blackhawks didn't have home-ice advantage this time, but it turns out they didn't need it.

After falling into a 2-1 hole, the Blackhawks evened up the series in Game 4 at the United Center when Andrew Ladd re-directed a Dave Bolland shot in overtime to put the pressure back on the Canucks heading back to Vancouver. It was a pivotal moment in the series, but the turning point may have started late in Game 3.

Although he didn't score until Game 5, Dustin Byfuglien was an absolute wrecking ball and unquestionably got into Roberto Luongo's head with his net-front presence and physicality. 

The Blackhawks locked up Game 5 in Vancouver and returned to Chicago, where they would beat the Canucks 7-5 in Game 6 thanks to a hat-trick by 20-year-old Patrick Kane. It was that night when Kane was coined with the nickname: "Hat-trick Kane."

And of course, who could forget Luongo's postgame press conference when he was moved to tears after accepting blame for the series loss?

Relive the series in the video above.

Joel Quenneville: Corey Crawford's short on-ice session part of schedule after six straight days of skating

Joel Quenneville: Corey Crawford's short on-ice session part of schedule after six straight days of skating

For the sixth straight day, Corey Crawford skated one hour before Blackhawks practice on Wednesday. But this one was the shortest on-ice workout of training camp.

After several discussions in between drills with head athletic trainer Mike Gapski and goaltending coach Jimmy Waite, Crawford's workout ended at 20 minutes. His sessions have usually lasted around 30.

Asked after practice about it, coach Joel Quenneville said not to read anything into it as it was all part of the schedule and that Crawford worked out in the gym afterwards as well. He is scheduled to have an off day on Thursday.

"We still like the progress and the way he's going along here," Quenneville said. "We're still encouraged that his progress is headed in the right direction."

Crawford said on Day 1 of camp that he's still dealing with concussion-like symptoms from last season, but that he's "really close" to returning. Conditioning is one of his biggest hurdles as well, because he hasn't been able to up the intensity on training the way he normally does over the summer.

"Every single day is movement, conditioning, he's feeling good, I think that's half the battle," Quenneville said. "You're getting conditioning out of it and all of a sudden you get in different positions and movements and then there's progress along the way with the velocity of shots, when there's traffic, there's bodies, so we're trying to add a little bit of something and a different look every single day.

"It's the routine in the schedule. Today was six in a row, let's let this slow down a little today and tomorrow he's off."

Injury updates

In other injury news, Blackhawks team physician Michael Terry released a medical update on Connor Murphy, who could now miss up to 12 weeks with a back injury.

“Connor will have a period of six weeks during which he will be off the ice," Terry said in a statement. "He will undergo further testing at that time to determine if it is appropriate for him to begin more physical activity or require an additional four weeks of rest. This puts Murphy’s overall timeline at approximately eight to twelve weeks before returning to the lineup.”

Jan Rutta is also listed as day to day with a groin injury. Quenneville said it's not believed to be serious.

First wave of cuts

In addition, the Blackhawks made their first wave of cuts by re-assigning goaltender Alexis Gravel (Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL), forward Philipp Kurashev (Quebec Remparts) and defenseman Jake Ryczek (Halifax Mooseheads) to their respective junior teams and released forward Shaw Boomhower from his amateur tryout.

"Kurashev, I didn't mind him," Quenneville said. "I think they all did alright. I think that the two kids going to Halifax, they got good coaching there. [Halifax head coach] Eric Veilleux was a guy we had him a little bit around in the Quebec days and I think they're going to be excited about that. They're hosting a Memorial Cup so those two guys will be having an exciting year for them. Phil is going to Quebec, going to play for Patrick [Roy]. Going to get great coaching as well, good opportunity for these guys. I thought he had a good camp. Jimmy was talking the goalie [Gravel] that he was impressed with him as well. For a young kid coming in here he learned a lot and I think that will be a good year for him as well."

The roster currently sits at 53 players: 28 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goaltenders.

Top guns set to make preseason debut

The Blackhawks brought a bunch of young guys to Columbus for the first preseason game, but Thursday should be different. Alex DeBrincat, Patrick Kane, Chris Kunitz and Jonathan Toews (and likely Nick Schmaltz and Brandon Saad) are among the most notable players that will be traveling to Detroit to face the Red Wings. Anton Forsberg and Kevin Lankinen will be the two goaltenders and are expected to split time in net.