Blackhawks

Super-intense rivalry brings out best in Hawks, Canucks

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Super-intense rivalry brings out best in Hawks, Canucks

VANCOUVER Canucks head coach Alain Vigneault chuckled at the notion that nearly two-month-old comments were going to provide more venom in this Chicago Blackhawks-Vancouver rivalry.

How could it be more intense than it already is? Vigneault said with a laugh. Its two great teams that like playing one another because it brings out the best in both teams.

Exactly.

All radio bits and barbs aside, this rivalry comes down to what really matters: the game. And the Canucks and Blackhawks have played their share of memorable and intense games. Thats unlikely to change tonight when they square off again here in Vancouver.

Bolland raised the rancor of the Canucks when, during a radio program, he brought out the Sedin sisters comments, along with some other disparaging ones aimed toward Henrik and Daniel. The Canucks said plenty at the time. Vigneault was particularly unhappy with the comments, saying Bolland has an IQ the size of bird seed and a face only a mother could love. He said Monday, however, that he and the Canucks have moved on from that.

Now its just onto the game, and all the vim and vigor they bring.

When you come in here, its always a playoff environment, coach Joel Quenneville said. Most (of them) feel like playoff games. Were coming off two frustrating losses (against Nashville) and we want to start this trip on a positive.

The Blackhawks have a good chance of doing that, considering theyll get both Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp back in the lineup tonight. And with the addition of veteran Brendan Morrison, they bring in another guy who knows this rivalry all too well.

Itll be a test for both teams right out of the All-Star break, but both are welcoming it.

Its a good measuring stick, a good start to the last push, Alex Burrows said. Theyre always one of our biggest rivals. Theyre high-intensity games and its going to be tight. It should be another fun one.

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.”