Tanner Kero's scoring touch could help Blackhawks


Tanner Kero's scoring touch could help Blackhawks

Tanner Kero’s professional hockey career couldn’t have gotten off to a much better start.

The Michigan Tech alum has shown his scoring touch, recording a goal in five of his first six games with the Rockford IceHogs. Now Kero will see if that continues with the big club, which could definitely use more offense.

Kero was recalled by the Blackhawks on Tuesday and is expected to make his NHL debut on Thursday night, when the Blackhawks face the Winnipeg Jets. He was one of two Blackhawks call-ups these last two days; defenseman Erik Gustafsson was recalled on Wednesday morning, and while he practiced with the team it doesn’t look like he will play on Thursday.

The 23-year-old Kero centered the third line at Wednesday’s practice; Teuvo Teravainen was on the left and Ryan Garbutt on the right. Kero’s excited for the opportunity and hopes the puck luck follows him.

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“We’re just getting the bounces,” Kero said of the Rockford success. “[We’re] focusing a little bit more on the defensive zone play, being good defensively and penalty kill and it seems like that’s when the offense starts to come.”

Winning hasn’t been a problem lately for the Blackhawks; despite missing Duncan Keith, they’ve won their last four games. Scoring, however, has been an issue. Both of the Blackhawks’ last two victories have been 1-0 overtime decisions, with Jonathan Toews scoring both winners. So perhaps Kero can help spark things.

“It’s good for him. He gets rewarded getting called up. When you win you usually don’t make many changes but it’s a good opportunity based on how well he played,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We liked him in camp; we thought he played well in the exhibition games. We like him in the middle, like his quickness, but got off to a positive start, gets rewarded and look forward to seeing how he does.”

Kero hopes he can play his part.

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“They’re still finding a way to win which is a good thing. So hopefully I can get a chance to help them out and they’re really good defensively right now,” Kero said. “I was pretty surprised [at the call-up] and I was very excited for the opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Gustafsson partnered with Michal Rozsival during Wednesday’s practice. Past Kero’s installment on the third line, Quenneville said he’s unlikely to change the lineup for Thursday. Whether or not Gustafsson plays on Friday in Minnesota is unknown right now.

Gustafsson was one of the last defensive prospects in Chicago as training camp came to a close. At the time, Gustafsson said he’d be upset if he didn’t make the Blackhawks’ roster – he didn’t. As it turns out, Gustafsson’s time in Rockford has been a great learning experience.

“I think it helped me a lot,” he said. “The first two or three games down there in Rockford it was a little hard to play. I was just chipping the puck out. I didn’t have the confidence in me. In four or five games I got used to it and got a lot of confidence with the puck and how to play over here.”


- Quenneville ran a line drill with a twist on Wednesday: he ran it without a puck. The move was a tribute to Jimmy Roberts, who died of cancer on Friday. Roberts won five Stanley Cups with the Montreal Canadiens and was an original member of the St. Louis Blues. Roberts later coached for Buffalo and Hartford. “It was great, because I could see him doing it, moving, he had the mittens and the hat he wore,” Quenneville said. “We do the drill every day, but without the pucks is his flavor we added to it. Players get a kick out of that part of it.”

- Rozsival continues to practice with the Blackhawks. The defenseman will be eligible to come off long-term injury reserve in a few days but it still could be a bit until he plays. Asked if Rozsival could play Monday against the Los Angeles Kings, Quenneville said that “may be stretching it.”

- Crawford will start vs. the Jets.

All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens


All eyes on Blackhawks defensemen as prospect camp opens

The second wave of Blackhawks defensemen is on the way. That's exactly where all the attention was when prospect camp opened up Monday at MB Ice Arena.

Nicolas Beaudin. Adam Boqvist. Henri Jokiharju. Ian Mitchell. Call it the Big Four. Where are they all at in their development? When will they be ready to make an NHL impact? Who's the most pro ready? 

Lots of questions. Those will slowly start to get answered and it begins now.

While there may not necessarily be an open competition among the group right away, there's certainly a desire to make a strong first impression in front of the upper brass that included Stan Bowman, John McDonough and Joel Quenneville watching on Day 1.

"Every NHL team has a lot of good defensemen prospects, so I mean obviously when you want to go out there you want to showcase yourself as best as you can," Mitchell said. "Obviously you want to be the best defenseman here so that's my goal going into this, I want to prove to everyone that I'm a good defenseman, I deserve to play at the next level. Obviously there's lots of good players here, but you're trying to all succeed."

Said Beaudin: "There's a lot of competition. There's a lot of good, young defensemen. I think you just need to be different when you play when you show what you can do."

Said Boqvist: "I'm trying to be better every day. Of course I will play in the NHL one day and win Stanley Cups, so that's my mindset."

The theme? Focus on your own game, take what you learn out of this week and apply those tools in your game when advancing your development next season. The rest will take care of itself.

Mitchell will go back to Denver for his sophomore campaign to continue his development. Beaudin is expected to return to the QMJHL with the Drummondville Voltigeurs. Boqvist signed with the OHL's London Knights, where he will look to get accustomed to the North American style of play.

For Jokiharju, the goal is different. This is his second development camp. He signed an entry-level contract in June. Making the big club is a real goal and a legitimate possibility for a Blackhawks team looking for young, impact defensemen immediately.

"I think if Henri has a really good summer of training, comes into camp, I certainly thinks he gets a good look," Blackhawks vice president of amateur scouting Mark Kelley told NBC Sports Chicago last month.

Jokiharju showed poise and confidence with and without the puck during drills, like someone who knows this is only the first step towards that ultimate goal.

"Yeah," Jokiharju responded when asked if the expectation is to make it to the NHL this season. "You want to set the bar high, you don't want to set the bar too low. I want to dream big and that's the dream."

That's the dream for everyone. When that happens, it's up to them. This week is a chance to set an early tone.

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery dies in early morning drowning

Former Blackhawks goaltender Ray Emery was identified as the victim in an early morning drowning on Sunday at the Hamilton Harbour, Hamilton Police confirmed. He was 35.

According to the Hamilton Spectator, Emery and his friends jumped in the water around 6:30 a.m., but Emery never resurfaced. His body was recovered later in the afternoon.

Emery played in the NHL for 11 seasons, two of which came with the Blackhawks from 2011-13, where he served as a backup goaltender to Corey Crawford.

In 2013, he teammated up with Crawford to win the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goaltender(s) with the fewest goals against in a single season, before going on to capture his first Stanley Cup. During that season, Emery went 17-1-0 with a 1.94 goals against average, .922 save percentage and three shutouts.

The Blackhawks issued this statement following the confirmation:

The Chicago Blackhawks organization was deeply saddened to hear of Ray Emery’s passing. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. The Blackhawks will fondly remember Ray as a fierce competitor, a good teammate and a Stanley Cup champion.

The hockey community took to Twitter to offer their condolences when news began to spread: