Viktor Svedberg was going through the expected emotions when he made his NHL debut on Friday.
The defenseman spent last spring with the Blackhawks, practicing and traveling with them during their Stanley Cup run. But there’s a big difference between doing that and playing. By Game 2 the next night, however, Svedberg was much more comfortable.
“I think a lot of tension released after the first game,” Svedberg said following Monday’s practice. “I felt better.”
Svedberg looked better – the team as a whole did, really – on Saturday, when the Blackhawks beat the New York Islanders 4-1. With the first-game nerves gone, Svedberg is looking to improve from here on out. Coach Joel Quenneville is expecting the same.
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“I thought he had progression in his game. He probably got more comfortable; probably [had] nerves the first game and he was fine, anyway,” Quenneville said. “I expect him to get better as we’re going along each and every game. We have a lot to work with there with his reach and his size. He’ll get quicker and more comfortable with how we want him to move and play, but you definitely notice him.”
It’s hard not to notice a 6-foot-8 defensemen. Svedberg entered this fall with a chance to make the team and Quenneville said the big man has made tremendous strides over the last year. While he was out for the first game, it sounds like the Blackhawks want Svedberg to be big part of their defense this season.
Svedberg prepared for this season the way he had others, although he had health on his side this past summer. He underwent shoulder surgery in the summer of 2014 – he was fully healed entering that fall but, “I couldn’t put on any pounds or strength in my upper body.” Svedberg came to this training camp healthy, but credited more work in Rockford last season in preparing him for this opportunity.
“The biggest thing is that I got into the American [Hockey] League,” said Svedberg, who had three goals and 11 assists in 49 games for the IceHogs last season. “I played a lot and developed there.”
Svedberg said he’s gotten a lot of tutelage from defensive partner Brent Seabrook.
“He helps me out everywhere,” Svedberg said. “He talks to me all the time and I couldn’t ask for a better partner.”
Svedberg got all that anxiety out of the way in Game 1. He still has plenty to learn in an NHL career that’s just beginning, but he’ll be approaching it all much calmer from here on out.
“The first game I was a little nervous, a lot of emotions and stuff. The second one felt a little better, a more solid performance and we got a good win both games,” he said. “I’m happy.”
- Duncan Keith took a maintenance day on Monday.
- Michal Rozsival (ankle) is improving. Quenneville said, “I watched him skate today and it looks like he was moving extremely well. That’s a big step for me, seeing how well he’s skating and [with] some pace.” Asked if Rozsival could join the Blackhawks in practice next week, Quenneville said, “I would hope so.”