Blackhawks

What nerves? Rookies holding their own alongside Blackhawks' veterans

What nerves? Rookies holding their own alongside Blackhawks' veterans

Ryan Hartman had two choices as he and Marian Hossa broke on a 2-on-1 vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins: keep the puck and take the shot yourself, or pass it to the guy who's scored 525 goals in his career.

He passed to Hossa, and if you saw Wednesday's game you know the result. But even if Hartman had taken the shot himself, he figured his line mate wouldn't get angry.

"That goal the other night, if I shot the puck I don't think Hoss would've had too many hard feelings about it. I think he would've understood I made a hockey play," Hartman said. "We're all professionals here, and I may have saw something that was open. But the right play was to get that across to him, and he scored a nice goal."

The on-ice choices are there for every player. But if you're a young guy playing with a veteran, you might weigh every decision that much more. The Blackhawks' rookies have lined up with the team's multi-Cup winners throughout this season, and while there might have been early jitters, most of the young guys have played well alongside the veterans.

"(For) every guy, it's a different story," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Certainly you don't want to try to make plays or try to get certain guys the puck because it's too noticeable and easy to defend. But there are certainly advantages of playing with those (veteran) guys. They're better with the puck, so make sure you guys keep the puck and we'll go to the net and keep it simple."

Hartman and Hossa have found some success on that third line. Nick Schmaltz has carved his niche with Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik. Tanner Kero has worked well with Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin in Artem Anisimov's absence. For the rookies, it was important to just focus on the game, to just play hockey and trust their instincts. Still, there were some feelings of intimidation.

"Maybe a little at the start," Schmaltz said. "Maybe you're trying to get them the puck a little too much or forcing things that aren't there. You're not playing your game. You're a little shocked to be playing with those guys, but more and more you get comfortable with how they play and you realize it's another player. You try not to think about all the things they've done throughout their careers."

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Kero agreed.

"You're just looking around the dressing room and you see all those big names, all those great players and you're a little star struck right away," he said. "But once you're on the ice, you play hockey."

The dynamic in the Blackhawks' room helps, too. Regardless of how much individual players have won the team mentality always comes first. Every veteran started as a wide-eyed rookie, and they're willing to help and teach the new guys what they've learned over the years.

"I think as a young guy that's definitely something. You're really nervous coming in here, working with all those guys. You don't know whether you should say stuff, or ask a stupid question. But they made it really comfortable for all of us coming in," said Vinnie Hinostroza, who played with Toews a few games earlier this season. "All these guys have been so welcoming this year and really helped us make the adjustment."

The Blackhawks' rookies have been a big part of the team's success this season. Playing alongside guys who have won Stanley Cups, Hart and Conn Smythe trophies can be intimidating, but the Blackhawks' young players have handled it like they've been here for years.

"The goal is to win as a team every game and doesn't matter who's scoring. It's just that all these guys are unselfish, and you have to be a team-first guy to have the success they've had the last 10 years," Schmaltz said. "Everyone's buying in and everyone's team first."

Are Canadiens eyeing possible trade with Blackhawks?

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USA Today

Are Canadiens eyeing possible trade with Blackhawks?

The NHL trade deadline isn’t for another two-plus months, but this is an important time of year because all 31 teams have a pretty good idea of what its roster is as the standings take shape going into the 2020 calendar year. 

Management groups across the league are starting to gather more information and dig deeper on players they could be interested in ahead of the Feb. 24 deadline, whether it’s a buyer or a seller.

One frequent observer in Chicago has been the Montreal Canadiens, who have heavily scouted both the Blackhawks and Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin has been spotted multiple times at the United Center this season, including Sunday, and has made several trips to Rockford as well.

It’s believed the Canadiens are searching for a left-handed shot defenseman and that’s a position the Blackhawks have a surplus of. Erik Gustafsson, most notably, is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and there haven’t been any talks about a possible extension to this point, according to a source.

With Drake Caggiula (concussion protocol), Duncan Keith (groin) and Andrew Shaw (concussion protocol) sidelined, the Blackhawks have had the opportunity to evaluate some of their prospects at the NHL level recently.

Dennis Gilbert and Anton Wedin have gotten several looks already, and same with Adam Boqvist and Matthew Highmore, both of whom were recalled on Monday ahead of the Blackhawks' three-game road trip. Dylan Sikura was called up over the weekend and made his season debut on Sunday against the Arizona Coyotes.

It’s too early to speculate what the Blackhawks’ trade-deadline plans may be because it will likely be determined by where they sit in the standings come February, but it’s worth monitoring going forward, as we discussed on the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast. The Blackhawks and Canadiens are each five points out of a playoff spot in their respective conferences.

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Why are the Blackhawks so inconsistent?

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Why are the Blackhawks so inconsistent?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Charlie Roumeliotis and Nick Gismondi discuss the coaches getting involved in practice (0:40), the latest roster moves (2:45), Dennis Gilbert standing up for Alex DeBrincat (7:15), Robin Lehner's shootout struggles (13:45), the Blackhawks' inconsistency woes (17:45), performance vs. results (23:50) and the importance of the next eight games (27:35).

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

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.