CHICAGO | The Blackhawks will have enough energy-draining tasks ahead, starting with Saturday's outdoor game against the Penguins at Soldier Field, and leading into a busy stretch run through the playoffs.
Coach Joel Quenneville, renowned for liberally doling out rest to his roster, won’t be cracking the whip with the 10 Hawks Olympic players who just filtered back from halfway around the world in Sochi, Russia. They’ll have a light schedule leading into the first game of the post-Olympic schedule Thursday night against the Rangers in New York.
Members of the Czech and Slovak teams eliminated early in the Olympics, thus took an early flight back and are more likely to skate by Thursday. Quenneville will really ease up on the six Hawks who played in the Canada-Sweden gold-medal game early Sunday.
“I don’t expect those guys to be getting on the ice ...I’ll give the guys a couple of days (to gather themselves),” he said. “Very taxing and exciting as well.
“I would expect they need a couple of days to enjoy it and celebrate,” he said of gold medalists Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Sharp. “When we get them back together, I’m sure the focus will go in the right place, but a break for them off the ice will be healthy as well. It is what it is, and the players know how to read it. It’s an interesting week for us.”
Once the returnees are fully back in their NHL routines, the scramble begins to finish positively, ahead of the Blues in the Central Division standings and battling the Ducks for another President’s Trophy. The Hawks and Blues are tied with 84 points, three behind the Ducks. The Penguins are the top Eastern Conference producer with 83 points.
“We’d like to finish as high as we can,” Quenneville said. “That’d be a nice accomplishment, but we certainly want to be playing the right way right til the end of the year. Finish first in our division, which is going to be a great challenge. ... So there’s a lot of hurdles, a lot of challenges. Getting everybody as we go along fresh here and ready to be peaking at the right time.”
First things first: Goalie Corey Crawford knows the Hawks can’t get ahead of themselves looking to the Soldier Field game.
“You’ve got to be careful not to forget about the game in New York," he said. "That’s a big game for us to get back into the swing of things and get our momentum again and get back to where we were playing on the road. The outdoor game will be fun, but the New York is more important.”
At least the goalie didn’t get sunburned: Crawford, who did not make the Olympic cut, spent part of the break in Chicago. However, he was luckier than most stuck in the wild winter that isn’t set to let up just yet.
“I went to Cancun (for five days),” he said. “Really good weather. Mid-80s, high 80s.”
Crawford said he did not forget to apply sunscreen.
Goalies off for several weeks need a few practices to get back into rhythm.
“Seeing pucks is the first thing that goes,” Crawford said. “It’ll take a couple of days to get back to 100 percent to see shots coming off the stick crisp and clean.”
Keith, Seabrook on 'Chicago Fire': Hawks defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will make a guest appearance in tonight’s episode of the hit NBC drama “Chicago Fire” at 9 p.m. on WMAQ-TV (Ch. 5).
In the episode titled “Virgin Skin,” Shay (played by Lauren German) gets an unusual tip from Seabrook and Keith, friends of Clarke (guest star Jeff Hephner) who stop by Molly’s, the local bar that is co-owned by several members from Firehouse 51. The outdoor Soldier Field game generates excitement at Molly’s and the firehouse.