ATLANTA -- The “reunion” game just got overshadowed by an irritated Chicago Blackhawks head coach.
Joel Quenneville pulled his team off the ice after a shortened morning practice, in advance of Saturday night’s contest against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Quenneville called his team together near the benches, gave them a few stern words then sent them off the ice.
“Just didn’t like the way it was going and wanted to keep the energy for tonight,” Quenneville said afterwards. “I just think we can be sharper, that’s all.”
Player reaction to the unusual move by Quenneville was mixed. Marty Turco seemed to provide the most insight.
“Pretty plain and simple,” Turco said in a quiet dressing room. “I think he had a right to be a little choked about it all. It has a little to do with today and a lot to do with other things going on probably. Our record speaks for it but its more about why our record is what it is.
“Part of it might be just the attitude possessed by this team. I think everyone knows attitude goes a long way and doesn’t just start with the drop of the puck.
“It kind of stems from the unhappiness where we are as a team and attitude we’re maintaining and position we are with our team.”
The Hawks' captain addressed the media but was short with his answers. At first, he didn’t want to admit something was out of place.
“It was nothing,” Toews said. “Nothing to talk about.”
When pressed, Toews opened up, at least a little more.
“Yeah, he saw it was a better thing to cut practice short so that’s what he did so there is nothing to talk about,” he said. “Obviously, yeah, there is a message. Just want to be ready for the game tonight.”
The Hawks have been inconsistent and Quenneville knows with four ex-hawks facing their old team, a large crowd expected, and the Thrashers using the Hawks -- as most teams do -- as a benchmark, his team needs to be focused.
“We know they are going to be ready and the harder working team is going to have success in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “You anticipate the guys on the other side are going to focus and how they are going to be ready and we want to be there.”
As a newcomer, winger Viktor Stalberg hasn’t seen an agitated Quenneville too much but he got the message as well.
“He’s a pretty constructive guy so you don’t see him mad all the time,” Stalberg said. “He’s going to have moments like that. He was right out there. We didn’t come out prepared the way we wanted to this morning. It’s a wake-up call for all the guys. I feel like it’s not a bad thing.”
Defenseman Brian Campbell agreed.
“You could probably have a look at it and understand why,” he said. “We have to be sharper. Obviously he’s not too happy and you look at the way we played, it’s definitely unacceptable. We owe it to him and to a lot of people, we have to play better hockey.”
By the time Quenneville met the media he didn't seem upset. He made his statement to the team, and now it’s time to move on.
“I don’t put a lot of credence into morning skates,” Quenneville explained. “Basically, we’ll put it as a short practice.”
Shorter than usual, that’s for sure. We’ll find out Saturday night if the message truly was heard.
Morin to make his debut
Adding yet another storyline to Saturday’s game, 19-year-old Jeremy Morin will make his NHL debut against the team who traded him this past offseason as part of the blockbuster that sent Dustin Byfuglien, Brent Sopel, and Ben Eager to Atlanta.
“It’s a bit ironic but it’s an exciting time for me and I’m just looking forward to the game right now,” Morin said Saturday morning.
Morin will lineup with Patrick Sharp as his center and Troy Brouwer as the other winger.
Thrasher players Andrew Ladd, Ben Eager, and Dustin Byfuglien met up with some of their former teammates for a reunion dinner Friday night.
“We were busting each other’s chops pretty good,” Ladd said. “It was fun to have the group of guys together. Fun to catch up.”
Ladd wasn’t sure who picked up the bill, but he knew who didn’t.
“Johnny [Toews] didn’t pick up the tab,” Ladd joked. “He got that big playoff bonus and he didn’t pick up the tab but that’s alright. Actually, Buff [Dustin Byfuglien] paid for me.”
It turns out Byfuglien paid for everyone.
“I had a choice but I thought I would be a nice guy,” Byfuglien said. “It was a good time to get back together with those guys. Still laughing at the same jokes.”
So how did the dinner go?
“It was basically Duncs [Duncan Keith] being Duncs, Sharpie [Patrick Sharp] telling jokes, and Tazer [Jonathan Toews] being in the middle of all of it. Just the same old good things. [Toews] has loosened up a little bit. You get him around the right people he’ll crack a smile throw some jokes out there.”
Brent Sopel didn’t make the dinner as he is entertaining 15 friends in town from Chicago.