By all accounts Chicago Blackhawks assistant Mike Haviland earned rave reviews for his four-game stint behind the bench while head coach Joel Quenneville recovered from a bleeding ulcer.
Haviland went 3-1 and provided a seamless transition that had an extra layer because Haviland and assistant Mike Kitchen switched roles. Haviland coached the forwards while Kitchen dealt with the defense.
“I thought he was great with it,” Brian Campbell said after practice on Wednesday. “He adapted throughout the games. He’ll make a great coach one day. He’ll be ready for it.”
Campbell said it was strange to have a new head coach as well as someone different running the defense.
“Mike Kitchen is at the total opposite end of the bench, usually, so we just needed to communicate,” Campbell stated.
The transition could have had more bumps but Haviland’s experience in the AHL paid off.
“Yeah, I could see it being a headache back there for some teams, but I think it was nice Mike has had head coaching experience, a lot of it, before,” Campbell said.
Quenneville, obviously, liked what he saw while watching “every second of every game” he missed. He especially enjoyed the final forty minutes against St. Louis on Monday when the Hawks stormed back from a 2-0 deficit to win 5-3. Quenneville thinks his team needs to be “fully engaged” the way it was in the second and third periods.
“It put us in a good spot,” he said. “Now four games coming up against teams in the same air space as us so it’s a huge test.”
At present, Nashville, Phoenix, Minnesota, and Calgary all have playoff spots -- but only precariously. If the Hawks beat the Predators in regulation on Thursday, they will pass them in the standings for the first time since mid-December.
New lines have helped the Hawks win the past two games. Quenneville said he likes the balance, and so does winger Bryan Bickell, who has been promoted to the second line.
“The way the lines are working I think we’re going to stick with them for a bit,” Bickell said. “We have a couple of wins under our belt, can’t change now.”
Fernando Pisani practiced with his teammates for the first time since leaving the game against Dallas on Feb. 11. Pisani took a nasty hit from Mark Fistric, near the benches, on which his head snapped back.
“I didn’t really watch it,” Pisani said. “I felt it so I don’t need to see it again. It’s one of those hits where I got caught in a vulnerable position and my head hit the boards from what I’m told.”
Pisani has been cleared to play, though Quenneville wouldn’t say if he was in the lineup for Thursday.
The Hawks sent Nick Leddy to Rockford on Tuesday in a cost saving move with plans of recalling him. Leddy felt ill on Wednesday and is questionable for Thursday’s game.
Corey Crawford will start against the Predators.