CHICAGO -- Many NHL players wouldn’t mind waiting four or five days between games after starting the season in back-to-back fashion, but Chicago Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo isn’t one of those players.
After sitting out the two weekend games against the Dallas Stars due to a suspension incurred in last season’s playoffs, Carcillo is anxious to get on the ice.
“I’m prepared as I’ll ever be,” he said after practice on Monday. “[Assistant coach] Mike Kitchen skated me two days in a row there. That was a lot tougher than being in a game, I’ll tell you that for sure. I’m ready.”
“He could be good for myself and Hossa,” Kane said. “Hopefully the same kind of thing like [Troy] Brouwer, just creating room for us. I know he played with [Mike] Richards and [Jeff] Carter and those guys in Philadelphia so I’m sure he’s used to it a little bit.”
In other words, he’s used to playing more than a “goon” role. That’s one reason why the Hawks chose him over other tough guys available this past offseason. They want their fighters to be able to skate, pass and maybe score, not unlike Ben Eager or Adam Burish from a couple of seasons ago.
“They’re two of the elite players in this league,” Carcillo said of Hossa and Kane. “Joel threw me out there with them today. It’s a pretty simple job. Go to the net, keep my stick on the ice. Be ready for back-door passes and rebounds.”
“Be ready” is something Andrew Brunette talked of, in particular regarding playing with Kane. The puck might find you at the least expected times. Still, Carcillo’s main job will be to distract.
“I know when I’m doing my job I’m under guys skin and they’re thinking about me and they’re not thinking about guys like Kane and Hossa,” Carcillo said. “That’s a mistake on their part and that’s when breakdowns happen. My main focus is to be hard on the forecheck. And, if need be, protect them.”
Hossa said they’re still getting used to each other but he sees the same thing others see: more time and space if Carcillo is doing his thing.
“Everything is possible,” Hossa said. “He can get under people’s skin. That could be to our advantage.”
The Hawks are counting on it.
On second thought: With the break between games, Quenneville had a chance to watch his team’s first two contests of the season. Not surprisingly, he liked what he saw in Saturday’s game more than Friday’s.
“We played more of an attack game in Game 2,” Quenneville explained. “I thought we had a lot of errors in our game in Game 1. We were more direct in our approach and had a quicker pace to our game and we were better in the battle areas [Saturday].”
Quenneville has noticed a league-wide trend that will affect his skill players, forcing them to change their style slightly.
“Teams have a tendency throughout the league being a little more patient off forechecks and in the neutral zone,” Quenneville said. “Trying to be creative off that is going to be dangerous. We want to make sure we’re smarter and simplify.”
“Simplify” is a word Quenneville has used more often over the last couple years. When the Hawks get cute they create turnovers for the other team, but they also don’t want to neutralize their skill. Playing smart is the universal answer.
New goalie: There was quite a stir as practice began on Monday. Corey Crawford was not on the ice but the Hawks still had two goalies running drills. One was backup Ray Emery, but the other remained a mystery as his black mask stayed on his head throughout the morning.
The mystery man turned out to be a college student -- Arizona State netminder Scott Czarnik. Czarnik is a pupil of Hawks goalie coach Stephane Waite. He was in town on a break, according to his dad who was filming practice. When the Hawks held Crawford out of drills with a minor injury, Czarnik was called in for duty.
“I didn’t know if he was here to tape sticks, pick up the laundry or put the equipment on,” Patrick Sharp joked afterwards. “We got a good kick out of him playing. He did a great job. We were bugging [Corey Crawford]. It’s a long week of practice, he was a rookie last year and it seems like he has veteran status. He takes a few days off and gets ready for the game on Thursday.”
Czarnik seemed in awe of his surroundings but enjoying himself. He took some pictures with Quenneville and others on the ice after practice.
“The first couple of shots went in on him but he got better after that,” Kane said. “It was funny, watching him walk around the locker room, he had a big smile on his face. He was excited to be here.”
Crawford is expected to be back on the ice for practice on Tuesday. When asked what he thought of the the fill-in netminder, Quenneville said he was too focused on his own players.
“I’m sure it’s exciting,” he said. “I was watching Ray at the other end.”
One reason why Kane has not been exposed defensively playing center is the system the Hawks play. It’s not only the center’s job to back-check and get below the net.
“Whoever comes to the zone first stays down low,” Marian Hossa said.
Quenneville concurred, saying it’s always been their system.
Even Quenneville has taken to calling Carcillo by his unique nickname. Quenneville could be heard yelling “car bomb” when instructing Carcillo in a drill at practice.
“Everyone has nicknames,” Carcillo joked. “It just happens mine is better than everyone else’s.”