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Teravainen staying positive in Rockford

ROCKFORD, Ill. -- Teuvo Teravainen has already mastered one American saying.

When describing his situation after being assigned by the Chicago Blackhawks to the AHL's Rockford IceHogs, Teravainen said Monday, "It is what it is."

The 20-year-old native of Finland, who is considered the Blackhawks' top prospect, has quickly come to terms with the fact he's going to start this season in the AHL rather than NHL. He was told after the Blackhawks' final preseason game Friday he was being sent to Rockford.

Teravainen was hopeful to make the Blackhawks' season-opening roster, but he understood why he was sent down. The Blackhawks were up against the cap and didn't have a roster spot for him.

"I know they have a good team," Teravainen said after the IceHogs' practice Monday. "There's really not a spot open there. I'm not surprised, but of course I'm a little disappointed.

"I'm here now, and that's what it is. I think I'm in that level to play in the NHL, but it's a situation where now I'm here. I try to help the team and play my best here. Now it's like, try to focus, play better here, and if I get a chance at some point, just be ready all the time."

Despite being in the AHL, Teravainen strongly believes he has the ability to play in the NHL now. He thought he showed that in the two preseason games, as well.

"I played like three years in pro hockey in Finland," Teravainen said. "I played with men, and it's a good league in Finland. I think I feel better now than last year when I was here. I worked hard this summer, and my body's feeling stronger. I felt good on the ice, and I felt I'm ready.

"Always when I jumped to another level, I've played good. I get used to it real fast. Of course, if you jump to the next level, you're going to play with better players. It makes your game more easier."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday that Teravainen is close to being in the NHL but believes more time in the AHL would be beneficial for him.

"Experience, we want him playing, get the feel of his game," Quenneville said Sunday. "Certainly we liked his camp. And getting exposure to systems, NHL pace, because the AHL is a good league, and get comfortable with systems and strength. Turning pro is a big step, and it'll be good for him to play in some games.

"Yes, [he] has all the ingredients. Strength and experience is what'll get him here and playing confident, sees plays. I feel he's going to play for sure."

IceHogs coach Ted Dent called Quenneville to talk about Teravainen on Sunday. Dent then spoke with Teravainen on Monday.

"I talked to Teuvo briefly this morning, so we're all on the same page now and have an understanding of what Joel wants him to improve on and how he wants him to play," Dent said. "I know Joel talked about a more north-and-south game, moving ahead, and he's a centerman, as well, staying in the middle of the ice and presenting your stick and being an option for the defensemen on breakouts. That's something that will be ongoing and teaching it as much as we can on the ice and reinforce it with video."

One of the biggest hurdles for many prospects after being demoted is staying positive. Prospects, especially younger ones, tend to get depressed and lose focus. Teravainen said he's trying to stay away from that.

"I need to be positive, just have fun here," Teravainen said. "If I'm just here and do not want to be here and not want to play here, it's not going to be good for me. I'm not going to play good then. If I want to play with the Blackhawks this season, I need to play good here and have really good games here. My focus needs to be there."

IceHogs defenseman Adam Clendening knows exactly what Teravainen is going through. He's been through it himself. Clendening, who developed a friendship with Teravainen in the summer, is confident Teravainen will be just fine in the long run.

"If it's my opinion, he is an NHL player," Clendening said. "Again, we're both on the best team in the league or in the organization of the best team in the league. It's something you just have to be patient with and come down here. He's only going to get better defensively and offensively. He's going to be more of a complete player. That's what they want up there. When he goes up there, he'll never come back."