Teravainen not worrying about Hawks' upcoming decision

Forward Teuvo Teravainen said he thinks he's improved since he was called up Jan. 2. AP Photo/Billy Hurst

CHICAGO -- Teuvo Teravainen doesn’t know whether he will be playing for the Chicago Blackhawks or Rockford IceHogs by week’s end.

The Blackhawks are expected to reassign a forward to the AHL when Kris Versteeg returns to the lineup from an injury later this week. Teravainen and Joakim Nordstrom are two prime candidates to return to the AHL.

It’s something Teravainen is trying not to think about right now.

“I’m just playing this game and playing day by day,” the 20-year-old Finn said Monday before the Blackhawks hosted the Arizona Coyotes. “We’ll see what happens. Just trying to play my best and that’s all I can do right now.

“I can’t say [I’d be] disappointed. There’s some situations where I can do nothing about, so I play my best and that’s all.”

Teravainen, who is considered the Blackhawks’ top prospect, has played in 14 games since being recalled Jan. 2, the day after Versteeg was injured. He has had some ups and down over the past month, but he believed he was improving overall.

“I think I played some good games, some bad games, too, and bad shifts, but I think I’m learning every day and I think I’m getting better all the time, so it’s going to be good,” said Teravainen, who has two goals and two assists. “I’m just learning from playing. Sometimes I do some bad things and learn from those. There’s some good things, too.

“It’s all about learning. I know better where I can try to do some things with the puck, where not, where to chip it in, where to chip it out, all those small things.”

The good for Teravainen has included showing his vision on the ice. He can make plays with the puck few are able to make. That’s something Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman raved about just before the All-Star break.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to, I guess, explain to people about what makes him good,” Bowman said recently. “He’s got all those things you can’t teach. Like if you had a kid who played hockey, you can certainly teach him to work on his skating, to work on his shot. You can positionally tell him where to go and you can do it through repetition. You can make a player like a sound player.

“What you can’t do is say I need you to be really creative and I need for you to be able to see guys out of the corner of your eye. Either you have that or you don’t, right? So when you’re watching players, that’s what you really notice right away. Those skills are not teachable.

“Like the skills that Patrick Kane have, you can’t teach that to anybody. He’s got a gift for controlling the game with the puck. Teuvo’s sort of the same way. The sort of effort he handles the puck, and he’s got his head up. He’s just sort of always knows where he’s going before he gets the puck.”

Teravainen will be the first to admit he’s far from being a finished product. In particular, he’s still learning to play against bigger and more experienced players. He’s had some games where he’s given up the puck too easily. He also knows he needs to shoot the puck more.

“I just learn that NHL D-men are really good with the stick,” Teravainen said. “I have to create some space for me and know where I can stay with the puck, go with the puck or where I can chip it in or pass to someone and try to get open. I’m just learning every day how to handle the puck.”

Teravainen nearly cost the Blackhawks with a puck blunder Sunday against the St. Louis Blues. He made a blind pass, which was intercepted near the Blues’ blue line. Teravainen raced back to defend the Blackhawks’ net and broke up the play before St. Louis was able to get a shot.

“I knew right away I’m going to get this one done,” Teravainen said. “It’s better to go to the bench with that kind of defensive play. Just have to play smarter with the blue lines and all those kind of areas. That can happen and I know that can happen, but it happened still. I learned from those. It’s good they didn’t score from that.”

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville will ultimately decide who is sent down to Rockford, and he hasn’t tipped his hand yet. Quenneville showed his faith in Teravainen in two important Central Division games, playing him 14 minutes, 23 seconds against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday and 12:14 against the Blues.

Quenneville spoke favorably of Teravainen on Monday, but also touched on where he thought Teravainen could improve.

“I like the way he plays the game, his thought process,” Quenneville said. “He keeps himself above the puck. He’s positionally aware of our system. I think he grows and is more efficient each and every game. Offensively, I think he has the puck a little bit more.

“I think getting the puck for him is something he can add to his game, and strength is obviously something in the puck area he’ll grow once he gets more familiar with the strength that’s necessary or how to position himself where you can take advantage of your quickness and skills.”