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At the Rink blog

Blackhawks seeing organizational depth tested

Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 3:58 PM

By Brian Hedger - NHL.com Correspondent / At the Rink blog

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At the Rink blog
Blackhawks seeing organizational depth tested
CHICAGO -- After skating through most of the first 39 games relatively healthy, the Chicago Blackhawks are now having their organizational depth tested.

They've got a possible long-term injury and indefinite suspension of forward Daniel Carcillo to deal with, plus injuries to veteran defenseman Steve Montador (upper body) and rookie center Marcus Kruger (upper body). Montador’s ailment isn't known, while it's believed Kruger's stems from a possible concussion. He was held out of a game Dec. 21 against the Montreal Canadiens after taking an illegal charge by Pittsburgh's Deryk Engelland the night before.

Kruger returned for a game on Dec. 26 against the Columbus Blue Jackets and sustained a couple more big hits into the boards. He hasn't played since and Quenneville said that he regressed somewhat on Tuesday before feeling better Wednesday.

Kruger and Montador were both placed on injured reserve Wednesday and two more new faces came up from the Hawks' system to take their place. Joining fellow rookie forward Jimmy Hayes -- who was recalled from Rockford of the American Hockey League on Dec. 29 -- are 21-year old defenseman Dylan Olsen and 20-year old forward Andrew Shaw.

"We've got some depth organizationally," Quenneville said. "Our young kids are playing. Internally we like our depth and sometimes we got exposed to it. That's what we get to find out and I think every team in the League goes through it over the course of the season. We haven't gotten hit with it until about now, so it's all part of the process."

Quenneville gave that answer after Wednesday's practice at the United Center, before the Hawks headed off to play the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday night in Philly. It was in response to a question about whether he thinks Chicago needs to bring in a veteran replacement for Carcillo if it's determined that the Hawks' gritty forward will be out for a long time.

In short, his answer was the Hawks will look inside the organization first. In fact, Shaw and Olsen are the seventh and eighth rookies the Hawks have put on the active roster this season -- along with Kruger, Brandon Saad, Brandon Pirri, Ben Smith and Jimmy Hayes, who was called up in late December and has played two games.

Olsen, a first-round pick in the 2009 NHL Draft (No. 28), is a 6-foot-2, 214-pound blueliner who's not afraid to hit and specializes in playing shutdown defense. Shaw, the Hawks' fifth-round pick in the 2011 Draft (No. 139), is a 5-10, 180-pound, energetic scrapper like Carcillo, who's also got some nifty skills around the net.

Shaw impressed Chicago's management and coaches in both prospects camp and training camp, and started the season in Rockford on an AHL contract. He scored 12 goals and totaled 21 points in 33 games before signing his entry-level contract on Tuesday and getting the call to come to Chicago not long afterward.
 
He's a good hitter and he's not afraid to drop the mitts -- as evidenced by fighting Carcillo during a scrimmage early in training camp. Now he'll make his NHL debut on Thursday against the Flyers -- likely playing right wing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp.

"Shaw is playing well down (in Rockford) and gives us a little personality and he's kind of a comparable player (to Carcillo)," Quenneville said. "It will give him a chance to see what he can do. We don't want to change his game, whoever he plays with. I'm sure we'll enjoy his energy."

As for Olsen, who got the call-up Tuesday on his 21st birthday, the Hawks are excited to see what he can bring to the team -- most likely playing the right point on the third defense pair in place of Montador. He scored 1 goal and added 1 assist with 38 penalty minutes in 30 games this season for Rockford.

"I like the way he can skate, I like the size and I like his presence," Quenneville said. "We're going to see how he does."

Like other rookies this season, Shaw and Olsen are just looking to make a great first impression. For Shaw, his approach to playing with Toews and Sharp will remain simplistic.

"Just play my game," he said. "That's why I'm here and that's what got me here. Just go to the net, play hard, stick up for my teammates and I think I should be fine. A few years ago, I never thought I'd be playing my first game in the NHL (now), but it shows hard work pays off."

Olsen is also eager to hit the ice wearing Chicago's iconic sweater.

"This is a huge opportunity," he said. "It's something you look forward to your whole life and finally getting the chance and the call last night was incredible. I'm just a hard-nosed defenseman. I can shut down the other team's top lines, take the body, move the puck and make good plays."

They weren't the only prospect roster moves the Hawks made this week. Chicago's front office was also busy on Monday, when the Hawks announced they’d signed 2011 first-round picks Mark McNeill (No. 18) and Philip Danault (No. 26) to entry-level contracts. Both are currently having good seasons with their respective junior teams.
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