It’s a brand new season, but as far as the Blackhawks are concerned, it’s the same old Red Wings.
“There are a lot of new faces and I’m sure we’re going to get to know them,” said Patrick Sharp. “Every year, they seem to add great players and I trust that they’re going to be at the top of the conference all year long. It’s a big game for us tonight.”
The rival Wings have had to compensate with the departure of several forwards this offseason, including Marian Hossa, Tomas Kopecky and Jiri Hudler, and their squad this year includes five forwards who weren’t on last year’s opening night roster. But with key players such as Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk and Nicklas Lidstrom still on the team, head coach Joel Quenneville knows that Detroit is as dangerous as any team in the league.
“They’ve still got their core and the way they play is as effective as ever,” he said. “They have the puck a lot, still make you play good defense and they do the smart things throughout the game. It won’t take their new guys long to get up to speed in their system.”
While the Hawks aren’t calling this a “statement game,” they know that the defending Western Conference champs are the measuring stick by which every other team will be measured.
“Last year, they had us on their radar and we had some heated battles,” said Jonathan Toews. “I know it’s going to be the same way this year.”
“It’s a great opportunity for us,” said Quenneville. “It’s a tough building and a good challenge. They’re a dangerous team and we know that they’re going to be ready for us.”
Back In Town
While Marian Hossa’s return to “Hockeytown” will have to wait until he returns from shoulder surgery, Tomas Kopecky will take the ice tonight at Joe Louis Arena for the first time as a visiting player.
“Obviously, I grew up [as a player] in Detroit with this organization and it’s going to be a weird feeling before the game,” he said.
Though he’ll now be playing against friends with whom who he played for parts of four seasons, Kopecky's focus is on his new team, and he knows they are counting on him to contribute at both ends of the ice.
“I can’t change my game at all,” he said. “I have to be physical and grind in the corners. I don’t think anything changes just because of where I played before.”
Though he sharded great moments with the Red Wings, Kopecky hopes that once the contest starts it will be just another game.
“I had lots of great memories here, but that’s the past and hopefully I can move on,” said Kopecky. “This is always a big rivalry and fun to be a part of. Hopefully when the puck drops it will be like any other game.”
Before practice, the Blackhawks recalled Bryan Bickell and the 24-year old winger will play tonight. Bickell was one of the players that the coaching staff took notice of in training camp, and Quenneville thinks that given an opportunity, he will carry over that success.
“It’s a good opportunity for him,” Quenneville said. “We like his quickness and his size and he can add an element for us physically, as well. Based on how he played in camp, he’s earned this opportunity and we’ll see how he handles it.”