Nearing the end of their exhibition schedule, head coach Joel Quenneville’s job of filling out his opening night roster is getting harder, not easier. The Blackhawks’ 4-3 win against Minnesota Friday night saw several unheralded Hawks step up and contribute at big moments.
“I know that we talked this morning and I said that we’d see how some of the guys play,” Quenneville said. “But I thought they all had good games, and they deserve at least another game when we get to Switzerland.”
Among the unheralded players who stepped up were Rob Klinkhammer, who tipped in the game-winning goal off a Brent Seabrook
slap shot, and Jake Dowell, who provided much-needed toughness and physicality up-front in the absence of regulars Ben Eager and Dustin Byfuglien.
“Every guy who played tonight played well,” he said. “That will only make our decisions tougher.”
While hardly unnoticed, Patrick Kane
also stepped up in an unusual capacity Friday: on the penalty kill unit.
“They came up to me about an hour and a half before the game and told me I was going in,” Kane said. “I’ve been joking with [assistant coach] Mike Haviland when he brings out the penalty kill board, saying ‘Havi – where’s my number on there?’ When he came up to me and said that they were trying me at the kill tonight, I just said ‘yeah, yeah… whatever.’”
“I think getting [players] a little more ice time over the course of games is important,” Quenneville said. “There are times there when you get three or four kills in a row, you want to have that option and experience. I think we could try that this year. We’ve got a lot of versatility.”
Quenneville said that every player remaining on the active roster has a chance to make the team, but acknowledged that the team’s salary cap situation may play a part in who makes the cut.
“There are opportunities not just for the guys who were on the team last year, but also guys who want to make the hockey club," he said. "But we’ve also got some economic factors, when we make some choice that won’t be hockey decisions but business decisions. We’ve got some tough calls overall.”
With so much depth left at each position, the Hawks will take all 29 players on their active roster over to Europe, including winger Radek Smolenak, who was acquired from Tampa Bay earlier today. The Blackhawks will play two exhibition games in Zurich before going to Helsinki, Finland to take on the Florida Panthers in the NHL Premiere, when the roster must be cut down.
Though some players have gotten extended looks because of injuries to many mainstays, Quenneville said that he expects all of the injured players to return by opening night.
"Right now, we envision everyone to be ready,” he said.