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FEATURE: Veteran Carpenter Embracing Bottom-Six Role with Blackhawks

A consistent, but largely unsung new member of the Blackhawks, Ryan Carpenter set to return to former home in Vegas for first time Wednesday

by Chris Kuc @ChrisKuc / Blackhawks.com

Ryan Carpenter weaved his way through the Blackhawks dressing room, deftly sliding between the enormous Indian Head logo on the floor and a large group of reporters surrounding teammate Patrick Kane before settling into his stall to begin unlacing his skates.

As has been the case since playing in his first NHL game as a member of the Sharks in 2015, Carpenter was going about his business following practice Tuesday in Chicago with little fanfare.

At 28, and with this third NHL team after joining the Blackhawks as a free agent this summer, Carpenter doesn't yearn to skate on one of the two top lines. The veteran center is just as thrilled to occupy a spot on the third or fourth line where he does the kind of work - getting in the way of shots, winning faceoffs and shutting down opponents' power plays - that doesn't get much attention, but is vital to winning hockey games.

"I'm an older guy, I've been in the league and I kind of know my role as a bottom-six player," Carpenter said "My whole life I've kind of had to do those things and I just added scoring when I could along the way. At this level, being in the bottom-six you have to find ways to contribute, especially if you want to be a team that wins in your division, your conference and makes playoffs and does well there.

"I want to contribute offensively but I try to just do those little things that can keep you in the lineup and help the team win, whether it's blocking shots or winning faceoffs or helping our PK out," he added.

Carpenter ranks second on the Blackhawks with a 50.7 percent success rate in the faceoff circle and has delivered 28 hits and blocked 13 shots to go along with five assists in 16 games this season.

For some NHLers, it can be difficult to reconcile that they won't be a 40-goal scorer in the league or be introduced after games as one of the Three Stars as often as say, Kane, but Carpenter embraces his role.

"I see myself as a guy that just plays hard every night and buys into the system and plays winning hockey," Carpenter said. "I know what I am as a pro and I know what it takes to play in this league."

That attitude was one of the reasons the Blackhawks targeted Carpenter during free agency and inked him to a three-year deal that carries an AAV of $1 million on July 1.

"When you look at the guys we've added, that's been a little bit of a theme," Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Guys who can kill penalties and play defensively and provide some depth and you just kind of know what you get. We can put (Carpenter) with some of our younger players and he can protect them and allow them to really play at their highest level and maybe cover up when they take a step wrong."

After playing three seasons with Bowling Green University and going undrafted, Carpenter was signed by the Sharks as a free agent in 2014. During the '17-18 season, he was waived and then claimed by the Golden Knights, the team the Blackhawks will face Wednesday night to kick off a two-game road trip.

The Oviedo, Fla., native posted the most points of his NHL career with the Golden Knights last season, recording five goals and 13 assists in 68 games.

As the free agency period approached last summer, Carpenter told his agent that he had just two requests.

"I wanted a chance to play the role that I think I am as a player and an opportunity to win," Carpenter said. "Chicago offered both of that. Plus, just the history here is awesome and the fans here are awesome. It's a first-class organization."

Video: Saad slams home shorthanded feed from Carpenter

By all accounts, Carpenter is a first-class person. He has been heavily involved in charitable organizations throughout his hockey career, including capturing the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award for outstanding community service while with the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL in 2016.

"Hockey guys in general are really good at giving back to the community," Carpenter said. "We've been given such a cool platform and we've been blessed so it's awesome to be able to give back to the fans and just the city wherever you're a part of, whether that's San Jose or Vegas and now Chicago."

Carpenter has also been involved with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and said his faith has had a big impact on his career.

"It's been huge," Carpenter said. "There are so many ups and downs and adversity you face so faith just kind of comes in and helps. I know there is more to life than hockey. It helps me put hockey into perspective and helps me play with freedom. There is a lot of pressure at this level. I've been trying to fight to play in the NHL for so long and it's just knowing my value and my work doesn't come from what I do on the ice, it comes from what God thinks of me."

That faith also helped Carpenter during the aftermath of the Oct. 1, 2017 shooting at a music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds more injured in the largest mass shooting committed by an individual in American history.

Carpenter was with the Sharks that day and the team was on a flight back to San Jose from Las Vegas after facing the Golden Knights in an exhibition game earlier that night when the shooting occurred. A couple of months later, Carpenter was a member of the Golden Knights after being claimed off waivers and was part of the healing process of the city with the team playing a large role.

"It was just heartbreaking," Carpenter said. "But some good that came out of something that evil and that bad was just seeing the city kind of rally together and see how strong - Vegas strong - everyone was. Everyone kind of rallied around the team that first year and it seemed to give just a special bond among the city. It was just amazing the support and just all the heroes that came out of it - all the cool stories of people that put their lives on the line and were at risk to save people's lives and to help out."

After the Blackhawks face the Golden Knights, they will head to Nashville to take on the Predators on Saturday night before returning for a game against the Sabres on Sunday night at the United Center.

Carpenter will then continue to settle into the city along with wife, Alexis, and young sons Beau and Brock. So far, Carpenter has found life in Chicago to his liking.

"I love the fans and the crowd," he said. "It's a huge sports city, not just everyone showing the love for the Hawks. Everyone follows the Bears and the Cubs and the Bulls, too. The United Center rocks so it was one of my favorite places to play. It's special hearing that anthem play and wearing those red Original Six jerseys that are so sharp.

"And then it's just being part of a winning culture," Carpenter continued. "I know the past couple of years haven't been the way they wanted it but I think there are a lot of guys in here and guys who have come in who know what it takes to win so I wanted to be a part of a team like that."

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