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Busy week means no rest for Blackhawks' Olympians

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- If the Chicago Blackhawks' 10 Olympians are looking for a sense of normalcy in their lives, they better look to the future because it's not coming until next week at the earliest.

Days after Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp and Duncan Keith helped Canada win the gold medal at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the Blackhawks are opening their post-Olympic schedule Thursday with a game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US).

Roughly 48 hours later, they'll be competing outside at Soldier Field against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series on Saturday (8 p.m. ET, NBC).

The Blackhawks had their first full post-Olympic team practice Wednesday before traveling to New York. Their next practice will be Friday night at Soldier Field.

"Off to the races right away," Keith said Thursday morning. "That's a good thing; get back into the swing of things hard and fast."

And with no time to worry about the jet lag that some, such as Sharp, are still fighting.

Sharp said the New York trip is usually his favorite because he loves playing at Madison Square Garden and going out to eat in Manhattan. He didn't quite get that experience after the team arrived here Wednesday.

"I slept as much as possible and wasted the road trip," Sharp said.

Sharp admitted he hasn't had much time to think about the outdoor game either because of the Olympics and his jet lag. More than anything, he's just thrilled the game is in Chicago because he hasn't been home much recently.

"I'm just going to go as hard as I can right from the start, jump into it full bore," Sharp said. "If you're waiting to feel better it might not come because we've got a ton of games in March, a lot of important games. [Coach] Joel [Quenneville] is going to give us enough rest. That's not going to be an excuse."

The Blackhawks had a six-game west-coast road trip leading into the Olympic break. The outdoor game Saturday is their first home game since Jan. 26.

Patrick Kane said he thinks the sense of normalcy and routine that these guys are used to won't return until Sunday. For now, adrenaline will have to carry them.

"It's a couple of games right off the bat that should get our guys' attention and hopefully we can start on a good note," Quenneville said.

Here is the lineup the Blackhawks expect to put on the ice Thursday:

Patrick Sharp - Jonathan Toews - Marian Hossa

Kris Versteeg - Peter Regin - Patrick Kane

Bryan Bickell - Andrew Shaw - Brandon Saad

Brandon Bollig - Marcus Kruger - Ben Smith

Duncan Keith - Brent Seabrook

Johnny Oduya - Niklas Hjalmarsson

Nick Leddy - Michal Rozsival

Corey Crawford

Antti Raanta

Scratched: Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Handzus

Injured: Nikolai Khabibulin (torn rotator cuff)


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