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Colliton bringing new ideas to Blackhawks in debut

Youngest coach in NHL has Chicago embracing fresh start

by Tracey Myers @TraMyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- Jeremy Colliton was implementing as much as he could in an 80-minute Chicago Blackhawks practice Wednesday.

The coach, promoted when Joel Quenneville was fired Tuesday, covered everything from defensive-zone work to puck-battle drills to special teams. The Blackhawks tried to take it all in.

"That's the challenge. We don't really have time to feel anything out," defenseman Duncan Keith said. "We've got to do our best to play our best and not think too much, but also try and implement some of the things."

The Blackhawks (6-6-3) have to learn fast and get results quickly, starting Thursday when Colliton makes his NHL coaching debut against the Carolina Hurricanes (8:30 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, FS-CR, NHL.TV). The 33-year-old is the youngest coach in the NHL.

Chicago has lost five straight games and is sixth in the Central Division, nine points behind first-place Nashville (12-3-0).

"I think we're as positive and optimistic as we can be on a five-game losing streak," Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. "We started the season off well, but we know there's a lot of potential there that's not being tapped yet. Again, it's just getting down to those details. Once you make small changes, you get a huge return on those changes."

Goalie Corey Crawford has been good since returning in a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Oct. 18 (3-4-0, 2.92 goals-against average, .907 save percentage), but there hasn't been much consistency in front of him.

Video: How will the Blackhawks adjust after coaching change?

Much of Chicago's scoring has come from three forwards. Right wing Patrick Kane leads the Blackhawks with 19 points (11 goals, eight assists), left wing Alex DeBrincat is next with 15 points (eight goals, seven assists), and center Toews is third with 13 points (eight goals, five assists). They have combined for 47 points. The 11 other forwards have combined for 42 points.

Several forwards can play center or wing, which gives Colliton some options, but performance will dictate who goes where.

"For now, we want to give everyone a chance to jump in and show what they can do, and we'll react, certainly," Colliton said. "If you play well, you play more. If there's other guys going, then you play a little bit less. But as far as positioning, I think a lot of guys can move around, and that's good."

The Blackhawks haven't scored in the third period during the losing streak.

"At times if feels like we play well and play with energy, and then all of a sudden we just let it go," Toews said. "We have to identify why that is, mentally, that we're having those lapses, but also, if we do have some moments when teams are coming at us hard, that we need to play better tactically and technically as a team."

Video: King on Colliton being named Blackhawks head coach

Another concern is the power play, which is 27th in the NHL (14.0 percent; 7-for-50). The Blackhawks spent a good part of practice Wednesday using a 1-3-1 setup, but Keith said it's not Colliton's responsibility alone to find solutions.

"The power play is a collective thing," Keith said. "Certainly, there's things we can look at and take from other teams. That's what a lot of other teams do in the first place. It's all five guys working together and having a plan there where we're all on the same page. And when everybody's on the same page, that's going to make it easier. Keeping it simple and going off of just a few things and trying to execute those things."

The Blackhawks are adjusting to Colliton's way of doing things. Considering where they are in the standings, they don't have much of a choice.

"I think we want to take it as the start of the season now," DeBrincat said. "We want to throw away that five-game losing streak and start over, start from here. That's a big thing we want to do, just move on from here."

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