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Blackhawks Mon Sep 23 2013

Blackhawks Continue to Tune-up for Regular Season

Thumbnail image for GB blackhawks icon.png How quickly time flies when the good times roll. After four games through the NHL pre-season, the Blackhawks are looking every bit the part as defending Stanley Cup champions.

After disposing of the Detroit Red Wings Sunday afternoon by the final of 4-3, coach Quenneville's crew took its record to 3-0-1, with only two games left against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals before kicking off the regular season. During these last few weeks of practice play, the Blackhawks auditioned young talent for roster spots and hoped to solidify its anemic power-play woes and wins at the dot.

All signs point to veteran 36-year-old Michal Handzuš taking over as the second-line center with 22-year-old Brandon Pirri knocking at the door. Brandon Saad was auditioned at the slot, but appears to be headed for his role at left wing, which proved fruitful late last season.

With final roster spots scheduled to be set by opening day on Tuesday, October 1, against the Capitals, the Blackhawks continue to work out the youth of the organization. This includes center Byron Froese, who scored two goals for the Blackhawks in yesterday's game while going 38 percent in faceoffs. And while that number may seem low, he did capitalize in the team's offensive zone by going three for four, including one for two against Pavel Datsyuk.

Another young hopeful brought the home-viewing crowd to its feet last night, who goes by the name of Joakim. But it wasn't the 6 foot, 11 inch player everyone is accustomed to seeing in a Bulls uniform, diving on the hardwood for loose rebounds. It was a 6 foot, 2 inch center from Sweden named Joakim Nordstrom.

After defenseman Alexei Marchenko circled with the puck in the home-ice Detroit zone, Nordstrom picked his pocket off a mishandle, made a half-turn to avoid Brendan Smith to then go glove-side on a sprawled out Jimmy Howard. The picture perfect steal-spin-score produced a smile on the 21-year-old's face and a raised eyebrow from the visiting bench.

The next two games should provide more ice time for the young Rockford crew and others in an effort to stake their claim to make a roster spot or, at the very least, a first call-up in case of injury to the starters. The Blackhawks should take its time with the likes of Marian Hossa in an effort to save some minutes for later in the season. The same should follow suit for Handzuš and his aging legs.

After tonight's skate in the Steel City, the Blackhawks will have five days off to come home and close out the preseason. That's provides time for Quenneville and staff to iron out who makes the list and who heads west on I-90 or back across the pond.

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