Joel Quenneville returns to Blackhawks after World Cup stint

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Joel Quenneville coaches his first preseason game of the season on Saturday night. (Getty Images)

There was a familiar growl at the Blackhawks morning skate on Saturday, as Joel Quenneville led his first practices of training camp after spending the past month as an assistant coach for Team Canada at the World Cup of Hockey.

“It was a great experience, learned a ton,” Quenneville said. “Great to be around some coaches where there’s a lot of valuable experiences that are new.”

Hawks assistants Mike Kitchen and Kevin Dineen have been running training camp in his absence. And while Quenneville stayed in touch with them, his focus was primarily on the World Cup. He finally got to see his Hawks in the flesh Friday night in Pittsburgh, watching from the press box.

“Catching up,” he said Saturday. “Today helped. Watching the team play [Friday] night certainly helped, as well. … I’m just happy to be with our group, our team here. Camp’s interesting for us this year, where we have a lot of decisions to make. We have some important opportunities ahead for some guys, and we look forward to seeing how it plays out.”

Quenneville said he stayed away from the eight non-Canadian Hawks who were at the World Cup, but watched from afar, and was pleased with how everybody played. And as for the two-game sweep of Team Europe in the final, the late goals by Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand less than two minutes apart brought back some good memories — memories that came, coincidentally, against Bergeron’s and Marchand’s Boston Bruins.

“Certainly the ending reminded me of Boston, Game 6,” Quenneville said. “Definitely a fun way to go out.”

Goal-oriented

The Hawks, minus nearly all their star players, failed to score in their first two preseason games, and Quenneville had no trouble figuring out why.

“We didn’t have any traffic at the net, and made it very easy on goaltenders,” he said. “Whether you’re watching World Cup or an exhibition game, the goalies are so good in our league, that if they see and get a clear view on every shot, you’re not going to score. So we have to make sure we make it hard on them.”

Dineen also pointed out that the Hawks haven’t been working hard enough to pounce on rebounds, either.

“I felt like there was a little candy lying around in front of the net that we didn’t take advantage of,” he said earlier in the week.

Light the lamp

Quenneville is still weighing the possibility of using Marian Hossa in a checking-line role with Marcus Kruger, building off the solid performance they had together in the playoffs last spring. But if Kruger’s going to play with Hossa, he knows he has to produce more offensively. He had no goals and just four assists in 41 games last season, and has just 28 goals in 328 career games.

“Obviously that’s something I’m looking for, and something I’m working to improve,” Kruger said. “That’s something that’s got to be better. That’s something I really want to do this year.”

Cut-down day

The Hawks sent forward Kyle Baun and defensemen Dillon Fournier, Carl Dahlstrom and Nolan Valleau to Rockford. They also sent 2016 second-round pick Alex DeBrincat and Graham Knott back to their junior teams. There are 25 forwards, 13 defensemen and five goalies left in camp.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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