NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Richard Panik has yet to practice with the Blackhawks, because the Blackhawks have yet to hold a practice since trading for him. In theory, that makes Panik’s transition to a new team and a new system infinitely harder. In reality, however, it’s freed him up to just let loose and play.
“Maybe it’s a good thing, just the games, just hockey,” Panik said after Tuesday’s morning skate in Nashville. “Just play your game and don’t overthink it.”
Panik is trying to make the most of his morning skates, and is studying extra video to adapt to Joel Quenneville’s defensive-minded system. But the eight or nine minutes a night he’s playing are really his only chance to work on his game. And so far, that’s been enough. He has a goal and an assist in four games with the Hawks since the Toronto Maple Leafs traded him to Chicago for Jeremy Morin.
“It’s a work in progress, between games, morning of, and in games,” Quenneville said. “The tweaks of getting the system down is something we always try to reinforce. He’s made good progress in a short amount of time. That takes the hesitation away from his game, and adds some quickness to it, when you just go instinctually.”
Panik has fit in well on the Hawks’ fourth line, on the left side with Dennis Rasmussen and Ryan Garbutt. That line has seen more offensive zone time lately, and as a result, has earned more ice time in general.
“We’re playing pretty good,” Panik said. “We didn’t play m much, but when we’re out there, we’re making scoring chances and we were pretty much in the O-zone most of the time.”
Panik said he doesn’t feel any added burden to make a good first impression on Quenneville. He came in during a perfect time: the Hawks have won 11 straight games, and Quenneville’s very happy with the team’s overall performance. That takes some of the pressure off a new guy who’s just trying to fit in.
“We’re winning, so things are good now,” Panik said. “I’ve got an opportunity and I’m just trying to play hard, and play every shift 100 percent. So far, it’s working out.”
NOTES: Corey Crawford and Pekka Rinne are starting in goal tonight. Rob Scuderi will be the Hawks’ sixth defenseman, with Michal Rozsival a healthy scratch. Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa had the morning off but will play.