At halfway point of training camp, Blackhawks begin looking ahead to Edmonton
After the sixth of 12 camp practices Sunday, coach Jeremy Colliton said he plans to reduce the conditioning skates and increase the length of scrimmages in the second week of camp.
The Blackhawks were scheduled to begin practice at 11 a.m. Sunday, as usual.
By 10:40, though, almost the entire team had assembled on the ice at Fifth Third Arena, getting a head start on warmups and drills before battling through another intrasquad scrimmage.
That represents the Hawks’ level of enthusiasm as they enter the second half of training camp. The practice Sunday marked their sixth of 12. By next Sunday, they’ll be in the air en route to Edmonton, Alberta, the hub city for the Western Conference playoffs.
‘‘The biggest thing going forward is . . . just getting to Edmonton and figuring out how things are going to work and getting our own routines set and [determining] how we’re going to prepare the guys to play,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said. ‘‘That’s what I’m looking forward to next.’’
The scrimmage, meanwhile, was the most intense and high-scoring yet, with Team Black earning a 5-2 victory against Team Red.
Patrick Kane scored twice, beating Collin Delia with a ruthless breakaway move and sniping a wrist shot past Malcolm Subban, then set up Alex Nylander for an empty-netter. He was moving at top speed all day, bewildering his teammates-turned-opponents by stickhandling through the smallest gaps and tightest double-teams.
After the scrimmage, Colliton ran the team through another exhausting bag skate. That has been the general blueprint for the first six practices: drills, a 20- or 25-minute scrimmage, then heavy conditioning.
But as the Hawks transition into the second half of camp Monday, Colliton said he plans to shift the emphasis of his practices.
‘‘We’re going to try to extend [the scrimmages] out a little bit further, playing two periods instead of one,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘We’ve been doing a lot of skating as we go. We’ll probably pull back on that.’’
He also said the Hawks will spend more time tailoring their system and strategies specifically for the Oilers and do more special-teams work.
By this point, the Hawks again have grown accustomed to the daily practice schedule and in-season type of mentality, even with the new COVID-19 protocols instituted by the league. All the mask-wearing, social distancing, coronavirus tests and personalized towels and water bottles have become normal.
‘‘[When] we had the small group . . . it felt like you didn’t see half the team,’’ defenseman Olli Maatta said. ‘‘Just saw a couple of guys, and that was it. But right now, it really hasn’t changed much; it feels the same. Coming in, you do the checkups and do the tests every other day just to make sure everybody’s safe, but it doesn’t really change the feeling, to be honest. We know the locker room is one of the safest places for us.’’
‘‘Of course, there are some extra hoops to jump through safety-wise, and [we’re] making sure we’re wearing a mask all the time,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘The routine is a little bit different. But overall, just going through it daily, you find the best way to do things and adjust as you go, and it feels pretty normal.’’
That’s why Colliton has become so eager to get the Hawks settled in Edmonton as soon as possible.
Despite the NHL and NHL Players’ Association’s extensive rulebook for the hub-city portion of the restart, the Hawks won’t know the best way to navigate the new territory until they arrive.
Once they do, they’ll have only three days until their exhibition game and six until the playoffs begin.
They’ll want to maximize every minute of each of those days.