Blackhawks getting their fill of Eastern Conference
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The Blackhawks aren’t an Eastern Conference team, even if their early schedule would indicate otherwise.
Saturday’s game against the New York Islanders was the Hawks’ third of eight straight with Eastern teams to begin the season. Before they face Anaheim on Oct. 26, the Hawks will have played almost half of the East and will be familiar with the other side of the league.
Coach Joel Quenneville didn’t sound too concerned the East would present any unpredictable challenges.
“I think that we’ve got some real good tests in front of us but I still think most teams play the same kind of way and I’m sure they’re excited about playing us as well,” Quenneville said. “It doesn’t matter who it is. I think we should have an appetite that ‘Hey, it’s a big game. Let’s get excited about it.’”
Viktor Svedberg made his debut Friday night, playing 16:19 and registering a pair of hits. Though he’s far from a finished product, the 6-foot-9 rookie defenseman has made an impact on Quenneville.
“I like his size. I like his reach,” Quenneville said. “I think he’ll get better off of that as well, but I think he got a little more comfortable as (Friday’s) game progressed.”
Svedberg’s progress has been obvious. It’s common for a player with Svedberg’s size to struggle with his skating, something he’s clearly worked on as his career’s moved forward.
“He’s improved so far from what he was just a few years ago when he came into the organization. He’s made big improvements to his movements. I think his thought process is getting better as well,” Quenneville said. “He’s got a lot of try in him. I think getting that first game under your belt’s probably a big step as well. I think he’ll be a little bit more comfortable going forward as well.”
Nick Leddy played his first game at the United Center since he was dealt to the Islanders last October for a package of prospects led by Ville Pokka. In the time since the deal, Leddy’s inked a seven-year, $38.5-million contract with the Islanders and become one of the most important parts of their blue line.
Andrew Shaw said he was excited to face Leddy for the second straight night and predicted Saturday would be memorable for his former teammate.
“He came into the league here, won a Cup here,” Shaw said. “Has a lot of friends, a lot of good fan base here. I think it’s going to be emotional but it will be exciting for him as well.”
Saturday was the eight-year anniversary of Jonathan Toews’ NHL debut. On Oct. 10, 2007, Toews scored on his first shot in a 2-1 loss to San Jose in front of an announced United Center crowd of 10,122.
Since then, well, you know what he’s done and what’s happened to the Hawks.
“Pretty amazing start to a career,” Quenneville said. “Special player, great leader, great captain. We’re fortunate to have him.”