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Saturday, January 25, 2014
Blackhawks keep practice light, short

By Scott Powers

CHICAGO -- If the Chicago Blackhawks ever find themselves in a 3-on-3 situation, coach Joel Quenneville may want to consider throwing Michal Handzus, Mike Kostka and Kris Versteeg onto the ice.

The trio likely wouldn’t have been favored by Vegas to be the Blackhawks’ 3-on-3 tournament champions, but that’s exactly what they became. Handzus, Kostka and Versteeg defeated five other teams for the title Saturday.

Quenneville considered giving his players Saturday off, but instead opted to create a fun and loose environment by having a 3-on-3 tournament where teams were distinguished by wearing white, green, red, blue and black jerseys. They practiced for about 30 minutes at Johnny's IceHouse West.

Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook thought it was a brilliant idea.

“He’s done things like this in the past, and it’s been great,” Seabrook said. “I’m not going to speak for Joel, but maybe the boys needed a fun day like this. Something to get the emotion and excitement back.”

The Blackhawks are coming off two consecutive road losses. They fell to the Detroit Red Wings, 5-4, in a shootout Wednesday and to the Minnesota Wild, 2-1, in regulation on Thursday. Quenneville wasn’t pleased with the team’s pace in the games. The Blackhawks return to ice to play the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday.

“I think the last two games we didn’t have the pace we’re accustomed to,” Quenneville said. “We’re going to need it going forward.”

The pace was nonstop both ways throughout Saturday’s scrimmages. Blackhawks goaltenders Corey Crawford and Antti Raanta had little time to rest. Crawford also enjoyed it.

“That was definitely a change from our usual practices,” said Crawford, whom Quenneville announced would start Sunday. “Our practices, they’re short. They might be one of the shortest practices in the league. We’re definitely working hard the whole time. It’s high pace. That’s the same way we play. It was a little bit of a change today. Change up in what we’re doing today. I think everyone was loose and happy with what we did today.”

Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp joked Jonathan Toews was the only one unhappy.

“Toews’ team came fifth out of six teams," Sharp said. "I don’t think Jonny is going to be able to sleep tonight. He’ll have a great game tomorrow.”