Chicago Blackhawks: Jordan Hendry
Two of the Chicago Blackhawks’ walking wounded defensemen met with the media on Tuesday for the first time since suffering their injuries.
Jordan Hendry is recovering from knee surgery that will keep him out the rest of the season. Brian Campbell, on the other hand, could return as soon as Wednesday from a foot injury that has kept him in and out of the lineup since injuring it in a game against Florida on March 8. The Hawks take on the Panthers again on Wednesday at the United Center.
Campbell called trying to make it through warm-ups the next day in Tampa Bay “a good effort on my part,” but wasn’t able to play. He tried again in Washington a few days later but couldn’t finish the game.
“I kind of left my teammates in a tough spot,” Campbell said. “I was kind of disappointed that way.”
So he shut it down for a few days and is now close to returning. The same can’t be said of Hendry.
Hendry, injured on Feb. 27 in a board collision with Shane Doan of Phoenix, had surgery on his left knee last week.
“I think I knew before I even hit the ice,” Hendry said. “I knew it was something in my knee and I knew it wasn’t good.”
At the time Hendry was getting playing time ahead of the now departed Nick Boynton. He was just finding his groove.
“It was frustrating dealing with it at that time,” he said. “I thought I was playing better and getting more opportunity too.”
Hendry confirmed it’s a “five or six” month recovery and knows he’ll eventually have to deal with getting a new contract coming off the injury.
“I’m not worried about that right now,” Hendry said. “Just the task at hand here and that’s getting back 100 percent. I’m not worried about next season.”
Since being paired as the Chicago Blackhawks' fifth and sixth defensemen, Nick Leddy and Jordan Hendry have found a connection.
In three games together, they’ve averaged about 15 minutes of ice time and have helped solidify an untrustworthy part of the Hawks' defense through the first half of the season.
“I think maybe we have similar styles, and we read well off each other,” Hendry said after practice on Thursday. “We both like puck possession and making plays instead of rimming the puck around.”
Leddy was told he and Hendry are making it look easy.
“We’re both good skating defensemen,” he said. “We like the simple play which is good. That’s probably why it looks pretty simple.”
The Hawks' defense has played as well as it has all season over the past three games, which has included two shutouts. The return of Leddy from the minors has given Joel Quenneville the confidence to play the bottom pair more, while resting others.
The one word that keeps popping up about Leddy’s game is patience.
“He even fakes me out sometimes,” Hendry said with a laugh. “He’ll fake skating up the ice, and I think he’s going to pass it over or pass it up, and he holds onto it and lets that first forechecker skate right by him. Everyone expects him to unload the puck right there, and so it shows you how much patience he does have.”
Quenneville knows a little something about playing the position having done it in the NHL for many years.
“Patience with the puck is an art and a great skill to have,” Quenneville said. “I think everyone has a different threshold of patience with the puck.
“I think of [former NHL defenseman Sergei] Zubov standing at the point with the puck and all of a sudden one more guy you fake off, and you hold on, hold on, and all of a sudden things evaporate and you have all kinds of time. Leddy has that ability to wait people off.”
It doesn’t take a hockey expert to notice it. Watch him with the puck. He’ll take that extra breath or two before moving it, or moving with it.
“It’s a little natural,” Leddy said. “There isn’t a lot you can do to practice it. That extra pause can open up some plays that you may not have seen.”
Quenneville agreed with that notion, making Leddy’s play a bit unique among Hawk defensemen.
“It’s nice to watch other people do it, but it’s a different level of trying to implement it in your own game,” Quenneville said. “You want to make it simple and easy because sometimes the longer you wait, you can get yourself in trouble. There’s a balance and fine line there.”
As for faking out his defensive partner the soft-spoken Leddy said, “I try not to do that.”
As long as he’s faking the opposition, no one is complaining.
After sending down two forwards to the minors on Tuesday, it was about their only option. The Hawks only have 20 players on their roster. John Scott and Jordan Hendry will start at forward with Fernando Pisani as their center, but it sounds as if coach Joel Quenneville may not give the natural defensemen a regular shift every time out.
“We can fit forwards and play them a little bit more in those roles, too,” Quenneville said. “It gives you a lot of options and flexibility as well. It gives you an extra D-man or two if you need them at the other end, too. I’ve been in lineups where you have more than eight on defense more than once. It can work.”
Scott has played some games at forward already while Hendry had a handful at that position last season.
“It’s a little different look for me, but I’m excited about it,” Hendry said. “It should be fun. I played forward growing up, too, so it’s not completely different to me.”
Bickell returns: After being a healthy scratch the past two games, Bryan Bickell is back in the lineup. Quenneville wants the big body to be hard to play against. Bickell says he got the message. Which was? “To be more focused,” Bickell said Wednesday. “I started off well, but my focus wasn’t there. That’s why he took me out of the lineup, to put a little fire underneath me. I need to be physical. I’m a big guy.”
No excuses: To the Hawks credit they haven’t complained about the run of injuries that have occurred in the first month of the season. Dave Bolland and Marian Hossa are on the shelf, but other teams have had it worse. New Jersey announced on Tuesday they would miss their captain, Zach Parise, for three months. The Hawks played Los Angeles without Drew Doughty and Minnesota was missing two of their top six forwards when Chicago was there on Saturday.
“Timing is important, too,” the recently healed Brian Campbell said. “If you have a lot of injuries it’s tough to win a Stanley Cup, but if you get them early you can get them out of the way.”
So does Campbell expect a demoralized Devils team?
“Actually, they’re dangerous, right now,” Campbell said. “But if we take care of what we do and play our style, we’ll win. We want to control the game.”
If you’ve forgotten about them, you wouldn’t be alone.
So much has been written and talked about in regards to the Hawks’ top four defensemen, as well as the young group they have on the horizon, that Hendry and Boynton have slipped under the radar. Both were free agents, but the Hawks decided to bring them back and give them a chance at those overlooked, but important, fifth and sixth defensemen roles.
“They did a good job playing that role last year,” coach Joel Quenneville said Sunday after the second day of training camp. “The fact that we were able to retain both guys gives us that depth and that balance and that predictability you want to have.”
“That was my goal this summer, to hopefully get in that role there to get in every game,” Hendry said. “I just want to play good in training camp here and show that I can play every game.”
Hendry played most of the postseason but was removed late in the Stanley Cup finals in favor of Boynton. Boynton, who came over in a mid-year trade with Anaheim, played in the final three games and was on the ice in Game 6 when Patrick Kane scored the Cup-winner.
“It was a big deal because it got my name on the Cup,” Boynton quipped. “But yeah, it was a big deal, it was good for my confidence. I hadn’t played in two months and so it was nice. But it’s a new year so I can take that experience and move forward.”
For Hendry, coming out of the lineup at that time wasn’t easy to swallow.
“No one likes to sit out, especially in the Stanley Cup finals but it was a good run for me,” Hendry said. “I played 15 games, and no hard feelings, but I would have liked to have played.”
Hendry is hopeful it doesn’t happen again while Boynton would just like to stay in one spot. Playing for four different teams (in the minors and in the NHL) a season ago, Boynton isn’t taking anything for granted.
“Everybody is fighting for a spot and that includes me, Jordan and John [Scott],” Boynton said. “One day at a time. I’ve been doing this for a while. Lots of stuff can happen. I’m just trying to do my best here.”
Boynton knows one thing: He’ll get a fair shake with Quenneville.
“I’ve had some terrible people as coaches but Q is fair and honest and that’s all you can ask for as a professional.”
While the Hawks have young defensemen, such as Nick Leddy and Shawn Lalonde, in camp, it would take a lot to move out one of the veterans. Scott is part of that group as well, so three players will battle for two spots. It’s why Boynton says he never buys, just rents.
“I never unpack,” he said. “You never know.”
Between now and training camp we'll break down the Hawks roster. Finishing off our look at the defense, here are three veterans who will battle with each other as well as Hawk prospects for the final two spots on the ice:
Jordan Hendry, Defenseman
Experience: He's played in 92 games in the NHL over the last three seasons, all with the Blackhawks.
Contract Status: Signed a one-year deal this offseason paying him $600,000. He'll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Jesse's take: This season could provide a big opportunity for Hendry. Unless a rookie prospect beats him out, he should be a mainstay as the 5th or 6th defenseman on the team. He has the wheels and puck handling ability to fit in nicely with the Hawks' style, but his decision making has to be better. As good as Niklas Hjalmarsson's instincts are at a younger age, Hendry has work to do in that part of the game. Sometimes it's holding onto the puck too long, sometimes it's getting caught up ice at the wrong time, but the foundation for growth is there. He's also a guy who can play some fourth-line minutes at wing if needed. Another candidate for some penalty killing time, he'll need to show he can make the right decision at the right time with the puck. If he plays a full season, a 5-goal, 15-assist year is not out of the question, but he is a candidate to get benched if early game decisions are poor.
Nick Boynton, Defenseman
Experience: Entering his 9th season in the league. Was acquired mid-year from Anaheim.
Contract Status: Signed a one year, $500,000 deal this offseason. He'll be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.
Jesse's take: His career seems to be slowly winding down, but a surprise start in the final three games of the Stanley Cup finals may have revived it. That might be a little dramatic, but he certainly held his own entering a pressure situation after not playing in the postseason up to that point. A former first-round pick, he's a stay-at-home guy these days, and what he lacks in speed he can make up for in experience. And then there was that beating he took from the fists of his former teammate James Wisniewski at the end of his first game as a Hawk. He was retaliating for the cheap shot Wisniewski put on Brent Seabrook. It showed some serious heart to his game, especially considering his rookie status with his new team. Boynton is no sure thing to make the Hawks or play in many games, but he is an insurance policy on the back end. There is also nothing to say, when it's all said and done, that he and Hendry aren't the final defensive pairing.
John Scott, Defenseman
Experience: He's played 71 games over two seasons with the Minnesota Wild. Entering his first year with the Hawks.
Contract status: Signed a two-year deal this offseason that pays him $512,500 per year.
Jesse's take: The only new defenseman on the team, he brings one major thing to the party: size. Listed at 6-8, 258 pounds, Scott is a heavy hitter and heavyweight fighter. He might be destined to be a fan favorite as the Hawks haven't had an enforcer in quite a while. As you might expect at his size, his skating is a little suspect. He can play some fourth-line wing if the Hawks want him on the ice, but aren't comfortable with him on defense against especially quick or speedy teams. He may not win every fight, but he won't lose many, either. His size and reach are too tough to handle, even from the best of them. Expect him to fight early and often to ingratiate himself to his new teammates and fans. Like most fighters, he has a kind and laid back demeanor off the ice, sure to be a favorite with the media as well.
I can’t figure Ryan Kesler out, not that I’m trying too hard. He jumps Andrew Ladd in the previous game in Vancouver, and then calls him a coward, but then states before and after this contest he wanted nothing to do with him. In fact, it’s what he told Ladd throughout that first shift. After the game he says his teammates “told him to leave him alone” and it wouldn’t be a “fair tradeoff” if they both had to sit in the box for five minutes. He used one word -- coward -- to call out Ladd. I’ll do the same to him: Lame.
Anybody that watched the game knows Cristobal Huet was more than on his game in the first period. After the Hawks failed to score on their 5-on-3, it was psychologically important for them to keep Vancouver off the board when they had their two man advantage. Huet made no less than six saves on that ensuing power play -- none better or flashier than his glove save on Mikael Samuelsson. I hate to say it like this, but it was Antti Niemi-like in terms of showing athleticism. And it made up for the whiff he had in New York on Richard Park’s goal. But it was arguably his best sequence of the season and certainly best in a long while. Alas, he didn’t have a great game because at least one of the goals he gave up was soft, and maybe one or two of the others were as well.
I made sure to ask both sides if this rivalry was actually real or just media-driven. No one hesitated. It’s real and growing. Remember, it wasn’t just Ladd and Kesler that went at it. Alexander Burrows isn’t exactly a Hawk favorite either. And we saw the Hawks who can get tough, actually do it. I’m talking about Dustin Byfuglien, Troy Brouwer and Brent Seabrook, for example. Don’t count Big Buff out. He can show a mean streak when he wants, and we’re getting close to the time of year where it might come in handy.
How about Jordan Hendry’s move to score his first of the season? This comes one game after Niklas Hjarmalsson’s big game-winning blast on Wednesday. It was his first in 49 contests. Secondary scoring and role players coming up big is still the sign of a great team, no matter what kind of stars you have. Don’t discount those roles. You don’t think it can be demoralizing for a team if they can stop the top two lines, but a secondary player beats you? It can be, and the Hawks have enough talent to do just that.
Despite the first period domination by the Blackhawks on Friday, the season series between these teams didn’t give much of a clue who would win in a playoff battle. On paper, the Hawks are a deeper team, but Vancouver has the better goaltending and there doesn’t seem to be a matchup edge. That’s not the case against the San Jose Sharks, for example, where the Hawks proved to be a quicker team in winning the season series.
The Canucks might simply be the toughest test for the Hawks come this spring, which will only add to the rivalry.
On Monday, Stan Bowman met the media as a group for the first time since the season started. Topics ranged from Marian Hossa to the Hawks' power play. Here's a recap of what the Hawks' GM had to say:
On the team's performance so far: "We've had the benefit of playing at home for the most part, but I think we're off to a good start. We can improve on certain aspects of the game, and we are looking to do that. You want to get off to a start where you're not behind the eight ball. We've accomplished that, but it's going to get difficult. We've got some tough opponents coming up as well as a lot of road games."
One thing that has been frustrating: "We want our power play to pick it up. We've talked a lot about it, and we are working hard on it. We're going to sort it out. That's one thing we can certainly do better on. We've got a lot of talent here, and I think we'll get it straight for sure."
On Jonathan Toews' injury: "We're hopeful he's going to be back soon. It's a day-to-day thing. These things can turn around quickly so certainly if it lingers for a long time you'd be worried, but right now, internally we are not too concerned."
On the return of Marian Hossa: "We don't have a target date quite yet, but he is certainly on schedule from what we had said back in the summer. If anything we are hoping to move that up but these are things where they set those timetables for a reason. It just takes your body a certain amount of time to heal, and I think he's certainly right along the original track with that. Probably a week or so from now we might be able to get a more definite date but right now it's still a lot of guesswork. You have to listen to what the doctors say. They are the specialists."
What the crowded Hawks lineup could look like when all are healthy: "I think we are simply going to go with the guys that are earning it. That's what we've been consistent with. The players will sort that out themselves. It's always a good situation when you have too many guys that can play. I mean, that's kind of a coach's dream."
On word from the NHL about Andrew Ladd's hit on Matt D'Agostini: "I haven't heard anything, and I don't expect to."
On the idea that any shot to the head should be a penalty: "That's been talked about. I think in some other leagues like the Ontario League they have it that way. I think that's an option, and I'm sure it will get discussed, but you need to have a full discussion on it. I don't think you can talk about just one thing in a vacuum. I think we'll talk about that and see what comes out of our [general managers] meeting."
On Jordan Hendry playing fourth line instead of a call-up from Rockford: "He had not played since the start of the season. We wanted to get him in the lineup and that was the best way to do it."
On the genesis of the father's trip: "We actually started talking about it last season. It's hard to coordinate these things in the middle of the year. Logistically, it didn't work out. There are a lot of things that go into it. Our staff did a great job. We recognize that a couple of other teams have done this. We've probably gotten more feedback from our players on this than anything else. They really appreciate the chance to spend time with their dads on the road. It really started last year, and we spent a lot of time this summer getting it going."
The last time the Chicago Blackhawks took on a team they eliminated from last years playoffs, they needed the greatest comeback in franchise history to win the game.
They are certainly hoping tonight goes a bit different against the Vancouver Canucks. The Hawks eliminated Vancouver in six games last year with a memorable series finale that ended 7-5.
"It's a new season, it's a new year," winger Kris Versteeg said after the morning practice. "Everyone is fighting for a new goal, but I expect they will come at us like Calgary did."
Former Vancouver center Andrew Ebbett makes his Hawk debut playing left wing on the fourth line.
"I'm looking to make a good first impression," Ebbett said. "I've been looking forward to this since I first heard I was coming here, so I'm definitely excited."
Ebbett knows there will be an adjustment to wing.
"Honestly, it's staying out of the middle with those center instincts I've had," said Ebbett. "I just need to keep it simple, and any pucks that come along that defensive wall I have to get my body in front and get them out."
Quenneville announced after practice that Jordan Hendry will make his season debut tonight as well. Hendry has been a healthy scratch for all eight games so far but will take the place of Brent Sopel on the blue line tonight.
"We wanted to get Jordan in there earlier but we didn't want to change a winning lineup," Quenneville explained. "He looked good in camp. I like the way he skates so we're happy to get him in there."
Sopel missed practice on Tuesday for personal reasons, but Quenneville says he's fine and is just sitting to get Hendry a game.
Ebbett, Hendry and company will skate in front of Antti Niemi while the Hawks will face Roberto Louongo, who is having his own problems to start the year. He's 3-5 with an .879 save percentage and a goals against average of 3.25. Those below average numbers seem eerily familiar.