Hawks’ Season Preview

Training camp opens Saturday for the Blackhawks. Here's what you need to know for the upcoming season.

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It's the eve of training camp. Starting from the goal line out, we'll take a look at every player who might spend some time in a Hawks sweater this year and try and guess what they might provide.
When on, Ray Emery is extremely athletic. He'll make some highlight reel saves. But when he's not, he'll end up wildly out of position, and also might let in the occasional soft goal.
With Corey Crawford, this is the first time in four years the Hawks will enter a season with a clear-cut No. 1 goalie. A number of goalies have flamed out after a stellar rookie year, but none has had the depth of defense in front of them that Crawford will.
Alex Salak's numbers in his one year of North American hockey certainly make you take notice: a .910 save-percentage and a goals-against of 2.89 with the Florida Panthers' AHL affiliate in Rochester. Still a prospect, Salak may get sent down to start the season, but most seem to agree that Salak will eventually be good enough to at least back up Crawford down the road, if not in October.
Steve Montador is an extremely underrated defenseman and he's well-rounded. In the last four years, Montador is only one of three d-men to average a point per every 60 minutes skated at even-strength.
We don't exactly know what Sami Lepisto can do, because he's been sort of underused in his stops in the NHL, but all reports suggest he's more than capable of being a rushing defenseman, as he's a smart player with some decent wheels.
John Scott got far too many looks at both forward and defense last year, all in two minute spurts, so it seems fated that Scott will only be a defenseman this year and sparingly at that. He'll skate three minutes and spend the other 57 yapping from the bench.
Sean O'Donnell was exactly the kind of signing the Hawks were screaming for last year that they never made. Despite his age, he's a veteran voice and steady on the backline.
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Dan Carcillo may be a sideshow, but he can also be a great hockey player. Which Carcillo we'll get this season remains to be seen.
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Viktor Stalberg is a natural talent, but does he waste it?
Ben Smith is built like a fire hydrant, and though his frame is small, it packs a punch and he can throw his weight around.
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We hate to put a lot of pressure on Duncan Keith, but he's pretty much the Hawks' entire season this year.
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Brent Seabrook didn't get to enjoy his status as the latest "Core" member locked up for very long before Patrick Sharp took that mantle. But Seabrook will enter his first year under a new contract as perhaps the most solid player on the blue line.
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Niklas Hjalmarsson is going to be a huge part of the penalty kill, as he's probably the best shot-blocker on the team.
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So much of the Hawks style and game is predicated on having a d-man on the ice who can get the Hawks motoring from their end to the other all by himself. That job now falls to Nick Leddy.
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Rostislav Olesz: We don't know what to expect from him this year.
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Bryan Bickell is kind of one of those false oasis things you always see in Bugs Bunny cartoons when someone is baking in the desert. It looks like everything you want, and may even provide some relief, but in essence you're drinking sand.
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When he does return to the lineup, it's Patrick Sharp's place in the lineup that kind of shakes everything out behind it, and causes just about the most debate among Hawks fans.
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No other player is such a bell-wether for their team as Jonathan Toews is for the Hawks.
Michael Konopasek
There are a few things the Hawks were lacking last year, both on the ice and the places fans don't see. Andrew Brunette was brought in to solve a lot of them.
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With his combination of speed, power, touch, determination, smarts, and defensive awareness, Marian Hossa may be the best Blackhawks player on the ice.
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