By Todd Reicher
With the 2010-2011 preseason schedule complete for both the Rockford IceHogs and their parent club, the Chicago Blackhawks, the final lineup picture is becoming clearer.
As of Monday morning, Oct. 4, the Blackhawks have made two rounds of cuts. The following players have been sent back to Rockford: Evan Brophey, Kyle Beach, Wade Brookbank, Brandon Pirri, Hugh Kessiman, Ben Smith, Jeff Taffe, Chris DiDomenico, Igor Makarov, Rob Klinkhammer, Simon-Danis Pepin, Shawn Lalonde, Brian Connelly, Ivan Vishnevskiy, Hannu Toivoinen and Alec Richards.
Cuts are still to be made, and the Blackhawks will most likely assign a minimum of three more forwards and one defenseman to Rockford. With the recent injury to Chicago defenseman Brian Campbell, a defenseman may not be sent back, as Campbell is expected to be on the injured list for four weeks. Current speculation states that 19-year-old Nick Leddy may fill the void if he is not sent back to Rockford, and that veteran defenseman Jassen Cullimore will instead be shipped.
Other familiar IceHogs are still in the running for a spot on the “big club”: Bryan Bickell, Jack Skille, Jake Dowell, Nick Boynton, Jassen Cullimore and Corey Crawford.
After the team’s practice Monday, Sept. 27, I had the chance to talk to some of the players who were sent back from Chicago.
Entering his fourth AHL season, all with the IceHogs, Brophey knows it’s not easy trying to make the jump to the NHL.
“It’s a little bit of a disappointment being released from the ’Hawks, but saying that, you know you just have to work harder to get to that next level,” Brophey said.
When asked if the staff at the Blackhawks gave him any notion of what he should work on in his game, Brophey said his “overall game, working hard every shift, solid defensively, and being an in-your-face kind of player that is tough to play against.”
With his years of experience in the league, he will be a great asset to the team and a mentor to some of the newer players transitioning to the professional level from the juniors.
One such player is Lalonde, who had his first stint with the ’Hogs at the end of last season when his season with the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Belleville Bulls ended.
“I’m happy to be here, and I’m ready to work hard so I can be up there (Chicago) again soon,” Lalonde said of his recent stint with the Blackhawks. “I played a bit here last year. I know what to expect, and I think I’m going to be fine.”
At the age of 20, Lalonde will be in good company with his youthful teammates, as 13 of the 24 current roster players are 23 or younger.
“It’s going to feel good having a lot of guys in the room as young as I am,” Lalonde said. “Hopefully, we can have a good year here.”
Typically, the preseason is not an indication of how the regular season will go, as teams are playing tryout members, and getting their lines solidified. It is hoped this will hold true for the ’Hogs as the team ended their preseason with a 1-2-1 record.
Rockford won their first preseason game by defeating the Peoria Rivermen in a 5-4 shootout. Their second preseason game against the Chicago Wolves found Rockford on the losing end of a 5-3 game. In their third preseason game, the ’Hogs fell to the Milwaukee Admirals in a shootout, 3-2. And, in their last preseason game Oct. 2, the ’Hogs fell to the Rivermen 5-2.
The first regular-season game will take place Saturday, Oct. 9, at 4:35 p.m. when the ’Hogs face the Manitoba Moose.
The following night will be a special night at the MetroCentre. The Stanley Cup, along with the Campbell Bowl, awarded to the National Hockey League’s Western Conference champions; Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the Stanley Cup Playoff’s Most Valuable Player; and Norris Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s Top Defenseman, will all be in Rockford at the IceHogs game Sunday, Oct. 10, when the IceHogs take on the Grand Rapids Griffins at 4:05 p.m. Doors will open at 3 p.m., and the trophies will be on display in the south concourse.
From the Oct. 6-12, 2010 issue