CHICAGO – In the middle of the “Dog Days of Summer,” there is a sort of a “Dog Days of Training Camp” for the Blackhawks.
It’s been a week since the team started their summer work at Fifth Third Arena, their first training together since the suspension of the NHL season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There hasn’t been a day off yet and there won’t be till Wednesday.
These are professional athletes and the work is part of their job, so they’ve said over and over that they’re up to the challenge of what’s ahead in the NHL Tournament. Waiting for it to get here could be the most annoying thing for a group that’s not played a game since March 11th.
The chance to do so comes first in Edmonton with an exhibition game against the Blues on July 29th with the opener of the preliminary round tournament coming three days later against the Oilers on August 1st.
So is the team overanxious for this time to get here? Not really, according to forward Dylan Strome, who is full recovered from an ankle injury that hampered him during part of the 2019-2020 season.
“I think it’s a bit of both,” said Strome when asked about if the team is very eager to start the tournament or focused more on the work. “I think everyone is excited for what’s to come, but at the same time there was just four months off of not playing, or whatever it was, three-and-a-half months of not playing.
“So I think it’s a bit of both. Everyone’s excited to get back, but I think we realize we need the practice and the reps to really fine tune our game to get back and ready for playoffs.”
Perhaps they can rekindle a bit of the momentum they had before the break, when they won four of six games to give themselves at least a hope at the playoffs. Of course, they did that with Corey Crawford in net, and his absence could be a major factor for the team once they get to Edmonton.
That will be sometime next week, with Jeremy Colliton telling reporters on Monday that he’s beginning to develop the team’s practice plan in the NHL “bubble.” In the meantime, workouts in Chicago continue for players like Kirby Dach, who’ll have his first taste of NHL postseason play in a couple of weeks.
“I feel good and ready to play but you can never be satisfied with where you’re at,” said Dach, who had eight goals and 15 assists in 64 regular season games. “You’re always trying to improve and get better each day so every day I come to the rink, I have the attitude that I want to learn and take in as much as I can and just become a better player and help the team win.
“But I’ve been ready to go all summer. I’m young and I’m hungry to get this experience and hopefully start to win.”
That time will come soon enough, and for some, it can’t come fast enough after four months of waiting.