Duncan Keith and Ben Smith get into fight during scrimmage
BY MARK LAZERUS September 14, 2013 7:30PM
Updated: September 14, 2013 7:30PM
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — With a packed house in attendance, Saturday’s scrimmages had a decidedly more energetic feel than the first two days of Blackhawks training camp. Then Duncan Keith really turned up the intensity.
As time wound down in the second scrimmage, Keith and Ben Smith were battling for position in front of Corey Crawford. The battle quickly escalated into a full-blown fight, with Keith pummeling Smith in the crease. Neither player, fortunately, was injured. And neither could really explain the fight.
“It happens,” Smith said. “We’re competitors. We’re out there to compete and work hard. For me, I’m trying to win a spot here, so it’s just one of those things, part of the game. … I figured I’d get on the scoresheet somehow today.”
Said Keith: “I’m just a competitive person. That’s the way I play the game.”
Keith, who’s only had one fight in the previous three seasons, played coy about the surprising scrap. When a reporter pointed out how rare it was to see him fight, Keith deadpanned: “You don’t watch me. I fight off the ice sometimes, but nobody cares about that. I’d get into lots of fights when I was younger. Me and my buddies used to get into fights all the time, but nobody cared about that.”
Then he paused.
“Good one, right?” he said.
Smith isn’t much of a fighter, either, but actually broke his hand in a fight with Rockford last January, just as Hawks training camp was about to open, possibly costing him a chance to make the team.
“I haven’t talked to Duncan yet, but I’m sure we’ll laugh it off later,” Smith said. “It’ll be interesting [Sunday], we play them again. I’m sure we’ll be battling it out a little bit on the boards.”
Hawks coach Joel Quenneville, who has been watching the scrimmages from the press box at Compton Family Ice Arena, said he missed the fight because he was downstairs putting on his skates for the post-scrimmage practice session. But he didn’t seem to mind.
“I heard about it,” he said. “Things like that happen, could be in practice or a scrimmage. I’ve seen more fights than just one in a camp in the past. Some days you see several. It’s all part of it.”
Saad at center
Brandon Saad’s second day of scrimmaging as a center went better than his first. Though he still finds himself sometimes gravitating to the left side, or getting ahead of the play, he felt more comfortable Saturday after going over some position work with the coaching staff.
“With the wing, you’re usually more ahead of the play,” he said. “You kind of have to slow yourself down and think a little bit more, because it’s a new experience for me. Like I said, I’m feeling better each day.”
Saad struggled with his faceoffs, and acknowledged that’s something he has to work on.
“But that’s something you CAN work on to improve,” he said.
Quenneville was happy with Saad’s progress.
“He looks all right,” Quenneville said. “He seems like he has the puck, [and the] play recognition’s there. Defensively, that’s continued to be a work in progress, but I like him there right how.”
Jonathan Toews missed his second straight day of scrimmages, and likely will ski Sunday’s sessions, too. But Quenneville said he’s doing “much better” with his lower-body injury, and that the team is just being extra cautious with its captain.
“He wanted to skate [Saturday], but we’ll make sure we’re more than ready with him,” Quenneville said.
Among the players who stood out in Saturday’s scrimmages were former first-round pick Kyle Beach (three points) and big winger Jimmy Hayes (one goal). Quenneville said the 6-6, 221-pound Hayes has shown been more consistently taking advantage of his size and skating ability, and is “enhancing his chance” of making the team. Quenneville also said he hoped that Beach — who hasn’t yet cracked the NHL despite being the 11th pick in the 2008 draft — could push himself to be a possible midseason call-up. Quenneville also had praise for 2013 first-round pick Ryan Hartman, who had a goal, and 2012 first-round pick Teuvo Teravainen, who continues to show off his offensive skills.