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New Blackhawks Rozsival, Brookbank prepared to fit in fast

Updated: January 15, 2013 9:27PM



Michal Rozsival unbuckled the two massive knee braces that protect his aging joints and let out a sigh.

‘‘You’ve got to protect yourself,” he said with a smile. ‘‘I’m not the youngest guy anymore.’’

In fact, at the ripe old age of 34 and entering his 12th NHL season, Rozsival is the second-oldest player on the Blackhawks’ roster, behind only 38-year-old Jamal Mayers. The Hawks are his fourth team, so breaking into a new dressing room is nothing new for the crafty veteran.

But even he had to admit this time around is a little weird.

‘‘It’s a different situation this year with the lockout and the short camp,’’ said Rozsival, who played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, New York Rangers and Phoenix Coyotes. ‘‘We don’t have as much time to get settled in and get to know everything and everybody. It’s more like you kind of sprint through it. You have a week to prepare instead of months.’’

There’s been hardly any turnover on the roster over the long offseason. Rozsival and fellow defenseman Sheldon Brookbank — both signed as free agents in the summer — are the only two new faces other than the Rockford call-ups looking to crack the opening-night roster. Their lockers were side-by-side at Johnny’s IceHouse West the first two days of training camp.

‘‘I think they put us here so we could kind of figure it out together as we go along,’’ said Brookbank, a seven-year veteran who spent the last four seasons in Anaheim. ‘‘It’s strange, but the guys have been good here. It’s been fairly smooth so far. Can’t complain.’’

Rozsival said the Hawks’ system is similar enough to the Coyotes’ that he doesn’t feel uncomfortable. Brookbank said he and Rozsival need merely to ‘‘mesh into the system and not do anything too crazy.’’ Rozsival was paired with rookie Ryan Stanton at Tuesday’s practice, while Brookbank worked with Nick Leddy.

With only two new players to work into the rotation, the Hawks’ familiarity with each other — and coach Joel Quenneville’s style of play — could be a big advantage early on in the 48-game sprint season.

‘‘It’s the first time in a couple years we’ve kept the same guys together,’’ winger Patrick Sharp said. ‘‘The chemistry seems like it’s there. We don’t have to go through the warming-up process — we’re already friends and teammates.’’

Well, almost everyone is. Rozsival and Brookbank were looking forward to having 10 of their first 12 games on the road, which ought to give them a chance to get to know their new teammates.

‘‘That’ll help me get to know everyone and blend in,’’ Rozsival said. ‘‘They seem to be really good guys, so I’m not stressed out about it.’’



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