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Hitchcock, Toews: Current opponents, future cohorts

Updated: October 10, 2013 12:07AM



Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was supposed to be watching Saturday night’s Blackhawks-Lightning game to get the scouting report on the Hawks, his team’s next opponent. Instead, he found himself watching Jonathan Toews and Steven Stamkos, and letting his mind wander to Sochi, where he’ll have both those guys on his team as an assistant coach for Team Canada.

“Oh, yeah, you’re watching,” Hitchcock said. “You have to grab yourself sometimes, because your’e trying to scout the opponent.”

Hitchcock, who’ll be on Mike Babcock’s staff at the Olympics, said he’s constantly evaluating potential Olympians while preparing for Blues games. The Hawks have a handful of candidates — Toews, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Corey Crawford — that Hitchcock will be keeping an eye on. He said he’s particularly intrigued when potential Team Canada players go up against players from other nations.

“You’re watching that all the time,” he said. “We’re watching when two teams have potential players playing against each other. We want to see the comparisons, and we’re doing a lot of that right now.”

Kane can

One of those players Hitchcock has to worry about is Patrick Kane, the star of the American squad. Hitchcock raved about how far Kane has come — in terms of ability and maturity — since the 2008 World Championships, in which Hitchcock coached.

“I don’t get how he plays,” Hitchcock marveled. “How you can go around the ice for 60 minutes and nobody touches you, I don’t understand that. But he does it.”

Of course, Kane knew the physical Blues would do everything to prevent that.

“You know they’re going to be running around, so I don’t expect to go 60 minutes tonight without getting hit,” he said before the game.

Kill switch

Joel Quenneville had Michal Handzus taking most of the short-handed shifts alongside Marcus Kruger on Wednesday, with rookie Joakim Nordstrom getting only five seconds of PK time — the time it took for T.J. Oshie to win a faceoff against Kruger, Alex Pietrangelo to fire from the point and David Backes to deflect it in.

The Hawks were 1-for-2 on the penalty kill and have now allowed five power-play goals in three games.

“Want to get it stabilized a little bit,” Quenneville said of the personnel switch. “Got scored on again, but at least we got through that one in the third.”

Roster report

Sheldon Brookbank made his debut Wednesday night, skating with Nick Leddy on the Hawks’ third defensive pairing.

Backup goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will make his season debut either Friday against the Islanders or Saturday against the Sabres.

Neither Hitchcock nor Hawks coach Joel Quenneville — a pair of old-school coaches — seemed too fond of the much-discussed between-the-legs goal by Sharks rookie Tomas Hertl on Tuesday night, his fourth of the game. Hitchcock said, “Not commenting.” Quenneville hesitated, then said, “I guess you could try it if you already had three.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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