Pre-Game 2: Chicago Blackhawks players talking Penner and the Kings

It’s not that surprising when players opt out of morning skate on the second of back-to-back games during the regular season.  It’s even less of a shock when it happens during the playoffs though. Still, at this time of year, teams do a great job of making players available for pre and post-game quotes (with a little help from the NHL at times).

With that in mind, here’s Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell and defenseman Johnny Oduya sharing some thoughts in advance of tonight’s Game 2 with the LA Kings…

Q. Bryan, you’ve had a pretty good post-season. Talk about how things have gone for you, also playing on the top line yesterday.

BICKELL: “Yeah, it’s been a good post-season. It’s been fun. It’s been fun playing with Jonathan and Hoss last game. I thought our line had a lot of good opportunities and chances, and hopefully we can keep it going tonight.”

Q. When did you become more than just a big guy?

BICKELL: “I don’t know. When I bring my physicality, I think it opens the ice for my linemates. The opportunities for me have been there. I know I had a couple opportunities last night. Unfortunately bounces didn’t go my way. We were happy to get the win, get ready for tonight.”

Q. Bryan, we talked about the post-season, being on the sideline for that. What is it like to be a major player in the playoffs this time around?

BICKELL: “You know, to experience what they went through in 2010 was unbelievable, just to be there, to see what it takes to win the ultimate goal. Experience-wise, it was a good learning experience for me to bring my game where it is. It’s been fun and it’s been important. We need to keep going.”

Q. What did you add to your game since watching in 2010 that you’re applying now?

BICKELL: “I think just my consistency in my game. I know I started my career in the minors. My game needed to be more consistent to be up here. I felt the last three years it’s been something I’ve wanted to concentrate on. I think as of late this year, it’s been a huge boost for me and confidence. I know I can be more consistent. Just got to keep this rolling here.”

Q. Do you feel like it’s almost like a perfect storm, size being critical in the playoffs, your skill set is transferrable going from a third line to a first line?

BICKELL: “LA is a physical team. One of the more physical guys on the team to bring that every night. To throw me on the first line with Toews and Hoss, I need to bring that. Hopefully my skill can take part. Mostly I can be physical.”

Q. Last round you handled Detroit pretty easily in Game 1, they responded in Game 2. What are you expecting out of the Kings tonight?

BICKELL: “Same as what Detroit did. I don’t think Detroit was happy with the first game, and I don’t think L.A. is either. It’s going to be an exciting, different game. I think their offense is going to be a lot better than they had last night. We’re just looking forward to the challenge.”

Q. Johnny, a lot was made about the forecheck of the Kings. Seems they didn’t have it going early. Was it what you expected?

ODUYA: “Yeah, I think they forecheck pretty hard. They got some big forwards. Puts a lot of pressure on you. Last night I think we had the puck most of the first part of the game, which it’s always tough for them to forecheck. It’s going to be tougher today. I expect a tougher game where they’re going to try to throw everything at us to steal a game.”

Q. Getting back to the second Detroit game. Seems like that game shifted that series, started things rolling in their favor. Did you learn anything from that as a team?

ODUYA: “Yeah, I hope we learned something. Being down 3-1, that’s something you don’t want to do, especially with a team like LA. I’m not saying it’s impossible to get that back like we did last time, but it’s not at all a situation you want to be in. We know they’re strong at home. This is an important game today.”

Q. Johnny, both goals yesterday initiated by defensemen. Is that something you talked about?

ODUYA: “Yeah, you always want to get pucks to the net, people to the net, create rebounds, screens, tips, whatever it is, especially against a good goalie like that. You don’t create any commotion around the net, it’s going to be really easy for him. I think that goes not just for him, but any goalie at this point that’s really good. When you get – how you say – free time to work his game. I think in general we tried to do that. We tried to put more pressure on him, yeah.”

Q. Bryan, you talked about the 2010 experience, learning what it takes. What does it take? What did you see in your teammates that either surprised you or that you had to learn from?

BICKELL: “You know, it kind of feels like we have it now. Last series, to be down 3-1, to come back the way we did, shows character. Looks like the 2010 team. You know, just the will, what it takes to finish series off, games, late opportunities in periods. It’s important. I think the confidence level, it goes a long way. We just need to get this going here again.”

Q. Bryan, your impending free agency, has that weighed on you at all?

BICKELL: “No, you know, I’m just playing game by game. I’m just doing whatever it takes to help this team win. I know after this season me and my agent will talk and negotiate things. For right now, I’m excited to be in this situation I am right now with the Hawks. It’s been fun. We have to keep this rolling here.”

Q. Johnny, talk about the rigors of playing back-to-back?

ODUYA: “Yeah, obviously a little bit different than is usually done. I never played back-to-back in the playoffs. During this year, too, especially with the compressed schedule, a lot of games, maybe this year than any year, we’re more prepared for that type of mentality coming into the second game, two games in a row there. You know, I think we feel comfortable. It’s the same situation for both teams. That’s always a good line to throw out there (laughter). It really is. But they have to prepare, too, get ready in the same kind of way. We feel comfortable. Like last night, we rolled a lot of lines, played a lot of guys, more spread-out minutes. That’s been something we’ve done all year. It’s been really good. I think come tonight, I think we’ll be ready to play.”

Q. Bryan, how special is it to play in this building in the playoffs? What kind of a boost do you get?

BICKELL: “Yeah, it gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. As the games go on, it gets louder and louder. For the home team to have that spark before even the puck drops, it’s been fun. It’s been exciting. I know coming in here for other teams, it sparks them up, too. We take the momentum off the anthem to the first puck drop and we go from there.”

Q. Bryan, two, three, four years ago, was there anybody you were trying to pattern your game after?

BICKELL: “Yeah, I think so. I think you look at Penner. He’s a similar player to me. He’s a bigger guy that has good puck possession, got a great shot. I think looking at when he was in Edmonton, I kind of patterned myself a similar style as he did. But, you know, I’m not Penner. It’s my own game. I just need to bring it every night.”

Q. Johnny, there’s been a couple rock concerts. They’ve torn the stage down twice. What are the ice conditions like out there, especially when it’s muggy outside? Does that change the way you have to play the game at all?

ODUYA: “No, I don’t think it’s anything you can really focus on. We know what the ice is or not. Obviously it’s tough. It helped out a little bit when the Bulls are not here. Also this time of year, it’s warmer outside, too, I’ve been told (laughter). That helps out a little bit, too. It’s always a little bit tougher when you have 85, 90 degrees outside maybe. But same thing there. The ice is going to be what the ice is going to be. I think it’s been okay. Maybe at the end of periods, it gets a little bit chippier than you would like. Same thing, it’s the same for both teams. We should be able to manage that by this point.”

Q. Johnny, this is about the penalty kill. A couple of guys that don’t get a lot of credit are Krueger and Frolik. What are the keys to that?

ODUYA: “Two guys that were really good, John Madden, Jay Pandolfo, a tandem pair, two smart players, the same as Krugs and Fro. They have that way of being smart, read off of each other, know where to go, not to go, put themselves in positions. They’re not huge shot-blockers, but if you’re smart enough to put yourself in the right position, you don’t have to block as many shots. They show that consistently all the time. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s tough to say why it works. I think it’s chemistry. For those guys, obviously they don’t get enough credit. It makes it a lot easier for the D, too. All the D feel the same way. When you’re on the PK, you feel very safe and it feels very solid. That you might have to block a shot or two, that’s fine. Just that overall feeling and the confidence going into PKs, it’s good.”

Q. Bryan, you mentioned you want to model your game against Dustin Penner. He and other big guys talk about the pressure of having to constantly be physically involved, the challenges of that. How have you managed that?

BICKELL: “Yeah, it takes a toll on your body. I think you need to pick your spots. You don’t just run around hitting everything in sight. If the hit’s there, the hit’s there. I know some games they’re not there, but to bring my level or any big guy’s level up, the body is a big part. Especially at this time of the season, wear on the D, get a hit on any forward, it slows them down. It’s part of my game, I need to get my hits in when I can.”

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