They should have been playing in another building a few miles east with another team, but for Blackhawks Nick Leddy, Andrew Shaw and Marcus Kruger it was the Allstate Arena and the Rockford IceHogs that had to do Saturday night.
With general manager Stan Bowman and coach Joel Quenneville watching from the press box on the same night they should have been at the United Center for the Hawks' season opener against Columbus, they instead saw Rockford open its season with a 1-0 loss in a shootout to the Chicago Wolves before a healthy crowd of 14,505.
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For everyone missing hockey because of the lockout in the NHL, which includes Quenneville, the consensus was it was great to be at an actual arena again.
"It was good to get back and play a real game," Kruger said. "You have to make the best of it that you can.
"I think all the boys are doing that. Of course, I get updates, but I have to focus on the games here. It's good that I have something to focus on and don't have to think about that every day."
Jordan Schroeder, Bill Sweatt and Darren Haydar scored in the shootout for the Wolves to give goalie Eddie Lack the shutout win.
Leddy, Kruger and Shaw were among the 10 players in the Rockford lineup who appeared in at least one game last season with the Hawks.
Goalie Carter Hutton was recalled by the Hawks last season but never got in a game. Maybe he should have based on his play in a scoreless first period when he stopped all 9 shots he faced from the Wolves with an acrobatic display of goaltending.
Hutton made 29 saves through overtime.
"Huts played amazing in the net," Kruger said. "I'm sorry we didn't get a win for him."
At the other end, Lack had a relatively easy first period until the final seconds when Kruger hit the crossbar in a scramble.
Jimmy Hayes, Brandon Bollig, Ben Smith, Jeremy Morin, Dylan Olsen, Brandon Pirri and Brandon Saad were the other IceHogs who played in at least one game with the Hawks last season.
"You've got to play where you've got to play; it's part of being a pro," Hayes said. "You have to be ready to play no matter where you play."
Shaw doesn't consider that he had a roster spot secured with the Hawks.
"I'd rather be playing than not playing," Shaw said. "But I could be sent down at any time. I've got to keep working for my spot and keep improving and play a team game."
Bollig made a strong move to the net in the second period but was denied by Lack as he was being slashed from behind by Chris Tanev.
Andrew Shaw drew a late boarding penalty, showing some of the spunk he displayed with the Hawks last season.
•The Wolves on Saturday named veteran Darren Haydar team captain for the season.
"Darren knows what it takes to wear that letter," said Wolves coach Scott Arniel. "He is held in the highest regards by his teammates and the coaching staff, and I feel confident he can lead this team."