Jordan Schroeder and Zack Kassian spent much of this hockey season in Chicago, being cheered as home-team players for the American Hockey League's Wolves.
Tuesday night, they returned as the enemy as members of the Blackhawks' hated rivals, the Vancouver Canucks.
“It's a little weird, but this is the place you want to be, obviously,” Kassian said of the NHL. “It's a great building to play in (the United Center), and it's a great rivalry.”
After the NHL lockout ended, the Canucks called up Kassian and Schroeder along with Chris Tanev and Andrew Ebbett.
The Wolves got Ebbett back this week after the Canucks put him on waivers. As far as the others go, as much as they miss Chicago, there's no place like the NHL.
“It's been an exciting ride so far,” said Schroeder. “I'm enjoying every moment up here so far.”
Schroeder, a center, played 11 minutes against the Hawks Tuesday and took part in the shootout, only to have his attempt saved by Blackhawks goalie Ray Emery. The centerman has 2 goals and 2 assists for the Canucks.
He said so far, so good, with the Canucks.
“Yes, with staying in the lineup,” said Schroeder, Vancouver's first-round draft choice in 2009. “Obviously, I'd like to pot a few more. When I get my chances, be able to bear down and put them in the back of the net. As long as you keep working hard, chances will come.”
Kassian, a 6-foot-3, 214 right wing has found the going tough of late. He has gone eight games without a goal. Kassian has 5 goals and 2 assists this season.
“It's tough to score in this league,” he said. “It's not easy. When you get your chances, you want to bury them. As of late, I haven't been burying them. It's important to get back on track and for me to keep on playing hard and not get away from game and think about goal scoring. I've got to keep playing physical and skating to be effective.”
Wolves general manager Wendell Young attended Tuesday's morning skate. Although Schroeder and Kassian were glad Young didn't take them back to the Wolves, they had good things to say about their experiences in Chicago.
“It's a first-class organization in the AHL for sure,” Schroeder said. “I have a ton of respect for Wendell and everyone there. I enjoyed every moment, learned a lot. I grew as a player. I have nothing but good things to say about it.”
Neither player said they felt any extra anxiety during the lockout, waiting to see what would happen. As it turned out, good things happened for both.
“Everyone's dream is to play in the NHL,” Kassian said. “But at the same time, I loved my time in Chicago. There's great management, a great coaching staff and a great bunch of guys. It was good for my development. At the same time, you work every day to get to the NHL. It's nice to finally be here.
“They're a great organization, probably one of the best, if not the best, in the AHL. They treat their players like everyone wants to be treated. They're first-class, definitely.”Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.