Chicago Blackhawks final roster taking shape

                                                                                                                                                                                                   
  • Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) celebrates with teammate Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), of Sweden, while Artem Anisimov (15), of Russia, watches after Kane scored a goal during the third period of a preseason hockey game against the St Louis Blues on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Chicago. Chicago won 3-1.

    Chicago Blackhawks' Patrick Kane (88) celebrates with teammate Niklas Hjalmarsson (4), of Sweden, while Artem Anisimov (15), of Russia, watches after Kane scored a goal during the third period of a preseason hockey game against the St Louis Blues on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Chicago. Chicago won 3-1. Associated Press

 
By Brian Hedger
Special to the Daily Herald
Updated 9/29/2015 9:46 AM

The numbers game is winding down, and the Blackhawks are getting closer to determining their opening-night roster.

Five more players were dismissed Monday, leaving 31 in training camp with two preseason games left.

 

Brandon Mashinter and Cameron Schilling were assigned to Rockford, while veterans Lubomir Visnovky, Tomas Kopecky and Daniel Paille were released from their professional tryout offers (PTO).

Only defensemen Michal Rozsival and Kyle Cumiskey remain among the seven players who started training camp on PTOs, and Rozsival signed a salary-cap friendly one-year contract a couple of days into camp.

Visnovsky and Jan Hejda, who was cut Saturday night, appeared to have a chance to win the role of veteran defenseman for the third pairing. It didn't pan out, even with the possibility that Rozsival starts the season on long-term injured reserve.

"I think they both played OK," Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "I know that it comes down to, sometimes, a little bit of economics and the business side of it, but the hockey side of it as well. We've got some young guys here (who) have helped us make that decision as well."

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There are only 10 defensemen left in camp and, including Rozsival, seven already have made the team. Should Rozsival require a stint on long term injury reserve (LTIR), there likely would be a spot open for a seventh defenseman, with the candidates being Cumiskey and a pair of Swedish rookies.

Cumiskey, who's only on a PTO contract, has been out with a lower-body injury all camp and might need another two weeks to get back up to full speed in his skating. The rookies are Erik Gustafsson and Viktor Svedberg, who's 6-feet-8, 238 pounds.

Gustafsson, a former unsigned draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers signed with the Hawks out of the Swedish Hockey League in April as an unrestricted free agent. Svedberg was signed out of the SHL in 2013.

Should Rozsival be placed on LTIR, granting a little cap relief, each of the Swedish rookies has a contract that would keep the Hawks under the salary cap.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

General manager Stan Bowman mentioned Gustafsson in a positive way this past weekend, but Quenneville said the coaches will closely assess him in the final two preseason games -- watching primarily how he plays defensively.

"I don't know how many (defensemen) are left, but I'm excited to be here every day," Gustafsson said. "I've just got to show the coaches why they (shouldn't) send me down to Rockford."

Hockey over fluency:

Coach Joel Quenneville was asked if Russian forward Viktor Tikhonov's ability to speak English and act as a translator for rookie forward Artemi Panarin, would get factored into the decision to keep him or place him on waivers.

Judging by the coach's response, it sounds like the 27-year-old forward's fluency will weigh considerably less in the final assessment than his playing ability.

"We'll see," Quenneville said. "We have three Russians here, so I think hockey will be part of the decision, most importantly … first."

Tikhanov, who grew up in California, played with Panarin last season in the Kontinental Hockey League. The Blackhawks signed him July 1 to a one-year contract.

Odds and ends:

Artemi Panarin and Bryan Bickell missed practice Monday. Joel Quenneville said Bickell was dealing with a personal issue and is expected back Tuesday. Panarin still is dealing with an upper-body injury he aggravated during scrimmages at Notre Dame. He's expected to be ready for the season opener Oct. 7 at United Center. … Michal Rozsival and Kyle Cumiskey skated after practice. …

Quenneville said he hopes to keep goalie Corey Crawford within the 60-game range this season. … Andrew Shaw skated at left wing on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa, while Marko Dano moved to the third line with Teuvo Teravainen and Ryan Garbutt.

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