Blackhawks open the preseason at Columbus as work to get back to the playoffs continues

COLUMBUS, OH - SEPTEMBER 18: Nathan Noel (78) of the Chicago Blackhawks sprints for the puck in the first period of a game between the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Chicago Blackhawks on September 18, 2018 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH. (Photo by Adam Lacy/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

COLUMBUS – For the record, the games have begun. They don’t count in the standings, and won’t always feature some of the players will see major playing time starting in October, but the Blackhawks are back on the ice.

For the first time since their season finale in Winnipeg on April 7th, Joel Quenneville’s team faced the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first of six preseason games on Tuesday night.

It wasn’t any barometer of the season since the majority of those on the roster were younger players. Artem Anismov and Marcus Kruger played and Cam Ward started, but this affair was mostly for prospects, first, or second round players.

Alexandre Fortin got a goal 53 seconds into the game but never scored again in a 4-1 defeat. They’re back on the ice next at Detroit on Thursda,  then Ottawa on Friday, then it’s home games next week against the Red Wings (Sept. 25th), Senators (Sept. 27th), and the Blue Jackets (Sept. 29th).

Main contributors like Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, and Duncan Keith figure to be out there for a few of them as they continue the work in training camp that started this past Friday at the MB Ice Arena. It’s unlike any preseason workout session over the last ten years, since the Blackhawks missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Because of that, the influx of younger players has increased alongside the core players as the team tries to infuse some new talent to regenerate the group that’s won three Stanley Cups since 2010. If they don’t, it could lead to a change in leadership either during or after the upcoming 2018-2019 season.

It’s been the longest offseason for veterans like Toews in a decade, which gave the team a little extra rest along with a little more time to work towards returning to the playoffs.

Yet even for the veteran, there is a mix of using last year’s failures as a rallying cry for this season while also continuing  a more basic approach as the season draws closer.

“I think we all hit the recent button. I don’t think we can forget what we went through last season. We’ve got to use that as motivation. But at the same time we can’t come in this season thinking ‘That’s probably where gonna end up.’ We can’t come in with that as an expectation,” said Toews. “We’ve got to wipe the slate clean. We don’t take anything for granted, we’ve got to work for everything and get back to that beginner’s mind that we need to earn everything again.”

They’ll get the chance soon enough, but for the veterans it’s about working their way up to the season. Tuesday is one of the chances for the younger players show off their skills as the Blackhawks returned to the ice officially this fall.