Captain Toews steps up, calls players-only meeting

Published: 10/15/2008 12:05 AM

Jonathan Toews didn't address the media on Tuesday, but this wasn't the talk the 20-year-old captain felt it was important to have the morning after the Blackhawks' third straight loss to start the season.

Doing what good captains do, Toews held a brief players-only meeting before practice and spoke of the need to play better under the pressure of high expectations being put on the Hawks inside and outside the organization.

"He did that? That's good," general manager Dale Tallon said. "They're playing uptight and trying to do too much."

Hawks coach Denis Savard was unaware of Toews' meeting and guessed it was called to tell teammates to quit pressing and trying to force matters during games.

"That's awesome," Savard said. "I didn't know he was going to do that, but it's a message we've been sending to them for a month here. I don't know what was said, but I'm assuming that's probably what was said. Good for him."

Maybe the Hawks can relax now and settle into the season, starting with tonight's game against the Phoenix Coyotes at the United Center.

The glitz and ceremony of opening night, first in New York and Washington and then Monday at the United Center, is over. There will be no red carpets for the players to enter the building on tonight. They'll just pull their trucks into the parking lot about 5 p.m., and get ready to play.

"There's nothing else really to worry about," Patrick Kane said. "You don't have to do any more red-carpet walks or anything like that, just have to go out and play hockey and give the fans a show."

The Hawks are a young team, and it's possible some of them could have gotten caught up in an off-season of promoting, hyping and celebrating the rebirth of the franchise.

"There was a lot of lot of talk; the free-agent signings, the Wrigley announcement," Kane said. "It makes you want to play, and then you come out and get off to a start like this, it's not too fun. But at the same time we can't get frustrated. Things will work out for us."

It needs to start on the defensive size of the puck with fewer turnovers, fewer poor decisions with the puck and better goaltending.

"We have high expectations, and that's good because the higher they are the better we're going to be," Savard said. "But for us to be where we want to get to, we're going to correct some of the mistakes we're making. We're going to correct the turnovers and some of the stuff.

"We know we're young, but it doesn't mean you can't win when you're young. We've got to tweak things now with them and say, 'Listen, this is what we need to do to win. You guys get on the same page here.'

"We'll get better and we'll get our wins," Savard said. "I'm not worried."

And neither are the players.

"Three games in, it's not the end of the world," Ben Eager said. "Everyone is fine in the dressing room."

Tonight's faceoff

Blackhawks vs. Phoenix Coyotes at the United Center, 7:30 p.m.

TV: Comcast SportsNet

Radio: WGN 720-AM

At a glance: This will be no skate in the park for the Hawks. The Coyotes have two excellent young forwards in Peter Mueller and Kyle Turris, and they added veteran center Olli Jokinen during the off-season.

Next: St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center, 7:30 p.m. Saturday.