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Blackhawks notebook: In Chris Kunitz, Marc-Andre Fleury has a little Penguins past in Chicago

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PITTSBURGH When not facing his old former team goalkeeper Marc Andre Fleury always carries a little bit of his Penguins past with him on the Blackhawks: Chris Kunitz.

Kunitz, 42, is quietly entering his third season as Hawks’ assistant coach, and although he remains out of the public eye, he is a regular alongside Jeremy Colliton and Marc Crawford help coordinate home practices.

to have [Kunitz] round is a big advantage for everyone, Colliton said last season. With his experience, he has other ideas. It’s also great for the coaching staff. He’s not always around us, and I actually like that because hell brings in an outside influence.

Fleury hits the ice before practicing and often sees Kunitz already on the ice, sketching plays or exercises on the whiteboard. Sometimes Kunitz brings out his old forward skills and helps Fleury warm up with some shots.

Nine years of Penguins teammates, winners of three Stanley Cups combined, their friendship dates back to the early stages of their careers. Both also left Pittsburgh at the same time, with Fleury going to the Golden Knights and Kunitz to the Lightning in the summer of 2017.

So as Fleury adjusts to his third team at age 37, he can’t help but be amused by the fact that one of his new coaches is just his old teammate.

I see him on the board and I laugh, Fleury said Friday. It’s so weird. But he is still the same man. He always has that energy and makes you laugh. Good guy, good friend. It’s cool that we can spend some time together.

The Fleury families are moving to Chicago, a major stressor for Fleury this off-season was also helped by knowing the Kunitzes.

His wife helped my wife settle in with babysitters or whatever we needed, Fleury said. They are very good people.

Olympics intrigue DeBrincat

With teammates Patrick Kane and Seth Jones already selected for the US Olympic team 2022, Alex DeBrincat also said he would like to participate.

Obviously you want to represent your country on the biggest stage you can get, DeBrincat said. So [that provides] maybe a little extra. But were now concerned about the Blackhawks and not… [Team] US [Ill] just focus on that and the rest will come naturally.

IceHogs full of prospects

The Rockford IceHogs kicked off their 2021-22 AHL season on Friday with a disappointing 6-1 loss to Red Wings-affiliated Grand Rapids.

But the Hawks will be keeping a close eye on the IceHogs this season due to the plethora of prospects on their roster.

Alex Nylanders and Nicolas Beaudins quests to become NHL regulars again depend on their AHL performance. Top prospect Luke Reichels timeline to his NHL debut will depend on how quickly he adapts in the AHL to smaller rinks in North America. And late cuts to training camps Mike Hardman and Reese Johnson are likely to be called.

Hawk’s general manager Stan Bowman sees that youth-dominated team as a good environment for Nylander in particular to revive his career.

Whether he’s with Reichel or whoever he’s with, we probably haven’t really had that kind of skill level in Rockford since Teuvo [Teravainen] was here, and we never had more than one [guy with that skill level]said Boomer. It will be a chance to play many minutes, get [his] trust back.

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