Chicago Blackhawks load up for run at 2nd straight Cup

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CHICAGO (AP) — The Blackhawks are going all in to win their second straight Stanley Cup.

Following three trades in the last two days that brought four veteran players to Chicago, the Blackhawks seem as deep and experienced as ever as they try to capture their fourth championship in seven years.

“I slept a little better last night,” general manager Stan Bowman said Saturday morning before his team practiced. “I really like the way this team looks right now. I’m excited to get on the ice and play.”

On Friday night, the Blackhawks acquired forwards Tomas Fleischmann and Dale Weise from the Montreal Canadiens for forward Phillip Danault and a second-round pick in the 2018 draft.

That move will give Chicago added depth at forward below its top two lines, a pair of trios featuring marquee stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, plus rookie sensation Artemi Panarin.

“That was the prime motivation,” Bowman said of the deal with the slumping Canadiens.

The trade followed the swap of veteran defensemen earlier in the day, with the Blackhawks acquiring Christian Ehrhoff from Los Angeles and sending Rob Scuderi to the Kings.

On Thursday night, the Blackhawks acquired Winnipeg winger and captain Andrew Ladd, a member of Chicago’s 2010 championship team, in a trade that shipped top prospect Marko Dano and two draft picks to the Jets.

Ladd, Fleischmann and Weise add size and grit to Chicago’s high-skilled lineup as the Blackhawks gear up for the regular-season stretch — and what they hope will be another deep postseason run.

“I think we got bigger,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think we got a little more sandpaper in that regard.

“Going to the net is something we haven’t been that effective at this year, and there’s nothing wrong with net-front presence and having that ability.”

That’s something the 6-foot-3, 30-year-old Ladd looks forward to contributing in his encore with Chicago. Quenneville didn’t announce line combinations, but Ladd could skate with Toews when the Blackhawks, third in the NHL with 81 points, host league-leading Washington on Sunday.

“(Toews) is one of the best two-way players in the world, so I’m sure it will make my job a lot easier,” Ladd said. “I play a pretty simple game.

“I’ll try to get in hard on the forecheck and get the back and play a strong two-way game. Let the offense come when those opportunities happen.”

The 31-year-old Fleischmann isn’t sure if he’ll play left or right wing, but he hopes he can add a dash of scoring, while noting that Quenneville expects defensive responsibility.

“I’m an offensive player, kind of learned how to play defense a lot lately, so I just focus on my energy and making sure I do the right thing on the ice,” Fleischmann said.

At least three of the four new players are expected to be available on Sunday.

Weise, a Canadian, was facing immigration clearance that might delay his arrival. “I don’t really know what the timetable could be,” he said.

Although Ehrhoff practiced with the Blackhawks on Saturday, Quenneville wasn’t sure if the defenseman would be in Sunday’s lineup.

Bowman has been the NHL’s busiest GM ahead of Monday’s trade deadline.

“We’re just trying to do what we can to help our team win,” he said. “Sometimes the moves are there to help your team and I think this year we clearly had some pieces we thought would give us a better chance.

“We were able to make it happen.”

The new Blackhawks are happy about joining a top contender.

“Anytime you’re in the position that we were in there (in Winnipeg) and we were in the bottom of the standings, it’s tough to stay at the pace that you need to stay at,” Ladd said. “Just coming here gives you a boost, a kick of energy.”

Added Weise: “You just look at the names. They’ve got an all-star team there.”

The Blackhawks also figure to get a boost by the return of Marian Hossa, who has been out since Feb. 13 with a leg injury. Quenneville expects the 37-year-old forward to resume skating this week, but didn’t specify when Hossa might return to the lineup.

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