SASKATOON, Sask. -- The first preseason game of the 2011-12 season is in the books. The Blackhawks lost 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers in Saskatoon with Jamal Mayers and Rostislav Olesz scoring.
The most impressive player in Saskatoon?
Other than Jonathan Toews, it had to be rookie center Mark McNeill. He set up Mayers' goal with a nice pass in the second period, while being strong for most of training camp.
"I thought he had had his best game on the ice tonight," coach Joel Quenneville said. "He had more pace, and seemed to have the puck more. I thought he had his best game since he's been with us. I thought he was effective in a lot ways. He had the puck, had speed, seemed to have more pace in his game. It was good to see."
McNeill, though, remains a long shot to stick with the Hawks this season. Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger both had solid moments in the preseason opener.
As far as the battle for the backup goalie spot, Ray Emery allowed a two goals he wished he had back, while Salak wasn't really tested after taking over the second half of the game.
Here are some of Hawks' comments following the exhibition loss:
Ray Emery >>>
On how he would access his performance:
"It felt a little off today. I would have liked to do better, but you've got to start somewhere. You've got to build on things and take the positives you can and move forward with them and look at the mistakes and correct them in the next few weeks."
On whether he thought he had the first goal he allowed to Ryan Smyth:
No. It just kind of rattled around. I didn't really see it, but I've got to close up. It just snuck through.
On if he's still happy with his training camp:
It's kind of a system you go through. This is going well and that's not. You just kind of get the checklist down and try to improve upon mistakes and keep the positives going.
Alexander Salak >>>
On not being test much:
We played really well in the third period. Obviously, they had one rush and they scored. That's the way sometimes hockey goes.
On the breakout goal allowed to Jordan Eberle:
It was a great shot. I tried to stop it but it didn't work.
On getting his first taste of other competition:
It was great. I went in there in the middle of the period and the guys played well for me in the first 10 minutes. I got some shots so that helped a lot. It was fun.
Jamal Mayers >>>
On the play of Mark McNeill
He's a big kid. He skates really well. He sees the ice well. He's a great player. [Kyle Beach] made a great play in the corner to hold onto it and [McNeill] made a nice play [on my goal].
On playing different competition:
The preseason means different things for different guys. You just want to get a different feel and get back and acclimated. Obviously, it's a new team and new system. You just want to get going. Everybody wants to get playing well and get off to a good start.