David Rundblad still struggling to crack Blackhawks lineup

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Stan Bowman sees something in David Rundblad, which is why he traded for him and why he signed him to a two-year contract extension over the summer. Joel Quenneville apparently doesn’t see much in Rundblad, scratching him for 15 of the Blackhawks’ 20 games this season, and nearly half the games last season.

But Bowman said there’s no disconnect between general manager and coach. He said Rundblad just hasn’t had a chance to prove what he can do.

“We want to get him on the ice more,” Bowman said. “He hasn’t played a lot of games and it’s hard to look good when you don’t play often. When a young player is trying to establish himself in the league, it’s one of the hardest things. Because there’s mistakes in every game by every player, from the best player on your team to the newest player. And you have a little bit of a longer rope when you’ve been around for a while, and you play every other shift no matter what. So that obviously helps your confidence, you just can keep playing. Younger guys, they’ve got to get over that hump. It’s hard to play a perfect game as a young player. So it’s a work in progress.”

Quenneville likes the offensive potential the 25-year-old Rundblad has. He’s got a big shot and is a solid puck-mover. But his defensive deficiencies have kept him from winning over his coach and earning a longer look. Quenneville opted to play two rookies, Viktor Svedberg and Erik Gustafsson, over Rundblad while Duncan Keith was injured.

Rundblad acknowledged that he hasn’t played well enough in the games he did play to warrant a longer look, but as Bowman pointed out, it’s a bit of a Catch-22. He needs to play more to get into a rhythm, but since he’s not in a rhythm, he doesn’t get the chance to play more.

“Of course, it’s easier to play when you get games on a regular basis and you get the confidence going and get a little flow in your game,” Rundblad said. “When you play with confidence, you don’t really think. Things just happen and you do things naturally. When you don’t have that confidence, when you’re not playing much, you usually overthink things and you worry about things. That’s the biggest difference.”

Bowman said he had no problem with Quenneville’s lineup decisions in Keith’s absence, pointing out how well Gustafsson played in his six-game stint, recording three assists and playing well defensively. But Rundblad cost the Hawks a second-round pick two years ago, and is under contract through next season at $1.05 million per season. At some point, the Hawks need to find out what they have in him.

“It’s hard in this league,” Bowman said. “It’s a results league. When you’re winning and a new guy is playing well, it’s hard to say, well, you shouldn’t play. At that point, [Michal Rozsival] came back and [Keith] came back, so he’s always sort of the odd-man out. I’m sure he’s frustrated. We’d like to give him a chance. But at the same time, we’ve got six pretty established players here, so it’s hard to get him the ice time.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus

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