LOS ANGELES — Ryan Hartman started his first circus trip a healthy scratch, out of the lineup against Winnipeg. Ever since, he’s been doing his best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Hartman entered Saturday’s finale against the Los Angeles Kings with three goals in five games on the Hawks’ longest trip of the season, including the game-winner Friday against the Anaheim Ducks. Hartman has been the most prolific of the Hawks’ six rookies. His five goals are as many as the other three rookie forwards combined (Tyler Motte has three, and Nick Schmaltz and Vinnie Hinostroza have one each).
Hartman also spent much of the game in the face of Anaheim stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.
“He had an excellent game, not just the goal,” Joel Quenneville said after the Anaheim game. “He gives us a little abrasiveness, some net presence, some presence in the puck area. I’ll say he has a little [Andrew Shaw] in him. He’s starting to find the net, as well, but certainly he gives us some abrasiveness.”
The Hawks’ top goal scorer has noticed.
“I thought Hartzy had a great game all night again,” Kane said in Anaheim. ‘He was agitating some of their top players, then he scores a huge goal.”
With five goals in just 17 games, Hartman, the Hawks’ first-round pick in the 2013 draft, is already ahead of his scoring pace from the AHL last season, when he had 15 goals in 61 games. After getting a brief taste of the NHL in each of his past two seasons, the West Dundee native is feeling more and more established as an everyday NHL player.
“It’s gradual,” he said. “Every game you kind of get more and more comfortable and there comes a point where it’s just another game, and you feel this is the level you deserve to be at and should be at. I think all [the rookies] are reaching that point now.”
Jonathan Toews was out of the lineup for the second straight game Saturday night as he nursed an upper-body injury. Quenneville couldn’t say for sure if the Hawks’ captain would be ready to go for Tuesday’s home game against the Florida Panthers.
Kane said that Toews’ absence puts more weight on the Hawks’ other big-name players to try to fill the void.
“I think there’s a little bit more, I don’t want to say pressure, but importance on the way you play every shift,” said Kane, who had a goal and an assist Friday in Anaheim. “So, whether it’s myself or anyone on the team, it’s a tough player to lose.”
Jordin Tootoo also missed the Kings game. He left Friday’s game in the second period with a lower-body injury, apparently from a blocked shot. Quenneville said Tootoo was “day to day.” Andrew Desjardins returned to the lineup in his place.
The Hawks have allowed just six goals on the last 42 opposing power plays, a stretch that dates back to Oct. 28. That’s a kill rate of more than 85 percent, which would put them in the top 10 in the league.
Yet the Hawks are still dead last in the league on the penalty kill, and by a wide margin. They entered Saturday’s game at 69.6 percent, nearly six points behind 29th-place Calgary. Their horrendous start — during which they allowed 15 goals on just 27 power plays — will surely keep them at or near the bottom of the league no matter what happens the rest of the season.
Penalty-killers are inveterate standings-watchers by nature, always keeping an eye on their league rank. So the Hawks are writing off the early woes as a fluke, and trying to imagine the first two weeks of the season never happened.
“We have to look forward,” Marcus Kruger said. “And maybe we have to look back, too, but not all the way back. The first 10 games weren’t good, but I think the second 10 games were a little bit better. And hopefully, we can grow and be even better here in the third part, too. That’s something we’re going to need. We were lucky early in the year. We still got away with wins even though the PK was struggling. We can’t do that much about [the rankings] now. We can just look forward.”