Blackhawks’ Gustav Forsling making his case to stick around

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Michal Kempny (left) played for the Czech Republic during the World Cup. (AP Photo)

Is Gustav Forsling a contingency plan in case Duncan Keith’s knee isn’t ready by opening night? Or is he a viable option to somehow crack the Blackhawks’ lineup on a more permanent basis? It’s hard to say for sure at this point, but the smooth-skating 20-year-old defenseman has been turning heads since prospect camp in July. And he continued to make his case during his preseason debut on Wednesday, forming a nice pairing with veteran Brian Campbell.

“I thought his play stood out,” assistant coach Kevin Dineen said.

With the Hawks bringing in Campbell and Michal Kempny, and re-signing Michal Rozsival, the conventional wisdom was that there were no open spots on the blue line. But stranger things have happened, and Joel Quenneville has carried eight defensemen plenty of times in the past.

“I got here two years ago, and I don’t think anybody expected [Trevor van Riemsdyk] to step into our lineup, either,” Dineen said. “It’s a performance-based organization, so [if] somebody comes in and earns a role, we will find a spot for him.”

If Forsling doesn’t make the team, the plan is for him to go back to Sweden for another year rather than report to Rockford.

Hockey talk

Artemi Panarin came to Chicago last year with barely any understanding of English, and it took a while for Quenneville and his teammates to learn to communicate with him. Kempny, a Czech Republic native, is still understandably uncomfortable doing interviews in English, but actually speaks the language fairly well. Goalie Scott Darling said there’s no language barrier to worry about with either player.

“Don’t let him fool you; he can speak a little English,” Darling said with a smile. “A lot of guys [are uncomfortable doing interviews], and I would be, too, if I was in a different country or shy, when you don’t know who you’re talking to. But when they’re around us, they know all the terms and everything on the ice. They’re yelling in English. There’s no problems back there.”

Cuts looming

Dineen suggested the next wave of roster cuts could come following Friday’s game in Pittsburgh. The Hawks play on three straight days starting Friday — in Pittsburgh, home against St. Louis, and in Detroit — and with their World Cup players returning to the ice this weekend, will start narrowing down the roster ahead of the Oct. 12 opener against the Blues.

Shaw suspended

Former Hawks forward Andrew Shaw hasn’t toned down his often-reckless style now that he’s in Montreal. Shaw was suspended for three preseason games on Thursday for boarding Washington defenseman Connor Hobbs on Tuesday.

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