Stints in Rockford instill Forsling, Schmaltz with confidence

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Gustav Forsling and San Jose’s Logan Couture fight for the puck during a game on Nov. 23 in San Jose. (AP Photo)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Rookie defenseman Gustav Forsling was planning a vacation from Rockford during the five-day AHL All-Star break this week. His destination was his apartment in Chicago, which he hasn’t seen much of since being demoted to the IceHogs on Jan. 6.

Instead, he quickly had to gather his things and hop on a flight to San Jose to join the Blackhawks.

‘‘This was a great surprise,’’ Forsling said of his recall.

Forsling, 20, returned to the lineup Tuesday against the Sharks, taking Michal Kempny’s spot on the back end. He had a goal and three assists in 32 games with the Hawks before being sent down.

Forsling said the time in Rockford — he had a goal and four assists in 11 games — was good for rebuilding his confidence.

‘‘I played more [power play] and [penalty kill]; I played in all situations down there,’’ he said. ‘‘I think it was a great experience for me.’’

That’s exactly what coach Joel Quenneville was hoping for.

‘‘The more ice time you get, the better you feel,’’ Quenneville said. ‘‘The more situations you see, your instincts get a little bit quicker. That’s what our intentions were — to get him playing and feeling all situations. And we trust he can do the same up here.’’

On the rise

Another Hawks rookie who benefitted from a stint in Rockford is forward Nick Schmaltz. Like Forsling, Schmaltz made the Hawks right out of camp without any minor-league experience. But he was sent down Dec. 4, then recalled Jan. 14.

Since his recall, he has been more aggressive with his shot and more confident with the puck. He has two goals and an assist in his first six games back after posting only one goal and three assists in his first 26 games.

That earned him a chance on a new-look top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa against the Sharks.

‘‘I feel like I’m making more plays and I’m having [the puck] more,’’ Schmaltz said. ‘‘I’m getting it back a lot quicker. Hopefully, I can keep it up.’’

The trick, as it has been for all the rookies who’ve had a turn on the top line, will be to play the same way despite having two superstars on his right.

‘‘Just try not to get too cute,’’ Schmaltz said. ‘‘Sometimes you feel like you have to give them the puck. But if they give it to you and you’ve got a good lane to shoot the puck, you have to shoot the puck and get to the net.’’

Toews, who has seen seemingly every left wing possible in the last two seasons, liked the makeup of the line, too.

‘‘What’s not to like?’’ he said. ‘‘[Hossa] has been playing great all year, and [Schmaltz] is really coming into his game. . . . Regardless of who it is, it’d just be nice to find that consistency and just start building as a line and getting better every night, even if we make a few mistakes here and there. It’ll be nice to have a fresh start.’’

Roster report

Center Marcus Kruger missed the game with an illness but might return Thursday against the Coyotes.

Center Artem Anisimov, who missed practice Monday because he wasn’t feeling well, was back in the lineup. Winger Jordin Tootoo and Kempny were the healthy scratches.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.


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