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Ryan Hartman tries to get off a shot after being tripped by Montreal’s Alexei Emelin on Nov. 13. (Getty Images)

Versatile Ryan Hartman becoming Hawks’ utility man

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SHARE Versatile Ryan Hartman becoming Hawks’ utility man

Ryan Hartman is becoming Joel Quenneville’s utility man.

Hartman has bounced around the lineup all season and appeared to find a permanent home on the third line with Tanner Kero and Marian Hossa. But with Nick Schmaltz out Friday against the Islanders because of an illness, Hartman was the obvious choice to move up to that coveted top-line spot alongside Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik.

Hartman spent much of the win over the Penguins on Wednesday in that spot after Schmaltz replaced the injured Artem Anisimov on the second line.

“He’s been good all year for us,” Quenneville said. “He has that versatility and played up there a bit already. He gives you a little sandpaper, as well.”

Hartman entered the game with 15 goals, all at even strength. Only superstar rookies Auston Matthews and Patrik Laine, the top two picks in the draft last June, have more among first-year players. Hartman also has a penchant for game-saving, last-second, diving blocked shots — he had one Sunday against the Blues and one last month in Dallas.

“He’s just making plays that make a difference,” Toews said. “Doesn’t matter what it is, if it’s scoring a goal or a fight or a hit or backchecking, Hartzy seems to be doing it right now.”

Back on the draw

Marcus Kruger won six of 10 faceoffs against the Penguins. That’s nothing special for a guy who has won about half his faceoffs in his career, but it was noteworthy because it was the first game he took the majority of his line’s draws since he returned from a hand injury Jan. 26. Dennis Rasmussen, a natural center, had been taking the bulk of faceoffs for Kruger — who dealt with a similar issue when he returned from wrist surgery last March — when they were on the same line together.

“I talked about it with the coaches, but it was more my decision and when I felt comfortable,” Kruger said. “That’s been a big part of my game, and it’s a little bit easier being in your position right away [rather than starting on the wing]. It’s only been a game and a half where I’ve taken a lot of draws, but that’s an area I want to help out with.”

Nick up

Nick Leddy, traded to the Islanders before the start of the 2014-15 season, has turned into a top-pairing defenseman. He entered the game with 10 goals (10th in the league among defensemen) and 24 assists and is averaging nearly 23 minutes per game. Leddy was a third-pairing guy in Chicago and never fully earned Quenneville’s trust. But he has earned Quenneville’s respect with his play in New York.

“He didn’t get a ton of ice time [with the Hawks], but you have to give him credit for how he progressed,” Quenneville said. “All of a sudden, he’s assuming [top] matchups, important minutes. You love the way he skates and moves the puck out of his own end. He’s [shown] some improvement to his game, where it looks like he’s gotten to the next level.”

Injury update

Artem Anisimov participated in the morning skate Friday and could play Saturday in Nashville, a much quicker turnaround than expected after he left the game Wednesday with an apparent leg injury.

Schmaltz also could play. Niklas Hjalmarsson (upper body) should start skating over the weekend and is targeting a return Thursday against the Ducks.

Scott Darling participated in the morning skate but did not dress because of an upper-body injury. The Hawks recalled goaltender Jeff Glass from Rockford to serve as Corey Crawford’s backup.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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