Blackhawks bench Jan Rutta, seek answers on defense

SHARE Blackhawks bench Jan Rutta, seek answers on defense

Blackhawks defenseman Jan Rutta was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Oilers. Kamil Krzaczynski/AP

Blackhawks second-year defenseman Jan Rutta appears to have found coach Joel Quenne-ville’s doghouse.

Rutta was a healthy scratch Sunday against the Oilers for the first time this season. The move came less than 24 hours after he watched the entire third period from the bench against the Blues.

“He’s not injured,” Quenneville said. “It was a coach’s decision.”

More decisions could come soon as Quenneville and the Hawks search for more consistency on the blue line. Two in-house options include Gustav Forsling and Carl Dahlstrom, both of whom are playing in Rockford.

Forsling missed all of the preseason and the early part of the regular season after undergoing offseason wrist surgery. The 22-year-old from Sweden has appeared in 79 games over the previous two seasons with the Hawks.

General manager Stan Bowman watched Forsling’s first couple of games with the IceHogs to gauge his readiness. Dahlstrom, a 23-year-old fellow Swede, also is making a bid for a call-up with five assists in his first eight games.

“You’re always looking for ways that you can better your team,” Quenneville said. “I think that the area that we do have to get better at is defensively, our team game, improve in that area. It’s not just our defense but our forwards helping out, as well. It’s something that whether it’s quality or quantity, we give up defensively; it’s an area we can’t accept some nights, and last night was one of them.

“I think those kids [Forsling and Dahlstrom], they both played here, and they both had good stretches at times. But I think our depth is something that sometimes you’ve got to look at and consider.”

Rutta has three assists and a minus-2 rating in 11 games. Brandon Davidson replaced him in the lineup.

Other healthy scratches were forwards John Hayden and Chris Kunitz, who sat out for the first time this season. They were replaced by David Kampf and Andreas Martinsen.

Heating up

It’s possible for Rutta to get back in Quenneville’s good graces.

Just ask Brandon Saad, who was relegated to the fourth line earlier this season but has shown improvement in his last few games.


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“Way more pace to his game,” Quenneville said. “[He] has the puck more and is a threat off the rush in puck areas, escaping with strength and speed, taking it to the net. Getting some chances, too. He’s getting some better looks.”

Saad has two goals and an assist in his last four games. He had two assists in his first eight games.

Scouting report

The Hawks will visit the Oilers on Thursday in the teams’ second meeting in five days.

That means another dose of trying to stop Connor McDavid, Edmonton’s 21-year-old superstar. McDavid has had back-to-back seasons with at least 100 points and won the Hart Trophy in 2016-17 as the league MVP.

“You’ve got to be aware of him being out there,” Quenneville said. “That speed is as lethal as there is in the game. You’ve got to make sure that you’ve got a decent gap when he’s coming at you. And try to keep the puck.”

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