No pressure, Dylan Sikura. Just hit the ice running with the Blackhawks and see if you can’t turn this sorry season around, will you?
The flailing Hawks — losers of eight in a row, and 19 of 22, heading into the game Wednesday against the Penguins at the United Center — recalled Sikura and defenseman Carl Dahlstrom earlier in the day from Rockford. Both 23-year-olds were in the lineup without delay.
Winger Alexandre Fortin was demoted to Rockford, and center Artem Anisimov (concussion protocol) was put on injured reserve retroactive to Dec. 9. Anisimov was knocked out of Sunday’s loss to the Canadiens by a Shea Weber hit.
The piece to be excited about is Sikura, who leads Rockford with nine goals and 18 points this season. A sixth-round pick by the Hawks in the 2014 draft, he signed with the team last March after his college career at Northeastern.
“I think you’ve got to be human [and] feel a little pressure,” he said. “But I think that’s good and part of the game, and that’s part of the reason why you love to play the game. Obviously, it’s a little magnified here, playing in Chicago in an organization like this, but I think it comes with the territory.”
Sikura played in five games with the Hawks last season, picking up three assists, before being sent back down with an emphasis — under then-Rockford coach Jeremy Colliton — on improving his game away from the puck. Both men say there has been significant ground gained.
And now, Sikura gets his shot to lock on to a meaningful role going forward.
“He has played better, and it’s important to reward guys when they show a progression,” Colliton said. “There is opportunity in our top nine. He’s one of those guys who can play that game. There are other guys, and the opportunity is there for them, too. So we’ll see who steps forward.”
Dahlstrom, a 2013 pick, had a goal and seven assists in 22 games with Rockford. He played in 11 games with the Hawks last season and isn’t surprised to be back.
“Not really,” he said. “I think I’ve shown before that I can really play up here.”
Sikura had one word for his reunion with Colliton: “awesome.”
“I really enjoyed my time down there when he was there,” he said. “He’s a very smart coach. He brings a lot to the table. Hopefully, I can find my game here.”
And from Dahlstrom: “He’s really good at telling you what to focus on and knowing what you’re good at, and just kind of stay [within] that and do it really well. And it really helped me, just knowing what he wanted me to do [in Rockford]. It makes me more comfortable.”
This and that
The Hawks are unsure how long they’ll be without Anisimov, who was playing well with four goals in his last 10 games.
“With concussions, you never really know,” said Colliton, whose own playing career was cut short by them.
† Defenseman Erik Gustafsson was out sick for a second consecutive game.
† Winger Chris Kunitz and defenseman Jan Rutta were healthy scratches against the Penguins.