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Blackhawks face defensive conundrum with Gustav Forsling’s imminent return

Gustav Forsling defends against Joshua Ho-Sang during their game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on January 03, 2019 in Uniondale, New York. | Al Bello/Getty Images

When Gustav Forsling returns from his upper-torso injury, the Blackhawks will face a defensive conundrum. And it appears coach Jeremy Colliton still isn’t sure what he’s going to do.

Asked if he would keep eight defensemen on his roster, Colliton said: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

The problem is that the Hawks are inching closer to that bridge as Forsling continues to show improvement and skate with the team.

The Hawks haven’t discussed sending 22-year-old Forsling to Rockford, Colliton said, but the move remains an option.

Before going on injured reserve this month, Forsling, who has split the last three seasons between the Hawks and Rockford, had six points in 19 games, while averaging 18:46 ice time.

Colliton previously said he likes the competition on the blue line and is hoping a solid sixth defenseman emerges from it. But for now, he wants to continue to give everyone a chance to prove themselves.

“In a perfect world, I’d like the guys we’re trying to evaluate not to be in and out, to be able to play a few games in a row,” he said. “To do that, there needs to be a rotation.”

The Hawks pulled Carl Dahlstrom out of the lineup Tuesday against the Islanders. He’ll be replaced with 19-year-old Henri Jokiharju, who was paired with Erik Gustafsson.

Colliton said the move to replace Dahlstrom, who was minus-one with one assist in 22:35 against the Capitals on Sunday, was not a reflection of his performance.

“He’s been great, love how he’s playing,” Colliton said. “That’s the conversation I had with him yesterday. He’s been a nice surprise for us and played big minutes and tough, tough matchups.

“It’s a chance for him to get a rest. He was good last game, he can go into the break feeling good about himself.”

Gustafsson a forward?

Gustafsson hasn’t played a forward position since he was 12 or 13, but if the Hawks asked, he’d be up for the challenge.

“I want to try it,” he said without hesitation. “I think it’d be fun.”


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Gustafsson leads the Hawks’ blue-liners in scoring, notching eight of his career 13 goals in 47 games this season. Entering Tuesday’s game, he had 12 assists in the last 11 games.

Though being a forward has crossed his mind, Gustafsson said he probably doesn’t want to try being one in the NHL.

“Maybe when I get older or something,” said Gustafsson, who is 26. “Right now, I want to play D.”

Other injury updates

Brendan Perlini was on the ice with the team for the first time since Jan. 19 when he was put in the concussion protocol. The 22-year-old left wing, who has one goal and three assists since he was traded from the Coyotes in November, suffered a head injury last week in a 4-3 loss to the Rangers.

Meanwhile, there was no sign of goalie Corey Crawford, who has skated with the team only once since he suffered a concussion on Dec. 16.