MONTREAL — Playing on the Blackhawks’ top line with Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad can be a blessing or a curse for an unproven rookie such as Dylan Sikura.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime for the former sixth-round draft pick — playing with proven scorers who play solid two-way games. But the responsibility of producing in that prime spot against the top-notch defenders that line draws can be overwhelming.
“It definitely becomes a little bit more [pressure],” Sikura said. “I like it better. It suits my game better. It allows me to make more plays and play with the puck and play down in their end.
“But it can be nerve-wracking at times. It’s tough if you don’t make the right pass … you don’t want to be a hindrance or anyone unhappy with your play. But they’ve been awesome. They’re always talking on the bench throughout the game. Every face-off they’re letting me know what to do, where to go. For a young guy, that helps a lot.”
The 23-year-old Sikura, who was recalled from Rockford on Feb. 10, played his fourth consecutive game with Toews and Saad on Saturday night against the Canadiens at Bell Centre.
The Hawks won the first three, including the 5-4 victory against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday when Sikura made his biggest contribution. He beat Leafs defenseman Nikita Zaitsev to a puck along the boards behind the net and fed a wide-open Saad for a goal that gave the Hawks a 4-0 lead in the first period. Sikura had a plus-2 rating in 13:53 of ice time. He still had not scored a goal in 29 NHL games, but his contribution on the top line has been positive.
“He’s been pretty good overall,” Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton said. “I thought [the Leafs game] was his best game. He was very active. He skated, did a ton of work, forechecking, was heavy on pucks. I told him, ‘You’ve got to find a minimum level that’s not too far away from that,’ and then he’s going to be a great asset for us.”
Crawford at home
Playing at home is still a big deal for Corey Crawford, who entered Saturday night’s game with a 4-0-2 record, .934 save percentage and 1.32 goals-against average in six games against the Canadiens at Bell Centre.
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“Definitely,” Crawford said. “Family and friends. Growing up here. Being a big fan of the -Canadiens when I was younger. It’s always fun coming back here.”
Koekkoek in, Dahlstrom out
Defenseman Slater Koekkoek replaced Carl Dahlstrom with Connor Murphy against the Canadiens. Koekkoek had been a healthy scratch the previous three games.
“Dahlstrom’s been really good — ‘last game [against the Leafs] maybe not as good,” Colliton said. “And it’s long enough [sitting out] for Koekkoek. He’s been really good for us. He also had a bit of a drop-off and now he’s had a few games to sit on it. I think he’ll respond. He’s going to give our lineup some energy — hopefully a high level.”