LOS ANGELES — Brendan Perlini went from being one of the hottest players in the NHL to watching from the press box.
He wandered back into coach Jeremy Colliton’s doghouse with a lackluster effort against the Sharks and got benched for the third period, then Colliton scratched him for the Blackhawks’ game at the Kings on Saturday.
“Work ethic away from the puck,” Colliton said when asked what he wants from Perlini. “Get to full speed without the puck. Find a way to get pucks out of your end and play in the offensive zone and create turnovers by working hard on the forecheck, and the offensive skills will show through.”
Colliton shelved Perlini in favor of winger Drake Caggiula, who returned after missing more than a month because of a concussion.
Perlini has not posted a positive plus/minus for a game since scoring in the March 16 win at Montreal. That was the end of a run in which he scored eight goals in seven games — a startling outburst after going for five in the first 51 this season between the Hawks and Coyotes.
It was a mostly nondescript season for Perlini until he broke through for his first career hat trick Mar. 11 against his former team. He had five goals and two assists that week, earning the NHL’s second star and helping the Hawks go on a five-game winning streak.
In his three most recent games, however, he was a non-factor. He played just 5:44 against the Sharks before Colliton had seen enough.
“We’re at the point where we’re just trying to play the best lineup,” Colliton said. “So the lineup we have [against the Kings], we feel like it gives us the best chance.”
Caggiula comes back
The swap of Caggiula for Perlini should be a net positive for the Hawks. Caggiula was playing on the top line with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, which looked like a good fit before he was sidelined Feb. 27.
Caggiula has been working to get his stamina back over the last week or so, and Colliton thought he looked ready.
“I’ll try to make the most of these last five here and I’m happy to be healthy again,” Caggiula said at morning skate. “I felt like I was playing really good hockey and playing with confidence and doing the things that make me successful.
“It was a tough time to go down with an injury. We were kinda rolling there, and I felt really good about my game.”
Caggiula had four goals, three assists and was a plus-1 in 21 games with the Hawks before the injury.
Young winger Dylan Sikura has played more than 400 minutes with the Hawks the last two seasons and has yet to bury his first goal. He’s been a fixture in the lineup lately, even getting some time with Toews and Kane, and just can’t get one.
“He’s getting himself in the right spots,” Toews said. “It’s one of those things where it’s probably snowballing on him in the wrong direction. Hopefully when he scores that first one, it’ll open the floodgates for him and he can relax and just shoot the puck.”
Sikura, 23, had 13 goals and 17 assists in 40 games with the Rockford affiliate before getting called up.