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Big opportunity for Blackhawks on road, Clendening to step in

The announcement Wednesday that Trevor van Riemsdyk will be out three to four months with a left-patella fracture was not unexpected after the way the rookie defenseman stopped a puck with his knee on Sunday.

But it will be another test of the Blackhawks’ quality depth when they begin a six-game, 10-day Western swing at Calgary on Thursday night.

Van Riemsdyk “will undergo surgical repair of the fracture [on Thursday],” Hawks physician Dr. Michael Terry said. “We anticipate a full recovery in three to four months.”

Adam Clendening, 22, an offense-minded blue-liner who was recalled from Rockford, will step into the Hawks’ defense corps. The Hawks’ second-round pick (36th overall) in 2011, Clendening had 21 goals and 84 assists at Rockford the last two seasons. He has one goal and three assists for the IceHogs this season.

“He’s got an opportunity here,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s played well down there, and he’s evolved this year.

Defensively, I think he’s improved. He’ll get a chance to play on the power play for us a little. We’re looking forward to seeing how he handles five-on-five as well.”

A Niagara Falls, N.Y., native who played two years at Boston University, Clendening hopes to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It’s exciting,’’ Clendening said. “I don’t think it’s really hit me yet. [The Hawks] have probably the best six [defensemen] around the league, so it’s definitely been a bit of a waiting game. It’s a bad bounce for [van Riemsdyk]. Hopefully, I can just fill in and help them not miss a beat. I’m just coming in trying to do my best and help them not miss a beat.’’

It is a blow for van Riemsdyk, 23, a free-agent signee last March who came out of nowhere to win a job this fall.

“It’s unfortunate,’’ Quenneville said. “He got off to a real good start. When he gets back, I think he can help us at that stage of the season.”

The Hawks also expressed their sympathy for van Riemsdyk.

“It must be pretty frustrating for him,” goalie Corey Crawford said. “He was playing so well. But Clendening is a really skilled defenseman. He moves the puck well. I’m sure he’ll be fine.”

The Hawks expect to need everyone contributing on their annual November circus trip, which starts against the much-improved Calgary Flames.

Their 3-4 start on the road leaves the Hawks ninth in Western Conference points. That emphasizes the need to play well on this trip.

A successful stretch on the road would put them back in position for a solid regular season.

“These are kind of make-or-break trips,” Patrick Kane said. “A couple of years ago, when we had that great start, we started on the road. I think we had 10 of our first 12 on the road. That was kind

of the make-or-break point in the season.”

In strike-shortened 2012-2013, when the Hawks had a magical 21-0-3 start, early success in Western road games proved to be a springboard.

“We’ve got to get some hay on this trip,” coach Q said.