Jiri Sekac is in something of an awkward situation. Naturally, he wants to be in the Blackhawks lineup. And naturally, he wants the Hawks to keep winning. But the two can be mutually exclusive — Joel Quenneville rarely changes the lineup when things are going well, and Sekac has been a healthy scratch for the last two Hawks games, both victories.
“I’ve been in this situation before, so it’s nothing new,” said Sekac, who came to Chicago last month in a trade that sent Ryan Garbutt to Anaheim. “I know how to handle this, and I try to control the things that I can control. That’s all I can do.”
Well, he’ll get his chance Tuesday night, after all. Artemi Panarin is sick, and is expected to miss the game with the Sharks after sitting out the morning skate and pregame warmups. Sekac slots in on the fourth line, with Teuvo Teravainen taking Sekac’s spot on the second line.
“He adds depth to our team, and has some experience, and is waiting for an opportunity and could play tonight,” Quenneville said of Sekac. “You treat practices like games, get educated on how you have to play, and take advantage when you get that opportunity.”
When Sekac first joined the Hawks, they were in the midst of an extremely busy stretch of games, so he had no practices to help him adjust to the Hawks’ system. But now that he’s had a practice in Colorado, another in Arizona, and one in Chicago on Monday, he feels more comfortable.
“The team is running very well, and these guys played together for a long time, so they don’t really need to practice,” Sekac said. “But once we practiced, everything’s clicking and everything’s going pretty fast. I’m trying to pick it up and trying to get involved.”
Being patient is all you can do. That’s something Rob Scuderi is learning, too. Scuderi will be a healthy scratch for the fourth straight game tonight. Scuderi played all 82 games for the Penguins last season, so being a spot-starter is something he’s had to adjust to, as well.
“It’s something you have to address [with the player],” Quenneville said. “Everybody wants to play, especially when you’re accustomed to playing regular minutes on a top team. Sometimes your role and job description can evolve and get reduced as you get older. So it’s something we have to manage together. … It’s something that sometimes can be accepted, and sometimes you can fight it. The best [way] you fight it is how hard you work in practice, and get yourself back in the game.”
For Sekac and Scuderi, two players in similar situations but at opposite ends of their careers, all you can do is be patient.
“The team is winning,” Sekac said. “It’s probably way easier to come to a winning team than a losing team, so I’m pretty positive. I try to think positively, as well. It’s just waiting for my chance.”