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Blackhawks depart for Europe with 27 players after Quenneville, Boqvist, Saarela cut

The Hawks will have to cut their roster to the NHL limit of 23 after returning from Berlin and Prague.

Top defensive prospect Adam Boqvist was sent down Wednesday night before the Blackhawks departed for Europe.
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The Blackhawks left Chicago on Thursday for a nine-hour flight to Berlin, where they’ll play one last exhibition game Sunday before heading to Prague for the regular-season opener next Friday.

Twenty-seven players boarded the flight, a higher number than anticipated because of the injury statuses of Kirby Dach, Calvin de Haan, Zack Smith, Robin Lehner and Connor Murphy.

That the Hawks brought Dach at all was a good sign, considering the third overall pick in the draft in June has been in the concussion protocol for two weeks and has yet to skate with the rest of the team.

‘‘[It’s] unlikely he’ll be ready to play in a game, but the next step is for him to get into practice,’’ general manager Stan Bowman said Wednesday. ‘‘He’s close. I think it makes sense to bring him with us, and then we’ll have a better feel for when he’s ready for a game.’’

Smith, Lehner and Murphy were hurt in the last few days, but none of the injuries is thought to be serious. They all were held out of the Hawks’ 6-0 exhibition loss Wednesday to the Capitals, a measuring-stick game captain Jonathan Toews described as a ‘‘wakeup call.’’

Despite bringing 27 players, the Hawks will have to be salary-cap-compliant by Tuesday before cutting their active roster to 25 before the regular-season opener next Friday against the Flyers, then to 23 before their home opener Oct. 10 against the Sharks.

That means the bubble players coming on the trip — Alex Nylander on the high-likelihood end of the spectrum, Dennis Gilbert on the low-likelihood end and Brendan Perlini, Anton Wedin, Slater Koekkoek and Carl Dahlstrom in between — still aren’t home free.

‘‘It’s probably easier to have guys there,’’ Bowman said. ‘‘We’re going to have to cut our roster down before the season begins, but [it’s] easier to go over with an extra body or two.’’

The Hawks did make two cuts after the game Wednesday, sending prospects Adam Boqvist and Aleksi Saarela to the American Hockey League, and are expected to make another cut Friday, having placed John Quenneville (currently out with a hip injury) on waivers Thursday.

Saarela requested a trade from the Hurricanes during the summer because he thought he had been stuck in the minor leagues too long. Boqvist going down before Gilbert was a surprise, though it was always likely he would begin his first pro season in the AHL.

‘‘He’s a great skater; he makes a lot of plays,’’ coach Jeremy Colliton said Monday of Boqvist. ‘‘We just want to see continual improvement, and we want to see intention that he’s trying to do what we’re asking of him defensively. And I think we’ve seen that. So when he gets here . . . there’s no doubt in my mind he’s going to help us.’’

As the Hawks make their final and hardest cuts, they’ll need to be mindful of waivers. Of the aforementioned bubble players, only Wedin and Gilbert are waivers-exempt. Other teams will have the same conundrum.

That opens up the possibility of trades, a few of which inevitably will happen around the league. Bowman didn’t give a strong indication about whether the Hawks might participate.

‘‘Our focus isn’t trying to acquire players,’’ he said. ‘‘But sometimes at this time of year, other teams are looking around for areas that have been weaknesses. Nothing’s imminent, but that doesn’t mean something can’t happen quick.’’