Blackhawks debut Hagel and Beaudin, rout Sharks on surreal night at United Center

An announced crowd of 21,275 watched the 6-2 Hawks win in spite of coronavirus concerns sweeping the nation.

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Brandon Hagel, making his NHL debut, skates in the Blackhawks-Sharks game on March 11, 2020.

Brandon Hagel made his NHL debut Wednesday night for the Blackhawks.

Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Blackhawks’ season might not have long to live. Only 12 games remain on the schedule, and it could end Thursday, when the NHL is expected to make a decision on whether to suspend operations.

But in terms of developing players for the future — whenever that future turns out to be — the Hawks made the most of their 6-2 victory Wednesday against the Sharks.

The Hawks debuted high-grade prospects Brandon Hagel and Nicolas Beaudin and started a lineup containing four rookies, including an all-rookie forward line of Hagel, Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik.

“The young players who came in were very good, gave us energy and made a lot of plays,” coach Jeremy Colliton said. “A lot of good efforts, so everyone has a good feeling.”

Colliton and Duncan Keith raved about Beaudin, in particular, who came within a shot off the post of his first NHL point and played more than 17 minutes.

“He played with a lot of poise and patience,” Keith said. “He moved the puck; he was in good support positions. A couple of times early in the first [period], I tight-turned back, and he was right there to pick up the puck. . . . Those are the things that make a good partner and a good defenseman.”

An announced crowd of 21,275 attended the game at the United Center, and while the actual crowd through the doors might not have exactly equaled that number, the arena was generally as packed as normal.

But the contrast between the unprecedented pandemic news emerging on a minute-by-minute basis outside and the normal circumstances happening indoors became surreal as the night progressed. 

Just minutes after the NBA announced the suspension of its season, Brandon Saad — completely unaware of the timing — scored to put the Hawks ahead 3-1.

Keith, Colliton and Patrick Kane — the three Hawks made available to the media after the game, per the new closed-locker-room policy — said they were unaware of the various developments until after the game.

“Just pretty fresh and new to me right now,” Kane said, looking a bit shaken. “I guess things are getting pretty real around here. I guess we’ll take the recommendations that we get and hope it passes by soon. As players, you want to keep playing the games and keep the season going.”

Colliton echoed a similar level of uncertainty.

“I’m glad we had a good effort here, and I guess we’ll see,” he said.

The Hawks announced that they’re still scheduled to practice Thursday morning at Fifth Third Arena, although that — and everything else this season — remains up in the air.

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