Blackhawks notebook: Adam Gaudette’s hard work cementing NHL job

Gaudette and other roster bubble players made up most of the Hawks’ lineup in their 3-2 loss Thursday against the Wild.

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Adam Gaudette

Chicago Blackhawks center Adam Gaudette (11) shoots against Minnesota Wild goaltender Cam Talbot (33) with defense from Wild defensemen Matt Dumba (24) and Jonas Brodin (25) in the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn.

Andy Clayton-King/AP

For many of the Blackhawks’ roster bubble players, the 3-2 loss Thursday against the Wild was their last chance to make an impression. Coach Jeremy Colliton has said the lineup for the preseason finale Saturday will look very similar to their regular-season lineup.

Adam Gaudette was one of those guys playing Thursday, but he’d likely already done enough to earn a spot regardless.

Coming off his much-discussed summer of diet change and weight stabilization, Gaudette’s work ethic and physicality have stood out throughout training camp — a good thing for him, considering how much Colliton has prioritized physicality when evaluating options for bottom-six roles.

“My whole life, ever since I was a little kid, I played physical,” Gaudette said. “But being undersized, it was a struggle to do that. I would have to go out of my way to make a hit, and — being so light — I wouldn’t put a dent in a guy.

“But now [being] stronger, heavier, it’s a part of my game and I’m not going out of my way to hit a guy. I’ll take the hit if it’s there and play smart that way. [I’m] definitely trying to be more physical in the corners and on the forecheck.”

Gaudette was flying in his preseason debut last week. But Monday in his second appearance, he got off the plane in Detroit and could tell he “didn’t have” his legs. He was able to overcome that and still play well, though, because he has so much more energy nowadays.

“I still felt [Monday as if] I could keep up and didn’t struggle with speed or anything,” he said. “Whereas the past couple of years, if I didn’t feel right on a game day, I’d be waiting myself out, a little nervous and struggling to keep up . . . It’s coming more naturally now and it’s definitely helping with my confidence.”

Colliton praised Gaudette for his “knack for getting inside people offensively” and has clearly moved him up the Hawks’ depth chart since camp started.

Reichel sent down

The Hawks cut their camp roster to 36 on Wednesday, sending down another group to the AHL.

Among those reassigned were Brett Connolly, who cleared waivers, and top prospect Lukas Reichel, who was previously thought to have a shot at making the opening NHL roster. Reichel excelled in the Hawks’ prospect scrimmages earlier this month, but didn’t stand out as much in tighter-checking NHL preseason games.

“We want him to thrive,” Colliton said. “We want him to be a top player, an elite player, in Rockford and enjoy his time there. Is he going to be here at some point? Probably. But we’ll just let it play out.”

Kane’s high hopes

Patrick Kane described this year’s Hawks training camp as one of the toughest he has been a part of, with Colliton working the team strenuously on the ice for six days a week.

Kane is nonetheless thankful for it, saying the hard camp is something he “needed” after he “didn’t really skate super hard over the summer.” And he also expects it to whip the Hawks into a team capable of outperforming league-wide expectations this season.

“Coming into this year is . . . [different] than years in the past, where there’s a lot more confidence, a lot more excitement about the team we have and the season we could have,” Kane said. “And it still feels like people aren’t really expecting us to be a good team, or maybe better but not necessarily like a playoff team. Our goal [is] to prove people wrong and get into the playoffs and hopefully hit our stride.”

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