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Blackhawks reward Josiah Slavin’s hard work with NHL call

Slavin has made efforts to refine his skating to bolster his physical two-way game.

Josiah Slavin was recalled to the Blackhawks on Monday. On Sunday, he required stitches.
Courtesy of the IceHogs

Forward Josiah Slavin has worked hard to improve his skating.

For the time being, he’ll continue refining it with the Blackhawks.

Recalled Monday from the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs in a swap for Philipp Kurashev, the 22-year-old Slavin had been one of the IceHogs’ most consistent forwards, collecting four goals and four assists in 15 games this season. But his game is unfinished, and that fundamental aspect — skating — has required most of his attention.

“I’m not the prettiest skater,” said Slavin, the younger brother of Hurricanes defenseman Jaccob Slavin. “It’s not always the most effective way when you’re not pretty, so in the offseasons, my skating is my main focus.”

Slavin participated a few months ago in his agent’s summer camp, which had a skating coach. He said it really helped him improve.

“You can never have too perfect of a stride, right?” said Slavin, who needed stitches after hitting his head on the ice Sunday in the IceHogs’ victory over the Milwaukee Admirals. “There’s always more ways to improve your stride and get the most effi-ciency out of each stride. So that’s kind of where the focus is.

“It’s a long season, right? Eighty-two games, so you’ve got to be the most efficient in every stride that you have. That way, you don’t wear yourself out in the first 20 to 30 games.”

Slavin, called up to the NHL for the first time, joins a team that’s struggling to score goals. On Tuesday, the Hawks moved out-of-favor forward Dylan Strome to a line with Alex DeBrincat and Kirby Dach.

Slavin won’t be depended on to score. Instead, if he gets into a game, he’ll be asked to keep doing what he was doing in Rockford: winning puck battles and using his 6-3, 189-pound frame.

“It’s nice to reward these kids that are working hard and playing well,” interim Hawks coach Derek King said.

Hard work has been a theme for Slavin, a seventh-round pick in the 2018 draft who had to scrap for his chance to play in the NHL. But Slavin didn’t think his draft position meant all that much.

“I was a seventh-round pick, but I don’t think being drafted says anything,” he said. “That’s when the work starts. I kind of took it as that, and I just went to work after that.”

King, who was the IceHogs’ coach before stepping in for fired Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton in early November, recognized Slavin’s work ethic.

“All of these guys, whether you’re a first-rounder or not, or other rounds, they work hard, but I think coaches seem to gravitate to these seventh- or sixth-rounders that . . . push themselves,” King said. “They know how to compete all the time.

“That’s what he does. He’s earned it. We’re rewarding him, and I’m looking forward to seeing him at this level.”

NOTES: The IceHogs announced that top Blackhawks forward prospect Lukas Reichel is in concussion protocol and will not play Wednesday after crashing into the boards Sunday. Interim IceHogs coach Anders Sorensen had no timetable for Reichel’s return.

“I saw him today — he was in good spirits,” Sorensen said. “He said under the circumstances, he’s feeling pretty good.”

... Hawks defenseman Calvin de Haan didn’t practice Tuesday because of a sore lower back. King said de Haan, 30, is day-to-day and there was no point in having him push through the soreness for practice.

“It’s probably just old age. I guess, creeping up on him,” King joked.