Blackhawks’ postponement Saturday a reminder of 2021’s unpredictability
Entering Friday, the Blackhawks were the only U.S.-based NHL team whose 2021 schedule had not changed since its initial release. By midmorning, that was no longer the case.
Entering Friday, the Blackhawks were the only U.S.-based NHL team whose 2021 schedule hadn’t changed since its release Dec. 23.
By midmorning, that was no longer the case.
The Hawks’ game Saturday against the Hurricanes — the second leg of a scheduled back-to-back in Raleigh, North Carolina, that started Friday — was postponed.
The change was made to accommodate the Lightning, who have endured a season full of schedule changes. Other teams’ COVID-19 outbreaks and the winter crisis this week in Texas, which postponed two Lightning-Stars matchups, have limited them to 14 games.
The Lightning already were coming to Raleigh to face the Hurricanes on Monday. Now they’ll play two games, Saturday and Monday.
The Hawks, meanwhile, won’t play again until Tuesday against the Blue Jackets in Columbus, Ohio. They’ll try to appreciate the small break and not let the last-second interruption affect their rhythm.
‘‘It is what it is,’’ forward Brandon Hagel said after the morning skate Friday. ‘‘Most of us knew that the season was going to be different and there’d be changes at times. The focus is just on tonight, and we’ll deal with that stuff later.’’
Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour told reporters he ‘‘would have maybe done something a little different’’ with his lineup or game plan Friday had he known his team wouldn’t face the Hawks again Saturday.
But Hawks coach Jeremy Colliton seemed less — in fact, not at all — bothered.
‘‘We’ve been pretty lucky so far,’’ Colliton said. ‘‘We’ve been able to stay on schedule. Obviously, we had some COVID issues of our own that we were able to get through. But . . . you have to be flexible and not let any of those changes affect your mindset. We just have to focus on what we can do, control what we can control.’’
The NHL didn’t immediately announce a new date for the postponed game, but April 13 or 14 would fit into both teams’ schedules.
Murphy resumes skating
Defenseman Connor Murphy, who hasn’t played since Feb. 7 because of an injury to his right hip, was a full participant in the morning skate.
Colliton said Murphy has been skating for ‘‘a couple of days now,’’ although there isn’t a date set for his return. He initially was estimated to miss 10 to 14 days.
Murphy’s return will help the Hawks. His 22:45 average ice time ranks second on the team, and Colliton has dressed seven defenseman frequently during his absence to fill his role. But it also will complicate an increasingly difficult-to-sort logjam of NHL-caliber defensemen on the roster.
Living in an arena?
Hagel spent four crucial years of his development — 2015-16 to 2018-19 — with the Red Deer Rebels, a junior team in Alberta. Forward Reese Johnson played for Red Deer for even longer, from 2014 to 2019.
But they left too early to experience the strangest season imaginable.
The Rebels made headlines this season for moving their entire 25-man team into their arena for COVID-19 containment purposes. Box suites have become bedrooms, the emergency exit area a TV lounge and the concourse a basketball court.
Hagel grinned when asked about the Rebels’ unprecedented setup.
‘‘It’s awesome, actually, getting to spend time with the guys, especially if it’s a pretty short period of time,’’ he said. ‘‘It’d be a really cool experience, and these kids will remember it for most of their lives. I’ve talked to a few people there, and they think it’s pretty awesome.’’