Sam Lafferty hoping to retain sizable role in ‘fresh start’ with Blackhawks
The ex-Penguins forward played 15:17 in his Hawks debut Thursday, then was promoted to third-line center Saturday.
The start of forward Sam Lafferty’s tenure with the Hawks wasn’t ideal.
One day after his trade Jan. 5 from the Penguins, he arrived in Chicago and tested positive for COVID-19, leaving him stuck in a hotel room in an unfamiliar city and absent from what was supposed to be his first road trip with the Hawks.
‘‘It was pretty crazy, a tough bounce,’’ he said Friday. ‘‘Luckily, it was only five days. I should be in the clear for the next 90 days or so, so [it’s] nice to get it out of the way in that sense.’’
(Lafferty was referring to a rule in which the NHL doesn’t resume testing players who recover from COVID until 90 days later.)
Lafferty, 26, finally made his Hawks debut Thursday against the Canadiens — although it was overshadowed by rookie Lukas Reichel’s debut — and played more than 15 minutes.
He had averaged less than nine minutes during his 10 appearances this season with the Penguins, despite generating a solid 57.1% scoring-chance ratio at even strength with them. He continued that Thursday by being on the ice for five Hawks chances and only two Canadiens chances.
‘‘[The trade was] still a bit of a shock to the system, but when I heard it was Chicago, I was super excited,’’ he said. ‘‘Just a fresh start is huge. I can come in here and hopefully carve out a role with this team.
‘‘Everyone’s been really good to me so far, so I want to return the favor and play some good hockey.’’
Lafferty started on the fourth line against the Canadiens but was bumped up to the third-line center role against the Ducks, in between Henrik Borgstrom and surging Philipp Kurashev. He also has stepped in on the penalty kill.
Interim coach Derek King sees Lafferty as best-suited at center, citing his strong skating, and Lafferty named his skating and speed as the ‘‘cornerstones’’ of his game.
“If I’m given an opportunity to show what I can do, I’m looking forward to that,” he added. “Hopefully we can keep it rolling here.”