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 rookieLukas Reichel’sdebut — 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 coachDerek 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.”