Blackhawks notebook: Jack Johnson feeling better physically with big minutes this season

Johnson is playing more than 20 minutes per game this season for the first time since 2016-17, but the workload is actually helping him feel better. He’s providing valuable advice to the Hawk through their losing streak, too.

SHARE Blackhawks notebook: Jack Johnson feeling better physically with big minutes this season
Jack Johnson takes a shot.

Jack Johnson has unexpectedly played more than 20 minutes per game for the Blackhawks.

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

In his 17th NHL season, Blackhawks defenseman Jack Johnson isn’t going to experience anything he hasn’t already seen during his first 16.

So throughout the Hawks’ brutal November, the veteran has used his respected voice to preach patience and positivity within the locker room. And after losing their eighth consecutive game Wednesday, 5-4 to the Oilers, it seems the Hawks will need him to continue doing so in December.

“Everyone who’s been around long enough knows there’s highs and lows as a team and individually throughout an 82-game season,” Johnson said before the game. “No matter who you are or what team you’re on, it’s going to happen. You have to manage those: can’t get too high, can’t get too low. It’s part of being a professional athlete.”

Johnson, 35, describes the necessary mindset as “controlling your controllables,” with one’s attitude being the most controllable thing of all.

“You can’t get so down and negative that it’s just miserable or you don’t want to come to the rink because then you’re just going to be in [the losing streak] longer,” he added. “You have to keep the right attitude, right enthusiasm to come to work every day. That’s how you’re going to dig yourself out of it.”

The Hawks signed Johnson, after all, believing his seen-it-all leadership likely would prove valuable during the first season of the rebuild. They were correct about that.

“He’s competitive, but when it’s time to enjoy [life], he enjoys it,” coach Luke Richardson said. “So he’s a great example for everybody on the team.”

The Hawks also signed him, though, believing he’d bounce around the defensive lineup, assisting the young players rotating through. But instead, he has settled in as a surprising top-four staple.

Johnson entered Wednesday averaging 20:22 of ice time through 21 games — marking a massive increase from his 16:45 average with the Avalanche last season. It’s his first season above 20 minutes since 2016-17 with the Blue Jackets, when he

was 30.

“It’s actually easier to get into a rhythm when you’re playing those kind of minutes,” he said. “Your body actually feels better because you’re sweating, you’re engaged, you’re into it.

“If you’re sitting there for a while, you start to get cold, your back gets tight and all that. You almost feel like you need a shift or two to warm up again. So for me, physically, it has been easier.”

He tallied his fourth point of the season Wednesday but also was burned by Connor McDavid on the Oilers’ third goal.

Pour one out

The Hawks and forward Jakub Pour agreed to a mutual contract termination this week, according to a team source. It’s expected Pour will sign with a Czech team.

Pour, 23, inked a two-year deal with the Hawks in 2021, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Dominik Kubalik, a fellow Plzen, Czechia, native. But he never found a rhythm in North America, tallying eight points in 44 AHL games in Rockford last season and five points in 15 ECHL games in Indianapolis this season.

Injury updates

Forward Sam Lafferty’s back injury and defenseman Jarred Tinordi’s hip injury will keep them out at least another week, if not longer, Richardson said Tuesday.

Meanwhile, goaltender Alex Stalock has been pulled back from practicing with the team — a step forward that he’d taken for the first time Sunday — after he experienced worsening concussion symptoms. And Tyler Johnson hasn’t been seen since Nov. 18 after suffering a setback in his ankle injury recovery.

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