Lukas Reichel holds his own in sudden season debut, but Blackhawks lose to Devils

With Jonathan Toews out with an illness, Reichel — the Hawks’ top forward prospect — was flown to Newark and played 14 minutes in the Hawks’ 3-0 defeat.

SHARE Lukas Reichel holds his own in sudden season debut, but Blackhawks lose to Devils
Lukas Reichel skates with the puck.

Lukas Reichel made his NHL season debut in the Blackhawks’ loss Tuesday.

Jamie Squire/Getty Images

NEWARK, N.J. — When top Blackhawks prospect Lukas Reichel woke up Tuesday in Rockford, he didn’t realize his first NHL appearance of the season was imminent.

About 800 miles east, captain Jonathan Toews was waking up with flulike symptoms in the Hawks’ hotel in Newark, setting in motion a sequence of events that led to Reichel skating on the second line in the Hawks’ 3-0 loss to the Devils.

‘‘It was pretty quick,’’ Reichel said. ‘‘Straight to the airport, driving an hour, and then the plane, an hour and a half, and then straight to the rink.’’

Reichel, 20, didn’t get to take a nap or even eat lunch — he instead relied on ‘‘power bars and a banana’’ — but he still played nearly 14 minutes in his 12th career NHL appearance.

‘‘He skated well,’’ coach Luke Richardson said. ‘‘He had a couple of good moves with the puck tonight, and he showed some flash. It’s a tough game to come in; that team comes at you hard. And he didn’t get a lot of time on the power play, [where] I’m sure he’s a little more creative.’’

Toews had made a late-afternoon push to play, but Richardson ultimately decided to hold him out. He then shuffled the lines to integrate Reichel, who primarily played center last season but who has moved back to left wing — the position he originally was drafted to play — this season.

Reichel primarily was used next to Jason Dickinson, with Taylor Raddysh on the opposite wing. Philipp Kurashev, meanwhile, moved up to the first line — next to Patrick Kane and Max Domi — and took over Toews’ bumper role on the top power-play unit.

Nonetheless, offense was hard to find. The Hawks produced some odd-man rushes and attacking shifts in the first period, but those became less frequent as the night progressed. The Devils enjoyed a 36-18 advantage in scoring chances.

By the end, things felt very similar to the 3-0 defeat Sunday against the Islanders. The Hawks have been shut out in consecutive games for the first time since 2015.

‘‘[You] can’t win if you don’t score,’’ defenseman Jack Johnson said. ‘‘We had tons of chances; it wasn’t like we didn’t get our looks. We just [need] to bear down and score. A couple missed the net, [and you] can’t score if you don’t hit the net.’’

Unfortunately for Reichel, his most notable moment probably was a defensive mixup on his fourth shift. It led to a goal when Devils star Jack Hughes found Dougie Hamilton wide-open on the weak side of the Hawks’ zone. Reichel had just come on during a line change and didn’t identify in time that Hamilton, despite being on the opposite side, was his man to mark.

Other than that, however, Reichel looked like one of the Hawks’ more impressive players, showing off his agility, elusiveness and vision in tight spaces several times.

The league-leading Devils play at a speed few teams can match, the Hawks included. But Reichel demonstrated an ability to — at least individually — match their pace. He was one of only four Hawks to finish with a positive expected-goals ratio during five-on-five play. He also drew a penalty when he took a late hit from Devils defenseman Brendan Smith.

‘‘We all, as a team, can create more offense,’’ Reichel said. ‘‘But, overall, it was a solid game.’’

Richardson didn’t indicate how long Reichel’s call-up would last, but the Hawks generally have emphasized patience with him.

Reichel thoroughly has dominated the American Hockey League — he has 23 points in 19 games, including nine in his last five — but hasn’t yet proved he’s ready to handle a top-six NHL role on an every-night basis.

It’s possible, however, that this might be his chance to prove that.

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