Lukas Reichel quiet yet poised in NHL return, but Blackhawks lose to Stars

The excitement surrounding Reichel’s Friday call-up wasn’t enough for the Hawks to avoid a strange 1-0 shootout loss.

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Jake Oettinger stopped every shot he faced, even from Lukas Reichel, as the Stars beat the Blackhawks.

AP Photos

In the six months since he arrived in Illinois, Lukas Reichel — blessed with understated but unshakable confidence — has grown comfortable with most aspects of living in North America.

But there’s one thing Reichel dearly misses: German food.

“It’s more like Bavarian food like my mom or my grandma cooks,” he clarified Friday.

And the few German restaurants in Chicago are just “not the same.”

Fortunately, Reichel has proved that he doesn’t need authentic bratwurst or schnitzel to maintain his rapid development curve on the ice.

The Blackhawks’ unquestioned top prospect has absolutely dominated the AHL this season to the tune of 33 points in 33 games, with at least one point in 12 of 15 games since New Year’s Day.

And with the Hawks looking for a spark and turning one and a half eyes toward the future, Reichel was rewarded Friday with his second NHL call-up of the season.

He centered the first line in the Hawks’ bizarre 1-0 sixth-round shootout loss to the Stars, which made Marc-Andre Fleury — who made 29 saves, several of them spectacular — the first goalie in Hawks history to get a shutout and a loss in the same game.

“I really liked how Reichel played,” interim coach Derek King said. “He wasn’t shying away; he was strong on pucks. Maybe he lost a battle with just one puck, but he stays in the fight. The kid is going to be a special player.”

Earlier in the day, Reichel had left the Rockford apartment he shares with Nicolas Beaudin, who has helped him get acclimated, and arrived in Chicago for the morning skate with his signature bright smile and some swagger.

“I know what’s coming at me,” he said. “It’s not like everything is new, like the first call-up. I have more confidence now, and I feel great. I’m happy to be here.”

Two lessons he learned last time involved defensive positioning and shooting more frequently, Reichel said, and both of those were on his mind Friday. King also wanted him to hold on to pucks longer and not be in “such a rush” to pass them to his more established teammates.

Reichel logged 17:41 of ice time between Patrick Kane and Brandon Hagel, with shots favoring the Hawks 19-13 but scoring chances favoring the Stars 9-5 during his even-strength minutes. He won four of seven faceoffs and had two shots on goal and one takeaway.

Off the box score, he looked as confident and poised as he said he’d be, even bouncing up quickly after a huge hit that catapulted him into the Stars’ bench. He didn’t have as many puck touches as one might’ve hoped and didn’t generate a ton of offense, but neither did his teammates. He looked trustworthy defensively, too, which is often more of a question mark for rookie forwards.

“I wasn’t worried about him being out of position in the D-zone,” King said. “He’s a pretty smart player. He’s responsible. He plays both sides of the puck already. He’s only going to get bigger and stronger, and that’ll just add to what type of player he is.”

This second stint for Reichel doesn’t sound like it’ll last much longer than his first. Unless he gets a hat trick Sunday against the Panthers — “Maybe that would make us keep him,” King said slyly — he might be headed back to Rockford on Monday, having doubled his career NHL experience from two to four games.

Ten NHL appearances would burn the first year of his three-year entry-level contract, so the Hawks will be mindful of that threshold. But extending his entry-level contract also will give him more time to break out and command a huge salary for his second contract. Deciding which objective to prioritize will be a decision for the Hawks’ presumably soon-to-be-named permanent general manager.

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