After difficult month, Brendan Perlini finds success with Blackhawks

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Brendan Perlini celebrates after scoring a goal in the first period against the Boston Bruins during the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium on January 01, 2019 in South Bend, Indiana. | Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — In the first period Tuesday of the Winter Classic at Notre Dame Stadium, David Kampf recovered the puck behind the Bruins’ net and centered it to Brendan Perlini. The pass set up Perlini perfectly for a one-timer, and he beat goalie Tuukka Rask for the first goal of the game.

Perlini celebrated by plugging his ears as the crowd of 76,126 erupted into cheers.

“It was a lot of fun,” Perlini said after the Hawks’ 4-2 loss. “It’s tough to describe. It was almost like going back to being a kid again.”

Perlini’s goal was a sign that he’s getting more comfortable with his new team.

The last month has been difficult for Perlini, whom the Hawks acquired from the Coyotes for Nick Schmaltz on Nov. 25.

“[Going] from 80 degrees in the desert to big city and snow, it’s not exactly an easy transition,” Perlini said.

“When you get traded, [it’s a] new city, new surroundings, living in a hotel, things like that. A lot of people think it’s instant success right away, and you know you have to turn your whole life around and go somewhere else.”

Perlini, 22, doesn’t want sympathy. He said he thrives on adversity.

“I enjoy being uncomfortable, to be honest,’’ Perlini said. ‘‘It’s a challenge to me. I can see where I can push myself in different directions and see how I can succeed from it.”

After being practically nonexistent in his first nine games with the Hawks, Perlini has found success.

Perlini has three goals and one assist in the last eight games. The 12th pick in the 2014 draft attributed his surge to being more familiar with his teammates.

He also said he doesn’t feel pressure from more competition after the Hawks traded for Drake Caggiula.

“I just come to the rink and work hard every day,” he said. “Regardless if they traded for [Sidney] Crosby, I’m just still going to work hard, do my thing and play.”

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Bettman betting on Dallas

The NHL’s next Winter Classic will be its southernmost. The Dallas Stars will host the game at the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 2020, commissioner Gary Bettman announced.

Bettman did not specify the Stars’ opponent, but he said it’s unlikely it would be the Hawks or Bruins. There are several factors the league is looking into in considering who will play in the 2020 Winter Classic, including geography and rivalries. Bettman also said the NHL is looking at who will be a “compelling matchup” and draw local interest.

Ward does his part

After 14 seasons without the opportunity to play in a Winter Classic, Hawks goalie Cam Ward got the nod over Collin Delia and put up a strong fight, stopping 32 of 35 shots.

Though the outcome didn’t go his way, Ward was grateful for the chance to play.

“It gave me goose bumps right from the beginning when we walked in behind the marching band,” Ward said. “I thought that was really neat. This is an experience that nobody will ever forget. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, especially here at Notre Dame, and we enjoyed it.”

Sun-Times staff writer Jason Lieser contributed to this story.

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