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Andrew Desjardins making his case for an everyday role

The trade that sent Ben Smith to the San Jose Sharks for Andrew Desjardins was a salary dump, plain and simple. By shedding Smith’s $1.5 million salary, and taking on Desjardins’ expiring contract, the Hawks created a little more wiggle room entering this summer’s free-agency period. Anything the Hawks got out of Desjardins this season was basically a bonus.

“I came in here not really expecting much,” Desjardins said. “But I wasn’t sure. I was coming in here to do what I could to help the team.”

Turns out, he could do plenty. Thanks to his own strong play and Joakim Nordstrom’s upper-body injury, Desjardins will be appearing in his fifth straight game tonight against Vancouver, and is making a push to be an everyday player in the postseason. He played a season-high (including his 58 games in San Jose) 16:15 in Monday’s win over the Los Angeles Kings, even filling in Nordstrom’s spot on the penalty-kill. He has one assist in eight games with the Hawks.

Nordstrom is out tonight and Friday in Buffalo, but could be cleared to return as soon as Sunday against St. Louis. The question now is, will he be able to bump Desjardins from the lineup?

“I’m not looking any further than the next game,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We’ll see what happens as we go along here. I think [Desjardins] has played well for us. I think he gives us some jam, and defensively and offensively, the puck seems to hang around him. His awareness to how he has to play, or how we play, or the role and that job description — he’s got a pretty good understanding of how to do it. I like the consistency he brings to it, as well.”

Quenneville has been particularly happy with the fourth line of Desjardins, Marcus Kruger and Teuvo Teravainen over the last two games. The highly skilled Teravainen doesn’t seem like a natural fit on a checking line, but the unit clicked in both wins. Against the Kings, Teravainen had a whopping eight shots on goal as the line regularly flipped the ice after starting in their own zone.

“We kind of have a little chatter there on the bench,” said Desjardins, who said he’s trying to “break through the layers” of the quiet Teravainen. “We’re on the same page. We’re doing the little things right. We’re just keeping it simple. I think that goes a long way, as well, to get that chemistry. I think all those just have helped us.”

Whether Desjardins becomes a fixture in the lineup or a spot-starter during the playoffs remains to be seen. But he’s at least given Quenneville plenty to think about over the next couple of games until Nordstrom’s ready to play.

“I don’t think [I’m] putting any extra pressure on myself,” Desjardins said. “I already put enough on myself every day, whether I’m in the lineup or not. I’m just going to do what I can to help the team. You’ve got to come and give it your all every night, anyway.”

NOTES: The Hawks can clinch a playoff spot with a win tonight. They also can clinch if they get one point, along with any kind of Flames loss AND any kind of Kings loss. They also can clinch with a point and a Flames regulation loss OR a Kings regulation loss. Corey Crawford will start tonight vs. the Canucks. … Patrick Kane joined the Hawks for the morning skate.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com
Twitter: @marklazerus