Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton has a pat answer in his back pocket for who squeezes into the lineup and who’s scratched from game to game.
“The status quo, we’re not happy with, of course,” he said. “So we need to keep bringing these guys along, and that means rotating the lineup a little bit.”
Rookie center Alexandre Fortin was back for Sunday’s 3-1 victory against the Wild at the United Center after the first two healthy scratches of his career. He assisted on Brandon Saad’s first-period goal that made it 2-0.
The first time Fortin experienced the displeasure of being a healthy scratch was in AHL Rockford last season, where his coach — Colliton — showed a nice touch in the communication department.
“The first time it happened to me, I got mad a little bit,” Fortin, 21, said. “But Jeremy was good at letting me know why. He [was] good this time, too. When you get scratched for bad performance, it’s tough. But I think I got scratched [even though] it’s positive. I’m playing well and trying to learn, and I’ve been in the NHL a month and a half my whole life. One day, I’ll be a full-time player. We’ll get there.”
Defenseman Jan Rutta also returned to the lineup after a consecutive healthy scratches.
There wasn’t a thing wrong with the Hawks taking a one-year, $1 million free-agent flier on 39-year-old left wing Chris Kunitz, who was a dependable contributor right up until the end of his nine-year run in Pittsburgh and was good enough with the Lightning last season to play 82 games.
So far, though, Kunitz has given the Hawks next to nothing. He has zero goals, two assists and one of the worst plus/minuses (minus-7) on the team. He was a healthy scratch against the Wild for only the second time since 2007. The previous time came three weeks ago against the Oilers.
“We know what we get from him every day, and I think that’s a good example to our young pros on how to carry themselves,” Colliton said. “He’s won before. He’s been through it. He’s played with great players. Responsible defensively, works hard, plays for the team. I can play him in a lot of different roles.”
Right now, that’s debatable.
One more for Edzo
The Hawks gave Eddie Olczyk “One More Shift” before Sunday’s game, an honor that was part of the team’s “Hockey Fights Cancer” night.
A year ago, Olczyk was fighting for his life, undergoing chemotherapy treatment for Stage 3 colon cancer. The Chicago native, who wrapped up his NHL career with the Hawks in 2000, joined the team on skates and in full uniform during the national anthem.
“There’s nothing like knowing people feel good, and that’s all a part of going through what I did, getting incredible support, and I couldn’t have done it by myself,” he said. “Now, it’s my job and my family’s job to inspire people. Even if it’s just for a day or a month, it’s always with you, whether you’re in the battle or you’re outside the chemo or you’re cancer free. That cancer will always be with you. You’ve got to take it head on.”