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Cody Franson’s patience pays off with top-pairing opportunity

Believe it or not, the first month of Cody Franson’s Blackhawks tenure could have been worse. Sure, he only played in three of 12 games despite turning down multiple contract offers to join the Hawks on a player-tryout agreement. But at least he wasn’t left in the dark by an indifferent coaching staff.

“It always has its challenges,” Franson said. “The coaching staff here has done a great job of managing a situation like this. I’ve been in places where sometimes you don’t get too much feedback as to why you’re not playing, and it makes it hard to leave your work at work and not take it home with you, whereas here they’re in your ear letting you know what’s going on. It’s a little easier to separate the two and stay positive.”

Franson’s patience appears to have paid off. After being one of the few bright spots in a miserable 6-3 loss to Colorado on Saturday, Franson was elevated to the top pairing for Wednesday’s game against the Flyers, and will skate alongside Duncan Keith.

Even Franson was surprised.

Cody Franson played a season-high 18:52 on Saturday against the Avalanche. (AP Photo)

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“I didn’t necessarily see that coming,” he said. “But I’m really excited about it. Anytime you get a chance to play with a player of his caliber, it makes your game go up, and you have to rise to the expectation and take advantage of this.”

Franson also was inserted into the power play units, which had recently only featured defensemen Keith and Brent Seabrook, along with eight forwards. The Hawks entered Wednesday’s game having failed on 15 straight power plays. Franson’s big shot and simpler style could help the always-too-cute Hawks power play.

And if it does, then Franson should have a busier November.

“I’m going to do everything I can,” he said. “If I can go out there and help in that department, I’ll give myself a chance to play each game.”

Switching sides
Jan Rutta can’t even remember the last time he played on the left side. But because he’s only played 12 games in the NHL, he didn’t raise a stink when the Hawks coaching staff moved him there without consulting him first.

“I’m just happy that I can play at all,” Rutta said with a laugh. “So if I can help the team to play on the left side, if I can do a good job there, that would be awesome.”

The move was necessitated by the apparent head injury suffered by Gustav Forsling in the first period against Colorado. But if Rutta proves versatile, it could solve some problems for the Hawks, who have had to scratch either Connor Murphy or Franson every game because of a sudden glut of right-handed shots.

“He’s never played there before,” Quenneville said of Rutta. “[But against Colorado], in a have-to moment, he handled it pretty well. So on a need basis, we found out a little more about him, that he’s capable, and he did a pretty good job at it.”

Top Cat
Alex DeBrincat entered the Flyers game mired in an eight-game goal drought, but was put in a position to succeed — on the top line with Jonathan Toews, and on his preferred left side.

“Like anybody else, it seemed like he was off to a great start and played with a lot of confidence early on,” Toews said. “Everyone’s offense has taken a hit lately. For Brinksy, he’s such a smart player with the puck. For him, the main thing is just to relax and use his speed, use his shiftiness the way a guy like [Patrick Kane] would. Just go out there and trust his instinct. It’s not as hard when you go out there and you’re not afraid to make mistakes and not have those thoughts in the back of your head. Just keep working, stay positive. He’s getting better and better, and as a team, once we get going and get back on the winning track, you’re going to see those guys really take off.”

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Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com