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John Hayden not planning to tone down his style: ‘Fights happen’

John Hayden is a Yale graduate with a valuable brain. But he’s also a hockey player. So when it’s time to fight, he’s going to fight, no matter the potential consequences.

“In competitive games, fights happen,” Hayden said.

They’ve been happening for Hayden more than any other Blackhawk lately. Hayden picked a fight with seemingly half the Blue Jackets in two preseason games and caved in Wild winger Marcus Foligno’s face with a devastating right hook Thursday. Foligno suffered a facial fracture and will be out at least a week.

Hayden was a bit shaken by the effect of his haymaker.

Minnesota's Marcus Foligno lands a punch on John Hayden during the second period Thursday night. Foligno suffered a facial fracture. (AP Photo)

“[I have] a lot of respect for him; no matter how competitive the game gets, you never want anyone to get hurt,” Hayden said after the morning skate Saturday. “I [wish] him a speedy recovery.”

But the next time Hayden thinks he or a teammate has been wronged or — like in Thursday’s case — that his team is sluggish and in need of some energy, he won’t hesitate to drop the gloves again.

With Jordin Tootoo on long-term injured reserve, Hayden has stepped up as the Hawks’ de facto enforcer. Of course, the question is, in an era in which speed and skill trump brawn, is there a need for an enforcer? And with all the research into head injuries and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), should fighting even be allowed?

Fighting has decreased dramatically in recent seasons but likely always will remain a part of the game.

“Hockey’s a speed and skill game these days, and if you want to be here, you’ve got to play that kind of game,” Hayden said. “That’s what I work on all summer. [But] sometimes things come up in competitive games.”

The Hawks’ fourth line, with Hayden, Lance Bouma and Tommy Wingels, has added a physical element the team has been lacking in recent seasons. And that style of play tends to lead to fights. Coach Joel Quenneville’s OK with that, to an extent.

“Fighting is something that can evolve from the way [Hayden] plays,” Quenneville said. “He has to be willing. Sometimes you play a hard game and [with] the physicality, sometimes they just happen. I’m not saying fight or don’t fight, but sometimes those are the results.”

Murphy out again

Defenseman Connor Murphy, who was acquired in June for Niklas Hjalmarsson and is signed for five more years at $3.85 million per season, was a healthy scratch for the second time in three games Saturday.

Jan Rutta’s excellent start has made Murphy the odd man out when coach Joel Quenneville wants to get Cody Franson in the lineup. It’s hardly what the Hawks envisioned when they traded a three-time Stanley Cup champion to get younger and to gain cost certainty in the long term. Murphy was brought in to play alongside Duncan Keith on the top pairing but has been on the second pairing with Michal Kempny when he has been on the ice.

Quenneville tried to frame it as a positive situation.

“Everyone wants to make a contribution, not just one guy,” Quenneville said. “But it’s still part of the decision-making process, and some nights, [those decisions] are easier. I like when we have to make tough ones.”

Murphy shrugged off the scratch as “part of the business” and said he’s generally pleased with his play.

“I wouldn’t say there’s any huge negatives,” Murphy said. “You still want to get better each game, and I feel I still have room to improve in certain ways. But we’re winning and the team’s playing well, so that’s probably even more important than myself.”

Said Quenneville: “He’s been fine handling it. He did a good job in the game last time. It’s not where you want to be, but it’s depth perception for our team.”

Schmaltz out, too

Nick Schmaltz was originally targeting a return Thursday against the Wild. But instead he missed his fourth consecutive game with an apparent head injury suffered last Saturday against the Blue Jackets (he also missed the last 58 minutes of that game). Tanner Kero, not Artem Anisimov, skated in his spot between Ryan Hartman and Patrick Kane.

Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

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