BOSTON — If John Hayden keeps this up, he’ll make the Blackhawks’ decision for them.
Hayden continued his impressive preseason with a slick goal in the Hawks’ 4-2 loss to the Boston Bruins on Monday. He had four shots on goal and was effective at both ends on a makeshift line with Alex DeBrincat and Tanner Kero. Based on the offseason roster math, the Yale graduate was a tough fit for the opening-night lineup. But his play might force the Hawks’ hand.
“He’s had a good camp,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “He’s a threat. He’s playing hard, trying to find a way to get more every single day. Did what he had to do again tonight.”
If Hayden, who had nine combined hits and twice picked a fight with nearly the entire Blue Jackets team in two other preseason games, does make the team, it could mean a veteran on a one-way contract won’t. Lance Bouma, Tommy Wingels and Jordin Tootoo all bring the grit and character that Quenneville craves, but keeping all three might be a little redundant. Tootoo, for one, isn’t thinking about what might happen if he’s waived — if he’d get claimed by another team, or if he’d report to Rockford.
“To me, it’s one day at a time,” he said. “You can’t overthink this as a player. You’ve just got to go out and do your job. And ultimately it’s not my decision. It’s part of being a hockey player, the unknowns. For me, it’s exciting this time of year, when you’ve got a bunch of guys fighting for spots. It’s fun.”
Tootoo, who was recruited to the Hawks last summer by Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook, is a popular and respected player. He played in 50 games last year, posting two goals and an assist.
Quenneville loves players like him. The question is, can he afford to keep two or three of them, when young players such as Hayden, DeBrincat and Vinnie Hinostroza are pushing for playing time?
“I thought [Tootoo] made a real nice fit with our lineup last year,” Quenneville said. “There’s still a lot to be sorted out, but certainly he brings something that we really value.”
As for the game, Corey Crawford gave up three first-period goals as the Hawks fell behind 3-0. Brandon Saad netted the other goal.
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