Nick Schmaltz returns to Blackhawks with shoot-first mentality
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Entering Sunday, forward Nick Schmaltz had played in 26 games for the Blackhawks this season. In 15 of them, he didn’t put a single shot on goal. In seven others, he had only one. And only once did he have as many as three.
So one of the reasons the Hawks sent him down to Rockford in early December was to remind him that, in the NHL, sometimes it’s better to be selfish than selfless.
‘‘I’ve always been a pass-first player, but at some point you’ve got to shoot the puck,’’ Schmaltz said Sunday after being recalled by the Hawks on Saturday. ‘‘You don’t get too many Grade-A looks. If you’re one-on-one with the goalie and you try to make a backdoor pass — sometimes a shot is the best play, and maybe [you can] get a rebound. Just shooting the puck and getting to the net more and finding those loose pucks around the net.’’
Schmaltz returned to the lineup for the Hawks’ showdown against the Minnesota Wild. He centered the fourth line.
Schmaltz had six goals and three assists in 12 games with Rockford after posting one goal and three assists with the Hawks.
‘‘It’s obviously exciting,’’ Schmaltz said before the game. ‘‘You want to work down there to get back up here, so I’m just going to try to take advantage of it.’’
Schmaltz appears to be on the Teuvo Teravainen track for the Hawks. Like Schmaltz, Teravainen was a gifted skater and playmaker who was a little too hesitant in his first stint in the NHL. After spending time playing big minutes in a big role in Rockford, Teravainen returned to the Hawks a more confident and assertive player and was a key in their Stanley Cup run in 2015.
‘‘Everybody is different,’’ coach Joel Quenneville said. ‘‘Just playing, eventually you capture confidence, you see plays in tight areas and you can make plays. You have the puck a little bit more. You get put in different situations as you go along. . . . I just think everybody goes at their own pace and they figure it out. But having patience with young guys is a part of it.’’
Aside from the development aspect, one of the reasons Schmaltz and winger Tyler Motte were demoted was to free up salary-cap space for any potential trades before the deadline Feb. 28. Every day the Hawks had only 21 players on the roster allowed them to bank some space for the near future. But with back-to-back road games coming up and the six-game ice-show trip looming, the Hawks needed a 13th forward, just in case.
Center Marcus Kruger (hand), who initially was expected to start skating Friday, hasn’t returned to the ice. Now he’s expected to be back sometime after the original timetable of around next Sunday.
In a late surprise, Quenneville scratched forwards Andrew Desjardins and Jordin Tootoo, choosing to dress all seven of his defensemen. Brian Campbell had been expected to be scratched for the third time in the last nine games.
Follow me on Twitter @MarkLazerus.