Marko Dano wasn’t happy when he got the news: he was headed to the minors. He was frustrated he wasn’t getting his chance with the big club. He was, as he put it, “surprised and pissed off.”
But we’re not talking about Dano getting sent to the Rockford IceHogs at the start of this season. We’re talking about last season when, as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets, he was sent to minor-league affiliate Springfield Falcons. Despite his youth and the likely need to get some minor-league work in, Dano didn’t take it well at the start.
But he eventually realized time in the minors last season was in his best interest; and when he started in Rockford this season, he knew it was to benefit his game, not hinder it.
Dano, who had the right attitude and a strong game with the IceHogs, was rewarded for both on Monday when the Blackhawks recalled him. He scored his first goal with the Blackhawks on Wednesday night, when he played with fellow Rockford linemates Tanner Kero and Ryan Hartman. Dano said no massive expectations were placed on him when he was recalled. He just has to do what worked for him in Rockford.
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“Just be strong on the puck, move my feet and those chances will come if I do the hard work. That’s the key: if you’re going hard to the net those rebounds are going to be there. I have to be in the right spot at the right moment,” Dano said. “Just keep working hard and maybe at some point they’ll come toward me.”
When Dano was reassigned to Rockford on Oct. 2, he understood the move. Dano remembered his not-so-accepting attitude when Columbus did the same thing last season – he said he “didn’t get it right away,” and it showed in his game. Then he changed his attitude; his game soon followed.
“I realized I’ve got to be positive, start doing good on the ice, make simple plays and get better in my game. And that helped me,” Dano said. “When I got better they saw that and they couldn’t keep me down in the minors. I got called up and stayed [with Columbus] for the rest of the season.”
Dano had a goal and six assists in nine games with Rockford. He also got to play in just about every situation.
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“I got a lot of minutes on the ice in Rockford,” Dano said. “I played power play, PK, so I got more comfortable. It was a good move from the staff.”
Coach Joel Quenneville said Dano’s positive approach isn’t always an easy one to take, but it does help a player’s game if he does.
“It's probably not a pleasant conversation for them, but it's an important point that they accept that. And the quicker that they accept it,it's going get them back here sooner,” Quenneville said. “He had a great start to the season down there and got himself back here as quick as possible. And you know, I think he can help us.”
There’s no guarantee Dano stays up the rest of the season. For young players, there’s always a schance of returning to the minors. But Dano’s not worried about that; he’ll bring the right attitude and game no matter where he is.
“I’ll just go out there, play my game and just have fun,” Dano said. “I’m not thinking about if I make a mistake I could possibly be sent down. I’m just trying to do my best here and we’ll see how it goes.”