Blackhawks

Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome are skating, but when will they return for Blackhawks?

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USA Today

Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome are skating, but when will they return for Blackhawks?

The Blackhawks have been crushed by injuries this season, but they got some encouraging news this week.

Brandon Saad and Dylan Strome are both back on the ice after being sidelined by right ankle injuries and participated in the first part of practice on Monday, which was an optional skills session that lasted about 25 minutes. They skated on their own for roughly 15 minutes before that also but did not practice with the team for their standard scheduled session.

Saad suffered his right ankle injury on Dec. 19 against the Winnipeg Jets and has missed 10 games so far. Strome was injured on Tuesday against Calgary and has been sidelined for the last two games.

But when could Saad and Strome make their return to the lineup?

Head coach Jeremy Colliton said he doesn't expect Saad and Strome to travel with the Blackhawks on their upcoming three-game road trip, but that was before he spoke to team doctors post-practice. The Blackhawks reassigned John Quenneville to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League but did not make a corresponding move, meaning they will take 12 healthy forwards on the trip if Saad and Strome don't join.

Saad was put on a three-week timetable on Dec. 26, but it appears his absence will stretch beyond that. Colliton said on Saturday that it's possible Saad won't return until after the NHL All-Star break. The Blackhawks have five games remaining until their 10-day hiatus, so they could use that extra time to make sure Saad is fully healthy and ready to go for the first game back on Feb. 1.

As for Strome, it looks like he's closer to returning than Saad, but the Blackhawks are being careful with him too. It would be surprising if he wasn't cleared to play before the Blackhawks' final game before the break on Jan. 21 against the Florida Panthers, considering he was put on a "day to day" timeline.

Saad has been one of the Blackhawks’ most consistent forward this season. He's tied for third on the team with 11 goals and has been a possession machine, no matter where he’s been slotted in the lineup.

Kirby Dach has filled in nicely for Strome on the second line, but the Blackhawks certainly liked the balance they had in their lineup with Strome in.

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4 Takeaways: Blackhawks fall in Dallas despite an improved power play

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USA Today

4 Takeaways: Blackhawks fall in Dallas despite an improved power play

Rookie Dominik Kubalik scored his 26th goal of the season, but the Blackhawks lost 2-1 to the Dallas Stars on Sunday. Here are four takeaways:

Opportunity lost

If the Hawks wanted to climb up the standings - currently seven points out of a playoff spot - before time runs out, they had to start this four-game road trip out with a win to grab some momentum. 

It was a close contest in Dallas and the effort was there, but the results didn't follow. 

Corey Crawford got his second straight start and was solid, saving 31 of 33 shots after stopping 42 of 43 in Friday's overtime win over the Nashville Predators. 

Right on, rookie

Blackhawks rookie winger Dominik Kubalik continued his fantastic first NHL season by scoring his 26th goal in the show in Sunday's game.  

After having a goal waived off from a questionable interference call against Jonathan Toews off a faceoff moments earlier, Kubalik buried a power-play goal for the Hawks at 7:06 of the second period to tie it 1-1. 

It was Kubalik's 15th goal in 20 games. His 39 points rank fifth among league rookies, but he leads them in goals with 26. 

Power Play trending up

Following an 0-for-17 dry spell in six games prior to Friday, the Hawks have power-play goals in two straight. 

One of Alex DeBrincat's two goals in Friday's 2-1 overtime win over the Predators was on the man advantage in the third period to tie it 1-1. Kubalik kept it going in the right direction on Sunday. 

First timer

With defenseman Erik Gustafsson not joining the Hawks on the four-game road trip for precautionary reasons ahead of Monday's trade deadline, D man Lucas Carlsson made his NHL debut with Chicago.

Carlsson, 22, has 26 points (five goals, 21 assists) with the Rockford IceHogs this season. 

The Swedish blueliner had 3 hits and blocked one shot in 14:55. 

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David Ayres joins Scott Foster in making emergency backup goalie history

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USA TODAY

David Ayres joins Scott Foster in making emergency backup goalie history

David Ayres is a 42-year-old Zamboni driver and, as of Saturday night, he is a man who has won a game as a netminder in the NHL.

Ayres is the emergency backup goalie (EBUG) for the Carolina Hurricanes, who are currently locked in a tight playoff race in the Eastern Conference. On Saturday, Ayres was thrust into action when Carolina suffered injuries to both starting goalie James Reimer and backup goalie Petr Mrazek. This, of course, made us think back to Chicago's favorite EBUG, Scott Foster.

Foster, an accountant, became a household name when he donned the No. 90 EBUG jersey when he debuted for the Blackhawks in 2018. Chicago was down a goalie when starting goalie Collin Delia — who was filling in for an injured Corey Crawford — went down early. This led to Foster making his unlikely seven-save debut. He was the first EBUG in NHL history to actually make a save and the fact that Foster was a perfect 7-for-7 in his time on the ice made the story even sweeter.

On Saturday, Ayres didn't maintain a perfect 1.000 save percentage like Foster but he did make some history of his own. Ayres was rattled at first, giving up two goals on the first two shots he faced but he did enough down the stretch to help the Hurricanes hold on to a quite important 6-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. With the win, Ayres is the first EBUG in league history to net a win, as Delia was credited with the win in Foster's debut in 2018.

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