BOSTON — The Blackhawks will be getting a boost on Thursday when they take on the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.
After missing four games with a concussion, Dylan Strome will return to the lineup and is expected to slot into his normal second-line center role in between Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane. And it comes at an opportune time for the Blackhawks, who have scored just 14 goals over their last seven games.
"You want to be out there, you feel like you're letting the team down," Strome said of his absence. "You're part of this team, so it's definitely nice just to be back with the guys. ... You want to be out there helping the team win and if they're already winning you want to be out there helping them contribute. Obviously I wanted to get out there and it sucks just watching but you gotta take the time to get better and ready to go now."
Strome said it wasn't fun watching the Blackhawks from afar, especially when the team was on the road, and it didn't make things any easier after his team got blown out in three straight games against Central Division opponents. He was also playing his best hockey of the season before he got hurt.
Strome had 10 points (two goals, eight assists) in his past nine games after recording seven points (three goals, four assists) in his previous 14. The Blackhawks are hoping he won't skip a beat.
"I thought the three-week stretch before he got hurt, it seemed like he was taking steps all the time," head coach Jeremy Colliton said. "Hopefully he can get back to that as quickly as possible. It provides offense of course for us with another center. I think defensively he's been improving. That's important obviously, especially if he's playing with DeBrincat and Kane. If they're able to get out of D zone, if they're able to force a turnover, they're extremely dangerous in those moments. If he can create more of those, it's going to be really good for the team."
The Blackhawks are facing a Bruins team that ranks No. 3 in goals for per game (3.61), No. 1 in goals against average (2.18), No. 2 in power play percentage (30.9) and No. 6 in penalty kill percentage (84.9). The Bruins also have the NHL's leading goal scorer in David Pastrnak (25) and the third-leading point getter in Brad Marchand (44 points).
Oh, and the Bruins haven't lost a game in regulation at home this season (12-0-4). The Blackhawks are in for a big challenge as they look to snap a three-game losing skid and win for only the second time in eight games.
"Obviously they've had a great start, building off their run last season," Colliton said. "Tremendous power play, very aggressive on the forecheck, very active with their D in the offensive zone. They do a lot of things well. It's going to test us. We need to perform well. I think it comes down to, for us, our habits, especially on the road. You need to have a good base, stop and start, manage the puck, find a way to create zone time for yourself, stay out of the box. That allows yourself a chance to win on the road."
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