Blackhawks: Is Antoine Vermette on outside looking in?


Blackhawks: Is Antoine Vermette on outside looking in?

The Blackhawks rolled through their lines on Monday, the ones that included Patrick Kane and Brad Richards, both back from injuries.

But one player was absent from those top four lines: Antoine Vermette, whom the Blackhawks acquired prior to the trade deadline to help bolster their strength at center.

[RELATED - Patrick Kane could be ready to go for Game 1]

Vermette has had a tough go in his time with the Blackhawks; he’s been moved around the lineup, from center to wing, and is still looking for his first goal with his new team. So as the Blackhawks prepare for Game 1 against the Nashville Predators on Wednesday, is Vermette on the outside looking in?

“We’ll see,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We know he’s got some experience there in the middle. Depth is something organizationally you need and some guys are ahead of other guys now based on performance. We’ve got to make decisions.”

Vermette had several suitors prior to the trade deadline. The Blackhawks emerged victorious in that sweepstakes, giving the Arizona Coyotes their first-round draft pick from this year’s draft as well as defenseman Klas Dahlbeck. He started as the second-line center and went back to that spot when Richards suffered an upper-body injury late in the season. In between, however, he’s played third line and also wing. In the 19 regular-season games with the Blackhawks, Vermette had three assists.

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Playoffs: Full schedule for Blackhawks-Predators]

Asked if he expected to play in this series vs. the Predators, Vermette said, “yes I think so.” He admits the lack of production has been frustrating.

“Yeah, of course,” he said. “You don’t want to get over frustrated but it would’ve been nice to contribute more on the score sheet, that’s for sure. But I’m a big believer in the process and don’t try to focus on the end there. Hopefully I can turn things around in that department.

“You have to be consistent, take care of little details and small battles, bring that excitement, that focus,” Vermette said of what it takes to thrive in the postseason. “It’s a lot of fun. You bring that excitement, that intensity and try to make a positive impact.”

So when will Vermette play? The Blackhawks gave up a high pick and a prospect in the hopes of getting a player who could help them late in the regular season and in the playoffs. It would be hard to believe he wouldn’t play at some point against the Predators. At the same time, with Vermette not playing well, he may start this series watching from the bench.

[NBC SHOP: Gear up for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Blackhawks fans!]

“We always say it doesn’t matter how much money you make or who you are: your performance is going to dictate everything you get and everything you’re going to earn," Quenneville said. "On a need basis, I think organizationally [with] depth you get tested and challenged as you move along here in playoffs. We’re going to need everybody and everything changes instantly in our game. That’s being prepared and having some versatility in your lineup choices is always something you got to look at. That’s kind of where we’re at.”

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Should Kane & Toews continue to be on the same line?


Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Should Kane & Toews continue to be on the same line?

Host Pat Boyle is joined by Blackhawks Insider Charlie Roumeliotis, and NBCS Chicago producer Slavko Bekovic as they debate the nuclear line of Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, have the Hawks found their identity as a team, predictions for the next few games as the Hawks head to the bye week.

(1:00) - Hawks forced to use Kane and Toews on the same line

(6:15) - Dominik Kubalik is doing well with Kane and Toews

(9:55) - Colliton doesn't have a healthy roster right now

(14:12) - What is the identity of this team?

(17:18) - Maybe the Hawks have a chance at a Wildcard spot

(20:24) - Kirby Dach is getting opportunities on the power play

(23:48) - How will the Hawks play vs the Panthers and Joel Quenneville?

(26:30) - Predictions on the next few gamesListen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

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Blackhawks move Dylan Strome to injured reserve and recall Brandon Hagel

USA Today

Blackhawks move Dylan Strome to injured reserve and recall Brandon Hagel

The Blackhawks announced Thursday that they have placed forward Dylan Strome on injured reserve with a right ankle injury, retroactive to Jan. 7. In a corresponding move, forward Brandon Hagel was recalled from the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League and will join the team in Toronto ahead of Saturday's game against the Maple Leafs.

Strome was originally listed as "day to day" with a right ankle sprain, but it appears he needs some extra time to recover despite skating in Chicago over the past few days. The Blackhawks have three games remaining before the NHL All-Star break and, at this point, it looks unlikely Strome will return before that.

Head coach Jeremy Colliton did tell reporters in Montreal on Wednesday that Brandon Saad could join the team in Toronto depending on how he's responding to the skating sessions, but whether he plays is a different story. By making a corresponding move, the Blackhawks remain at 22 players and have room for one more spot on the 23-man roster.

Saad has been sidelined since Dec. 16 with a right ankle injury and must be activated from injured reserve whenever he's cleared to return.

Hagel has been a bright spot in Rockford this season and will likely make his NHL debut on Saturday. He leads the IceHogs with 13 goals and ranks second on the team with 21 points and 80 shots on goal in 38 games. He's a hard-working player, is physical and can finish around the net, which is something the Blackhawks could always use more of.

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