The Blackhawks are getting some ammo for the stretch run, and potentially the Stanley Cup playoffs as well.
One day after inking a two-year, entry-level contract, John Hayden officially joined the team Monday and is expected to hop into the lineup at some point during the upcoming three-game road trip, likely Thursday against the Ottawa Senators.
"I think he gives us a different element to our team up front," coach Joel Quenneville told reporters Monday. "Some abrasiveness, a little sandpaper, up and down type of guy, to the net, direct player and hard-working kid. I like his approach here talking to him today and where he's at, we're happy to get him signed and into the program as well."
The 22-year-old forward recently concluded his senior season at Yale University, where he established career highs with 21 goals, 13 assists and 34 points in 33 games while serving as the captain.
He was set to become an unrestricted free agent in August, but made it a priority to re-sign with the team that drafted him and followed his development closely throughout his collegiate career.
"There was never a doubt since I was drafted that this is where I would sign," said Hayden, who was selected in the third round (No. 74 overall) of the 2013 draft. "It's such a first-class organization and there's a winning culture here, so I'm very excited to learn from the staff and obviously the leadership here."
Hayden is a 6-foot-3, 223-pound versatile forward who can player either center or wing. He made life difficult for opponents in college, particularly goalies, with his strength, size and net-front presence, and is hoping to do the same in the NHL.
"I like to play a pretty simple two-way game," Hayden said when asked to describe his style. "Use my size in the dirty areas of the ice, chip in offensively. But I'd like to be a physical presence. ... It's my job to come here and work hard, and I'll help however I can."
In other news, Scott Darling said he has been cleared to play 10 days after suffering a reported hand injury in practice. It was initially believed that he would miss roughly three weeks, but the 28-year-old netminder recovered much quicker than expected.
"I was lucky that it didn't take the full three weeks like we thought," Darling said. "I'm back and I'm ready to go. I don't know when I'm going to play, but if they need me I'm ready to go."
The Blackhawks don't face another back-to-back situation until the weekend, so it's possible Darling serves as the backup for all three road games. Nonetheless, it's great news for the Blackhawks knowing their insurance option in goal is back with a busy slate to close out the regular season.
The Blackhawks return to action Tuesday against the Montreal Canadiens at 6:30 p.m. on CSN.