Blackhawks

Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks

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Phillip Danault gets his chance again with Blackhawks

Phillip Danault got a taste of a Stanley Cup run last season with the Blackhawks.

The 22-year-old center was one of the Black Aces here through the postseason run. He saw what the Blackhawks did once again. He knew there would be roster changes with the salary-cap crunch. And he knew he had a great opportunity to make the lineup out of training camp.

But Danault’s plans were derailed in August, when he needed hip surgery four months to heal from it. But instead of letting that frustrate him, Danault used his time and attitude wisely. Now, with another teammate facing a four-month recovery, Danault is getting his chance.

Danault made a good impression on coach Joel Quenneville and the Blackhawks in two games last season, and he’s doing it again in his current stint. Danault was recalled last weekend after the Blackhawks lost Marcus Kruger to a dislocated wrist — Kruger’s surgery and recovery will keep him out until probably the postseason. So who better to call up than the guy the Blackhawks have been grooming as, perhaps, the next Kruger?

“You know, they’ve been telling me they want me to be Kruger the last two years in the AHL, so I kind of modeled my game on his,” said Danault, referring to the Rockford IceHogs. “He got hurt and I got lucky to be called up. I have a big opportunity here. I want to show everyone I can do it.”

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Ryan Garbutt said he noticed how much Danault was like Kruger immediately.

“It was a little bit eerie the way he plays so similar to Krugs. He does all the small things really well,” Garbutt said. “He’s good on face-offs, fast, really good with the stick and I think Q trusts him out there.”

Quenneville’s trust in Danault was evident on Tuesday night, when he put Danault and fourth-line mates Andrew Desjardins and Garbutt against the Stars’ top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Sharp through the first two periods. Danault and the line did its job, keeping all three off the score sheet through the first 40 minutes — Sharp had an assist at the time, but it was off a power-play goal. Quenneville was happy with that line’s work on Tuesday, and figured Danault, even with his setback, would be up here at some point.

“We feel, [with] him improving that he’d find a way to get here because we think the way he works, the way he competes, his mindset,” Quenneville said recently. “He gives you energy in your team game; production-wise, the expectations aren’t that high. But at the same time, playing the right way is what we think he can do. And kind of the way we have certain players in our lineup that can kill penalties and check and have the puck and be supportive in that area, so we projected him to keep on this path, that he’d find a way to get here.”

[SHOP BLACKHAWKS: Get your copy of the One Goal III book]

Danault had hoped to be here sooner. But after getting a deeper MRI on an issue that had been bothering him, results showed he had a torn labrum. On Aug. 17 he had surgery and spent the next several months recovering. It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time.

“It was very tough, especially because they just won the Cup and I was part of it as a Black Ace. I tasted a little bit of what it was and I really wanted to be an NHL player right away. But obviously one step back sometimes is good.” Danault said. “You go back, think about your game mentally and get stronger. Those little details get you stronger on and off the ice. I’m happy with my situation right now.”

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Danault waited a few years for a chance at the start of this season. Then he had to wait a few months more. It wasn’t always easy, but Danault is getting his chance now and he’s looking to make the most of it.

“When you start right away it’s good for your confidence and you’re happy and playing in the NHL is obviously the dream for you. But the last few years were very helpful for me,” Danault said. “I had to learn the system, how it works as a pro. Even just to cook by yourself or with the boys [in Rockford]. I think after those two years I’m more NHL ready.”

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

How will the Blackhawks utilize Kirby Dach?

The Blackhawks recalled No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach from his AHL conditioning stint on Friday night after he appeared in three games with the Rockford IceHogs. He missed the first week of training camp with a concussion and the organization wanted him to get a taste of the pro action and back up to speed after not playing in any preseason games, either.

"I enjoyed the experience there," Dach said. "I had a lot of fun. Got to see a couple buddies. It was good for me to get down there and get some pro games under my belt and just feel what the pace is going to be like. It'll be another step up here, but I feel good and I feel like I'm ready to go."

Whether Dach makes his NHL debut on Sunday against the Washington Capitals won't be revealed by head coach Jeremy Colliton until after morning skate on Sunday. But where does he fit into the lineup going forward?

The Blackhawks are 2-0-1 in their past three games and aren't necessarily looking to shake up their rotation, even though they're still searching for consistency on all four lines.

The easy answer is for Dach to slide into a third-line center role behind Jonathan Toews and Dylan Strome, but the trio of David Kampf, Dominik Kubalik and Brandon Saad has undoubtedly been the most consistent for the Blackhawks this season. And we saw in the home opener what happened when they were separated. 

The Blackhawks held an optional practice on Saturday morning and didn't run through line rushes, but before Dach was assigned to Rockford, he took several spins on the first line with Toews and alternated with Drake Caggiula and Alex DeBrincat. It's possible Dach starts on the wing, where he can play top-six minutes and not have as much responsibility as a center would.

"I've played wing in previous years, so it's not something that's new to me," Dach said. "At the same time I'm open-minded to just getting into the lineup and helping the team win."

The Blackhawks can give Dach up to nine NHL games before deciding whether they want to burn the first year of his entry-level contract or send him back to the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL.

"As a kid you always grow up dreaming of playing in the NHL, so there'll be nerves," Dach said. "But there will also be a lot of excitement. I've just got to do my best to focus on my game and be ready to play whenever my name's called upon by the coaching staff."

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Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

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USA Today

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: Blackhawks scratch out a win and Kirby Dach recalled

Pat Boyle and Charlie Roumeliotis welcome Nick Gismondi into the fold before discussing Friday's win over Columbus. Robin Lehner played stellar and is forming quite a tandem in net with Corey Crawford (4:10), while the DeBrincat/Kane connection is alive and well (6:10), and the Blackhawks' struggles at even strength continued (12:10). Then, the guys react to the breaking news of Kirby Dach's recall from Rockford and discuss where he might fit into this lineup (15:10).

Listen to the entire episode here or in the embedded player below.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast

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