DALLAS — The Blackhawks have gotten extended looks this season at two of their coveted defensemen prospects in Adam Boqvist and Dennis Gilbert, the latter of whom is better known for his defensive game than offensive prowess.
On Sunday, it was Lucas Carlsson's turn.
With Erik Gustafsson being held out of the lineup for precautionary reasons ahead of Monday's trade deadline, the Blackhawks called up Carlsson for their four-game road trip that kicked off in Dallas. They wasted no time in throwing their 2016 fourth-round pick into action despite having no practice session or a morning skate for him to get acclimated to the group.
"Maybe it's easier for me to just get right into it, I don't know," a smiling Carlsson said following a 2-1 loss to the Stars. "It was fun, obviously. I was a bit nervous at the start, but I think I got into it pretty quickly. I just try and play my game, don't change anything. Obviously you have to adjust a little bit, everything's much faster here, so it's good."
Head coach Jeremy Colliton said before the game he wanted Carlsson to be clean with the puck, have a tight gap and be physical when he needed to. And Carlsson did exactly that.
The 22-year-old Swedish blue liner had one shot attempt, one blocked shot and three hits in 14:55 of ice time while playing on the second pairing with Connor Murphy. He wasn't too noticeable, but that's not intended to sound negative. He kept it simple, played his game and didn't make any glaring mistakes in his NHL debut.
"I thought he was good," Colliton said. "He was assertive, physical, made plays, skated the puck. He did well for himself, so [I'm] happy for him in his first game."
The one noticeable offensive play Carlsson did make came in the third period when he delivered a nifty backhand pass between his legs in the slot to Dominik Kubalik, who looked surprised it even got to him. It nearly created a prime scoring chance, but the puck got away from Kubalik.
Carlsson clearly wasn't lacking confidence, which is always a good thing as younger players tend to play timid while they try figuring out the league. He's a sound defender with some offensive upside — he led all Rockford IceHogs defensemen in goals (five), assists (21) and points (26) — and is out to prove he belongs at the NHL level.
"Of course," Carlsson said. "I still have one more year on my contract, so I want to show what I can do and hopefully play a few more games here and see what happens."
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