NEW YORK – As the Blackhawks wrapped up their four-game homestand on Sunday, it appeared something else was ending: their rash of injuries.
With that in mind, Marian Hossa reflected on what healthy Blackhawks, especially younger players, meant to the team in Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook’s absence.
“Well, this was definitely a good test of what the team can do without key players,” Hossa said. “It’s hard to replace guys like that… but I think with the little things, guys doing baby steps, those guys get opportunities to play more and they’re taking advantage of it. That’s good for the future, when everybody’s going to be back.”
Indeed, with Toews and Seabrook back on Tuesday, the Blackhawks looked more complete in terms of roster and play in their 2-1 victory over the Rangers. Certainly, two veterans coming back does that. But the Blackhawks’ young players earned valuable experience during the injury rash and that’s showing in their games.
“It definitely gave a lot of guys extra responsibilities, ice time to try and make up for the missing parts, but I think we all did a good job,” said Ryan Hartman, who’s played with Marian Hossa for some time now. “I think it helped us feel a little more comfortable. Now having [Toews and Seabrook] back is a great thing. It’ll add more depth to our team, for sure.”
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The Blackhawks did all right in Toews’ absence, going 5-2-2. When it came to younger players, coach Joel Quenneville got an idea of who can do what in an injury pinch.
“It gives you more options and you find out a little bit more. Guys that are playing maybe even out of position, or they’re taking some center spots in your own zone and taking some important faceoffs late in games against some top lines,” Quenneville said. “I think those experiences can add, as the season progresses, you can trust them and sometimes you can put them out there in those situations.”
Vinnie Hinostroza jumped around the lineup during Toews’ absence and learned plenty.
“It’s huge for us young guys to get some more minutes against top-end guys, other team’s first and second lines. That’s just part of the learning experience and playing against those guys will only make us better,” Hinostroza said. “We were on and off a few games, missing Toews and Seabs. But overall I think we did pretty well.”
Yeah, the Blackhawks did just fine with some of their top guys out. They’re still awaiting Crawford’s return, but Scott Darling has done great work in his absence. As for the guys in front of Darling, the trial-by-fire experience could be a little daunting at times. It was also beneficial, not just for their hockey education now but also for their games in the future.
“I think you’ve got to earn those opportunities as you go along, and then when you get it, get out there and take advantage of it. That’s a bonus for our team,” Quenneville said. “They’ve got some exposure to those situations now.”