In­jured Sch­maltz hopes to play Satur­day vs. Preds

Chicago Sun-Times - - BLACKHAWKS BEAT - BY MARK LAZERUS Staff Re­porter Email: mlazerus@sun­times.com

The Black­hawks won’t spec­ify what Nick Sch­maltz’s “up­per­body in­jury” is, but the neb­u­lous time frame for his re­turn and the shiner that’s still un­der his left eye five days af­ter he was crunched between two Colum­bus Blue Jack­ets don’t leave a lot to the imag­i­na­tion. A team source said Sch­maltz was still cop­ing with the ef­fects of the hit to the head.

Sch­maltz wasn’t in the lineup on Thurs­day against the Min­nesota Wild, the third straight game he missed. But he was back on the ice for the morn­ing skate and is tar­get­ing a re­turn Satur­day against the Nashville Preda­tors.

“Feel pretty good,” Sch­maltz said. “Get­ting bet­ter ev­ery day, and hope­fully I can get in there on Satur­day.”

Sch­maltz has been bril­liant in his lim­ited ac­tion so far, but left both of the first two games early with in­juries. Now that he’s back at cen­ter, he’ll be car­ry­ing the puck more and might need to keep his head on a swivel.

“Maybe, I don’t know,” he said. “I think it was just a weird play where I saw [ Pa­trick Kane] com­ing down and I just let the puck go, and the D- man slid over and got me. Stuff hap­pens in the game, and I don’t think it was a dirty play. It was just kind of a tough sit­u­a­tion.”

Mur­phy back in

Con­nor Mur­phy cer­tainly didn’t ex­pect to be a healthy scratch in just his fourth game with the Hawks. But with eight de­fense­men on the ros­ter, he wasn’t en­tirely shocked when he was forced to watch the Mon­treal game in a suit. He was back in the lineup against Min­nesota, with Cody Franson back out.

“You don’t want to be scratched ever, and ob­vi­ously, it’s not any­thing you ex­pect at first,” Mur­phy said. “But it’s just part of the busi­ness.”

The right side of the blue line was ex­pected to be a prob­lem area for the Hawks, but the sur­pris­ingly strong play of Jan Rutta and the sign­ing of Franson have given the Hawks a glut of right- handed shots, ramp­ing up the com­pe­ti­tion for ice time.

“I just want to see the team win, re­ally,” Mur­phy said. “We got a good win in Mon­treal and I didn’t play. But if we’re win­ning and guys are play­ing well, that’s all that mat­ters.”

Jor­dan Oesterle was a healthy scratch for the fifth straight game to open the sea­son and could be headed to Rock­ford soon. The Hawks still like him, but they want him play­ing, not sit­ting. He would have to clear waivers to be sent down, which is a con­cern.

“It’s a pretty large stretch with­out get­ting some ice, es­pe­cially at the be­gin­ning of the sea­son,” head coach Joel Quen­neville said. “You want to get ev­ery­body in­volved.”

Changeup

Af­ter years of the same morn­ing- skate rou­tine, Quen­neville has dra­mat­i­cally al­tered his morn­ing skates. They’re much more like prac­tices now, with spe­cial- teams work and 3- on- 2s, not just line rushes and drills.

“We were sick and tired of those morn­ing skates,” Quen­neville said with a smile. “[ The play­ers] can get through those like noth­ing. It was kind of like, ‘ OK, let’s change the recipe a lit­tle bit.’ ”

Forsling’s face

De­fense­man Gus­tav Forsling was wear­ing a full face shield af­ter tak­ing a puck to the face late in the Mon­treal game. He said he needed 15 stitches, most of them on the in­side of his mouth, but he didn’t lose any teeth.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ MarkLazerus.

| JIM YOUNG/ AP

The Wild’s Tyler En­nis loses his hel­met as he col­lides with Black­hawks de­fense­man Con­nor Mur­phy in the first pe­riod.

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